Summary: What distinguished the Corinthian church was their usage of the spiritual gifts, especially the more dramatic ones like praying in tongues and healing.
Thursday of 21st Week in Course 2018
Ss Felix and Adauctus
Our Lord is not satisfied with half-measures, and neither should we be so satisfied. It has been said that the goal of life is to depart this earth prepared to be canonized saints. That means that we must do good and avoid evil, but to an heroic extent. That’s why we have canonized saints, to show to generations to come that we can be holy, and we can be wholly useful to Our Lord in building up the Kingdom of God.
The Church at Corinth was by all accounts St. Paul’s chronically difficult congregation. We have two canonical letters he wrote to the Corinthians, and we begin the first of these today. But there are evidences in the texts of the letters that there are actually three or four correspondences in the two letters. You’ll see, especially in this first letter, St. Paul doing more fussing than he has done since the letter to Galatia. And there’s a lot for him to be concerned about.
You see, Corinth was the town at the isthmus of Corinth where freight was unloaded and then carted across the isthmus to a ship on the other side, reloaded and then sent on. That traffic went on all day and much of the night, because it saved a 700 kilometer journey around the Peloponnese. The overland route is a little over 6 kilometers, so it saved around a week for the ancient mariner, and was safe from pirates.
But, like most sea towns of its kind, Corinth was a hive of iniquity. Sailors of that time were not prone to go to church while their ships were in port, so all kinds of sordid activities were available. And since the Church is a Church of sinners, not canonized saints, Paul and his disciples welcomed bar owners, prostitutes, money lenders and others who were not the cream of society. And even if they repented of sin, they often fell back into those bad habits.
What distinguished the Corinthian church was their usage of the spiritual gifts, especially the more dramatic ones like praying in tongues and healing. The Holy Spirit gives those gifts in order to take care of human problems, and attract the unchurched to Our Lord. But it appears that the people in Corinth considered them to be something like entertainment. They prayed in tongues but, for instance, ignored the case of one of their members living in incest with a relative. But Paul does not launch into a condemnation. Instead he commends them on their exercise of these gifts, and then reorders them toward the eventual return of Our Lord. In other words, the gifts are not for personal glory or entertainment, but to build up the Church and prepare her for the return of Her Lord. Then, in our Gospel, Jesus reminds us that what is important as we wait for Christ’s return is to be faithful, to treat the household justly and with respect to their dignity. As usual, anything less is not enough. God or nothing.
In the old calendar, this was the day to celebrate St. Rose, and by extension two obscure saints called Felix and Adauctus. Butler writes: “Being apprehended in the beginning of Dioclesian’s persecution, [the priest Felix] was put to cruel torments, which he suffered with admirable constancy, and was at length condemned to lose his head. As he was going to execution he was met by a stranger, who, being a Christian, was so inflamed at the sight of the martyr, and the lively prospect of the glory to which he was hastening, that he was not able to contain himself, but cried out aloud: ‘I confess the same law which this man professeth; I confess the same Jesus Christ; and it is also my desire to lay down my life in this cause.’ The magistrates hearing this, caused him forthwith to be seized, and the martyrs were both beheaded together about the year 303. The name of this latter not being known, he was called by the Christians Adauctus, because [that word means ‘added’]” Now just to be clear, it looks like Adauctus was inspired by the Holy Spirit to add his witness, but the Church does not encourage us to seek martyrdom. There was no rule that told him to do that. Let’s all pray for that kind of enthusiasm for Christ, for that kind of fortitude in trials.