Didymus of Alexandria -- By: Edward Ulback
BSac 97:385 (Jan 40) p. 81
Didymus of Alexandria
The Catechetic School of Alexandria, as it was designated, had flourished for more than two centuries as the nursery of a Christian and believing philosophy. From it as from a fountain a stream of intellectual life diffused itself over the Church. Its influence was felt in a narrower and more extensive sphere. In the former it conducted to the faith men of cultivated intellect among the heathen, who were inquiring after salvation, and educated young Christians of ability for the service of the Church. In the latter it promoted throughout the Church at large a deeper and more intelligent acquaintance with Scripture, and a scientific apprehension of Christianity, investigated in its ultimate grounds and digested into a living, comprehensive system; it gave assistance to the Church in appropriating the literary treasures and intellectual culture of antiquity, and accommodating them to the ends of the Gospel; and, in general, it promoted a higher and more refined contemplation of the universe, so as to represent the harmonious unity of knowledge and life. The decay of this school after the expiry of the fourth century, was one of the events which gave warning and token of that general corruption of the Oriental Church which first delivered her over-already suffering from internal division, entangled in the meshes of monachism, and hide-bound in a system of lifeless formulas-to a self-imposed spiritual slavery, and then, as a natural consequence, subjected her to the external bondage of Islam. The Church’s corruption, and the effects which flowed from it, are therefore naturally associated in our minds with the life and labors of Didymus, the last teacher of note in the Alexandrian school.
It is a remarkable circumstance, and one in which we may trace the special providence which watches over the Church, that a deep obscurity often invests the outward life of those of her teachers who stood forth most prominently
BSac 97:385 (Jan 40) p. 82
in their day. The information we possess respecting Didymus is very scanty. This is easily accounted for in his case, since his life flowed on with few vicissitudes in the tranquil round of learning and teaching. According to a highly probable calculation, his birth took place A.D. 309, in the trying time of the Church’s last decisive conflict with the imperial power of pagan Rome. He may be said, therefore, to have received at his birth the baptism of blood for a life of self sacrifice in the service of the Lord. Antiquity surnamed him “the Blind,” because he lost his eyesight when he was no more than four or five years of age, and still incapable of acquiring the elements of education. But, like many other fathers of eminence-like Justin and Augustine-he from his...
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