Today we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Justin Martyr.
Justin Martyr was born some time around 100 AD in Samaria, into a pagan family.
As a young man he was quickly attracted to philosophy. He studied many different schools of thought, especially Stoicism and Platonism.
OLD MAN AND THE SEA
But Justin’s thinking would change forever after a simple walk along the seashore. There he met a mysterious old man—possibly a Syrian Christian.
The old man engaged him in a long discussion challenging Justin that the soul could not arrive through human knowledge at the idea of God, but that it needed to be instructed by the Prophets who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, could make God known.
Moved by the old man's argument, Justin renounced both his former religious faith and his philosophical background, choosing instead to re-dedicate his life to the service of the Christian God.
THE TRUE PHILOSOPHY
His newfound convictions were only strengthened by the ascetic lives of the early Christians and the heroic example of the martyrs, whose piety convinced him of the moral and spiritual superiority of Christian doctrine.
As a result, he decided that the only option for him was to travel throughout the land, spreading the knowledge of Christianity as the "true philosophy."
He adopted the dress of a philosopher himself and traveled around teaching and debating.
He also established his own school of thought in Rome.
WHY JUSTIN MATTERS
Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue did survive. The First Apology, his most well known text, passionately defends the morality of the Christian life, and provides various ethical and philosophical arguments to convince the Roman emperor at the time, Antoninus, to abandon the persecution of Christians.
Justin is considered the foremost interpreter of the doctrine of the Logos. The title of Jesus Christ, as the pre-existent second person of the Trinity.
Justin believed The old philosophers and law-givers had a part of the Logos, or truths of the faith if you will- but the whole of the Logos ONLY appears in Christ.
Another invaluable piece of work, especially for us as Catholics, from Justin comes in his statements in his First Apology which are some of the earliest Christian accounts of the Eucharist:
“And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist] ... For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”
Justin was martyred by beheading in approximately 165.
His contribution to the early Church and Christian theology cannot be overstated.
He is the patron saint of philosophers and his Feast Day is June 1st.
St. Justin Martyr, ora pro nobis!