Thoughts for the Day

Thursday, 27th June 2024: Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, Teacher, c 200 CE

2 Peter 1 Teacher Gnosticism Heresies

Reading : Verses from 2 Peter, Chapter 1

Saint Irenaeus

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


We actually celebrate the life of Irenaeus tomorrow, and today should be Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria. We shall look at both of them for they were important in helping to defeat heretical theories concerning Jesus, but it seems easier to look at them in date order.

Irenaeus was born in Smyrna, an ancient Greek city now in Izmir in Turkey, about 130 CE. As a child he heard Saint Polycarp preach, who had been a disciple of the apostle John. Irenaeus is therefore one of the important connections between the early Church of the apostles and the second century. He studied in Rome and later became a priest at Lyons (France), becoming Bishop in 177 CE on the martyrdom of his predecessor. Irenaeus is also important to us because of his desire to explain and demolish many heresies, in particular that of Gnosticism, in his work 'Against the heresies'.

'Gnostic' is a general name for many different sects which flourished for about 500 years. They believed that only the spirit was pure and that all matter was evil and fallen, therefore Jesus could not be completely human or completely divine. Most variations of this belief mean that Jesus ends up as some kind of semi, secondary, God. Irenaeus fought the heresies of his time, arguing for the full union of divinity with humanity in Jesus.

Today, many of us still embrace Gnostic ideals. How many Christians don’t understand that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are co-equal, co-eternal, one in essence, power, action, and will? How many of us have no understanding that as human beings we are created in the image and likeness of God, and that our sin can and is washed away by baptism and later by confession?


Collect for Irenaeus

God of peace,
who through the ministry of Your servant Irenaeus,
strengthened the true faith
and brought harmony to Your Church:
keep us steadfast in Your true religion,
and renew us in faith and love,
that we may always walk in the way
that leads to eternal life;
through Jesus Christ Your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with You,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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