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20121231 Conquering paganism 基督聖教征服異教

Constantine the Great became Roman Emperor after the battle of the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. Before the battle, Constantine saw a cross on the sky with the words: “In this sign you shall conquer”. In 313, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which allowed religion freedom, abolished all laws against Christianity, entitled the Church to own properties, and made Sunday a day of rest.
Christianity attracted all people by the truth of its doctrine, the purity of its morals, and the beauty of its ceremonies. It eventually became the chief religion of the Roman Empire. In 391 Emperor Theodosius I declared Christianity the official religion of the Empire. Christianity, the religion of faith, hope, and love conquered paganism, a religion of doubt, despair, and hatred.
Teachings defined
After winning her freedom, the Catholic Church had to combat internal conflicts of heresies. The chief heresies from the fourth to the eighth centuries were Arianism (denied the divinity of Christ), Macedonianism (denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit), Pelagianism (denied original sin and the necessity of grace), Nestorianism (taught the existence of two persons in Christ and denied Mary as Mother of God), Monophysites (denied the humanity of Christ), Monothelites (taught that Christ has only one will), and Iconoclasts (attacked the veneration of holy images).
The struggles with heresies caused Church to define her teachings through ecumenical councils. The Council of Nicaea (325) drew up a profession of faith—the Nicene Creed—- proclaiming Jesus Christ as true God and true man. The Council of Constantinople (381) affirmed the divinity of the Holy Spirit. The Council of Ephesus (431) defined the true personal unity of Christ and declared Mary the Mother of God. Under Pope Leo I, the Council of Chalcedon (451) defined the two natures (Divine and human) in Christ. The Second Council of Constantinople (553) confirmed the decisions of the first four ecumenical councils. The Third Council of Constantinople (680-681) defined the two wills in Christ, the Divine and the human, as two distinct principles of operation. The Second Council of Nicaea (787) regulated the veneration of holy images.
Shining witnesses
The chief opponents of heresies were the Fathers of the Church. The most noteworthy among the Greek Fathers are St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzum, and St. John Chrysostom. Among the Latin Fathers are St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Gregory the Great.
While the Fathers of the Church acted as defenders of the true Faith, the hermits and monks shone as models of penance. The hermits were pious Christians who fled from the seductive pleasures of the world, to prepare themselves in solitude, by prayer and self-denial, for a happy death. St. Paul of Thebes (+340) was the first hermit who had fled a persecution under Emperor Decius (249-251). St. Anthony (+356) built the first monastery, and was called the Patriarch of Monks. After the death of St. Anthony, one of his disciples, St. Athanasius, wrote his life. The biography of St. Anthony projected the ascetic ideal and peopled the desert with monks. Through St. Anthony, the solitary life gave rise to the monastic life.
There were two kinds of monastic life: the eremitical or hermit life and the cenobitical or common life. St. Anthony and his disciples formed a community of eremitical life: they lived on their own and came together mainly to partake in the Sunday liturgy. St. Pachomius (+345) was one of the principal founders of cenobitic monasticism. The monks lived in community, kept scheduled times of prayer together, and took weekly turns at various tasks. The cenobitic form of monasticism was perpetuated in the East by St. Basil (+379), and in the West by St. Benedict (+547).


同一時期,教會有很多棄俗潛修、克己行苦的聖賢,樹立祈禱修德、棄絕自我、獨隱避世,以求善終的表樣。當中首先獨修聖保祿 (公元+340年),為逃避羅馬皇帝戴西于迫害聖教,跑到曠野獨居隱修。與前者惺惺相惜的,是聖安當(公元+356年),他修建了第一座隱修院,被譽為「隱修士的祖宗」,而他的弟子聖亞大納削記下他的生平,昭示了在曠野的苦行靜修的實況,彰顯了獨居隱修的隱士生活。