In the age of Gnosticism, Clement’s diligence to his studies and his passion for writing powerful texts covering philosophy and theology help to pave the way for another Great of the Church: Origen.
It is understood that Saint Mark traveled to Egypt’s Alexandria and established the Christian Church in that region. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the Catechetical School was founded. Offering instruction and discipleship based on the teachings of those who were with Jesus only one generation prior, this School drew many from the cultured and educated population of the region.
Clement, a student of the Catechetical School, had already studied philosophy in Greece, Italy, Asia Minor, Assyria, and Palestine. Based on his extensive studies, Clement wrote three hugely significant texts: An Exhortation to the Greeks, The Varied Tapestry, and The Teacher. These reflections and internal discussions offered a solid philosophical foundation to Christianity in the changing world.
That change was fostered by the heresy of Gnosticism: a belief the religious knowledge or illumination (gnosis) was the chief element in Christian perfection. In other words, Christ was the bringer of knowledge, and it is through knowledge alone (not grace, not sacrifice, not faith) that one finds salvation or enlightenment. Clement walked the line of Gnosticism deftly in that he recognized the value and power of knowledge, but he did not believe that it was the ONLY way. Instead, he believed that by study man experiences théopóiein or “divinization” or being incorporated into the very divinity of God. “The Word of God was made man so that we might learn how men may become God.”
Clement passed away peacefully around 215AD, but not before having passed his torch to another Giant in Christian philosophy and theology: Origen. This great man Origen would continue to study and teach and write and ultimately help to shape how the Church would continue to grow and move throughout not only the world but the ages to come.
*Stars in a Dark World: Stories of Saints and Holy Days of the Liturgy, Fr. John-Julian, OJN.