Saint of the Day: St. Clement of Rome

(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press.Today's saint, Clement, comes from Volume 4 of the series.) 
Saint Clement of Rome

"Inasmuch as Rome was the political center of the empire in the first four centuries of Christianity, the episcopal see of Rome was given preeminence in religious influence so that the post of bishop of Rome evolved into the papacy. There has been considerable dispute as to the dates in which St. Peter appeared in Rome, but irrespective of names, dates or places, it is the contention of Orthodoxy that the two mightiest figures of Christianity, Sts. Peter and Paul, were well-traveled missionaries whose loftiness put them in a position to appoint bishops. So sacred are these saints that it seems to lessen them by referring to them as mere bishops, when in reality their closeness to Jesus Christ made them five-star generals in the legions of followers of the Savior they personally created.

Because of the view that the Eastern Church has adhered to for nearly twenty centuries, St. Clement is looked upon as the third bishop of Rome, preceded by Bishop Linos, who is considered the first, and then by Anaklitos, shortened in Latin to Clitus. There is considerable speculation as to the family background of Clement, who has been identified with the royal house of Titus Flavius Clemens and therefore a kinsman of the Flavian emperors. It has been determined that he was, nevertheless, of royal blood, and was a man of considerable intellect and honor, two characteristics which led him to Christianity in spite of the fact that the new religion was disapproved of in high places.

Clement placed himself at the disposal of both Sts. Peter and Paul, who welcomed the highly respected and gifted Roman who was of such great value in the conversion of so many other Romans of every station in life. His close association with St. Paul, together with his literary gift, gave rise to belief that he was an author of many pastoral letters, some of which are his but have been confused because of his attachment to Paul and the similarity of their style.

The qualities of leadership and devoutness made Clement the logical successor to Anaklitos as bishop of Rome who saw in this capacity his influence over the community in turn an example for the rest of the empire to follow. There is no evidence to indicate he saw himself as head of the entire Church and spiritual leader of the empire, all of which is borne out by his priorities, first of which was his community. The honor of being bishop of the empire’s political center lay primarily in the fact that all roads led to Rome, as a result of which it was common practice for bishops of other cities to take one of these roads to consult with Clement on religious matters, a practice which was to continue, especially after the fall of Jerusalem.

Clement joined St. Paul in his disappointment over the divisiveness that cropped up in some areas, especially in Greece, and voiced his disapproval of factions, calling for unity in his masterful letter to the Corinthians to assure the peace on earth of the Savior. The personal appeal of this mighty bishop was such that he would have dominated the scene from any city other than Rome. The very fact that he was a Roman who placed religion above politics, much to the embarrassment of an aristocracy which he now threatened, brought the full harshness of Roman justice on him. Those with whom he had been raised denounced him as a traitor and he was brought before a jeering court.

Clement was not tossed to the lions in the arena but instead, after some debate, he was exiled to an area known then as Chersonese, the Crimean peninsula of the Black Sea, where he was put to hard labor in the quarries. The divine grace of this holy man was expressed when he caused to spring up from the barren quarry a well of clear water from which his fellow workers could refresh themselves. Even in exile his Christian enthusiasm spread and caught on with so many converts that he was once again brought up on charges and sentenced to death. Bound with massive chains, he was cast into the sea, but his body was recovered and buried with proper ceremony. His many writings are a legacy for all of Christendom."

Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikimedia.

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