4. Mission from the Early Church to the FallPresentation Transcript
MISSION FROM THE EARLY CHURCH TO THE FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE (100-1453) House Churches, Monks, Mendicants, and Beguines
MISSION IN THE EARLY CHURCH (100-301)
Christian faith moved west to Rome; north to Armenia; east across Iraq, Iran, as far as India; to the south to Egypt, Ethiopia, and across northern Africa.
CHRISTIANS: AT HOME AND IN THE MARKETPLACE
In early years, Christians outside the Roman empire (Armenia, Iraq, Iran, and India) lived their new found faith openly and freely.
Those who lived under Roman rule had a difficult time. They couldn’t build churches or gather publicly.
Christians were accused of being cannibals and traitors.
Men and women died for their faith during the occasional periods of public persecution.
The home was the center of Christian life; larger homes were designated for weekly gatherings
Early Christians witnessed to their faith outside the home. They took care of orphans, widows, and the sick. They witnessed in the marketplace and brought their faith with them when they traveled.
WOMEN: WITNESSES AT THE HEART OF MISSION
Women’s role in mission began in the home.
Women led house churches. They also shared the gospel when gathered outside the home.
Women were also martyred.
LEARNINGS FROM EARLY CHURCH
Ordinary baptized Christians were the primary agents of mission.
Both women and men had no doubt that their baptism made them full members of the church and responsible to share the good news of Christ, with or without words.
The martyr was the ideal Christian.
Those interested in becoming Christians were to be transformed into persons with such faith, motivation, and identity through an intensive catechumenate process.
The house church provides an image of table fellowship and mission.
Men and women witnessed to their faith through the “gossiping the gospel”
MISSION AND THE MONASTIC MOVEMENT (313-907): FROM CONSTANTINE TO THE FALL OF THE T’ANG DYNASTY
Around 313 Emperor Constantine changed the status of the church from being persecuted and tolerated to the official endorsed religion of the empire.
The capital of the Roman empire was shifted from Rome to Byzantium.
The Persian empire began to persecute tens of thousands of Christians.
Islam began in the seventh century.
The monastic movement emerged: thousands of people seeking an ascetic Christian life went to the deserts in Egypt and Syria.
Communities of monks and nuns developed and spread through Palestine, Ethiopia, Asia Minor, Italy, Gaul, Ireland, England, and Persia.
The year 907 marks the decline of monasticism's leading role in Christian mission.
EAST SYRIAN MONKS: TRAVELING THE SILK ROAD TO CHINA
The East Syrian monasteries were very important for preserving Christian identity and for theological, spiritual, and medical training.
The network of monasteries provided centers for mission and refuge for Christian travelers across Asia and into China.
In 635 a band of East Syrian monks led by Alopen traveled along the Silk Road and arrived in Chang’an, the capital of the great Chinese empire.
The emperor granted Alopen and his monks permission to preach the gospel. In this way Christians learned how to live peacefully with the followers of other religions.
CYRIL AND METHODIUS: APOSTOLES TO THE SLAVS
Cyril and Methodius were born in Greece in the early ninth century.
They set out in 863 for Moravia (Central European state). Here they preached and celebrated liturgy in local language. They developed an alphabet for the Slavonic language and translated the scriptures.
Cyril and Methodius experienced rivalry from German monks who only spoke Latin and consequently had little mission success.
They are the patrons of ecumenism.
Mission work from 313-907 was carried out by nuns and monks.
MISSION AND THE MENDICANT MOVEMENT (1000-1453): PREACHERS, THIRD ORDERS, BENGUINES
At beginning of the second millennium the church was hemmed in on all sides by Muslim political rule and mission was nonexistent.
The Holy Roman Empire and a strong papacy mounted crusades against the Muslims in the Middle East.
The renewal of mission reinvigorated the church. The Franciscans, Dominicans, and other new movements provided this spark within the church of the West.
The fall of Constantinople to Muslim forces in 1453 ended eleven hundred years of the Byzantine Empire and the end of this moment of Christian mission.
FRANCIS OF ASSISI: ENCOUNTERING THE MUSLIM SULTAN
After fighting in the crusades, Francis had a conversion, left behind the material wealth and social prestige of his family to imitate the poverty and life of Christ.
Francis and his companion Brother Illuminato traveled to Damietta at the mouth of the Nile River and were received by Sultan Al-Malik-al-Kamil as emissaries of peace.
The Franciscan rule written by Francis in 1221 presented two approaches to non-Christians: Christian presence and witness; open and explicit proclamation of the gospel.
BEGUINES: LAY WOMEN IN MISSION AT HOME
Individual women yearned to live a more intentional spiritual life within their households.
A loose network of such women developed. They supported themselves and wore a common dress of gray.
They provided a new avenue for combining personal and communal spirituality with ministerial and missional service. The beguines were precursors of women’s active (non-cloistered) religious orders.
At this time, mission was practiced both at home and far away places. It was not defined geographically
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
What person, movement, or image is inspiring and enriching for your personal understanding of mission?
What did you find most surprising and/or most challenging in this chapter?