In his General Audience on March 7, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI said, ” Let us devote our attention to the Apostolic Fathers, that is, to the first and second generations in the Church subsequent to the Apostles. And thus, we can see where the Church’s journey begins in history.”
When we do this, we see that these men and women (yes, there were women “fathers”), lived with strong visions of heaven–some of which they clung to during extreme persecution, suffering, and martyrdom. For them, this was not escapism or fantasy-land faith, it was knowing where the ultimate foundation is, and standing on it.
So, to use Benedict’s words, the history of the Church begins with a clear and powerful witness to the reality, sufficiency, and necessity of a heaven-oriented faith. Our history will be one of strength when we stand with the saints of the ages upon the foundation that holds.
This early Christian witness is why I keep calling for a classical Christian spirituality–one that takes the emphasis off of us and puts it squarely on “Our Father who art in heaven.” It is why I keep encouraging to make some friends in “the great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1).