On Holy Thursday we commemorate the first Mass, the first miracle of the Eucharist. None of us having been there, how do we know it occurred? Faith of course, but faith buttressed by the knowledge that our Faith is supported by historical facts. We know when Christ lived. At each Mass we remember that He suffered under Pontius Pilate which allows us to date the Crucifixion and the Last Supper to plus or minus a few years. We know when Caiaphas was High Priest. Judaea, the province in which Christ lived, was not some make-believe land but a province of the Roman Empire and we know much about it at the time of Christ. Above all, we have the Gospels and the Epistles of Saint Paul, documents written while those who saw and heard Christ still lived.
This of course was only the start of the historical record of Catholicism, the Universal Church. Each generation produced new writers who give us precious facts of the journey through history of the Faith of Christ. One of the most important of the early writers about the Church is Saint Justin Martyr.
Justin Martyr was born in Flavia Neapolis, ancient Shechem, modern day Nablus, in Judaea circa 100 AD. He was brought up a pagan. Having enough money to pursue the study of philosophy, he encountered the teachings of Christ, after a long and methodical search for the true philosophy, and became a convert. Having found the true philosophy, he traveled around the Roman Empire, spreading it, garbed in his philosopher’s gown. Eventually he settled in Rome. He wrote eight treatises defending Christianity. His best known work is his First Apology which he addressed to the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius, one of the best of the emperors, who reigned from 138-161 AD. This Apology was a plea for the Emperor to stop persecuting the Christians. In this Apology he gives us many details as to how Catholics worshiped in Rome during the middle of the Second Century. His description of the Eucharist is a treasure for all Catholics as we attend Holy Thursday Mass today. Read the rest of this entry »