Teaching time : the concept of time in the sermons of Latin Christianity, A.D. 354-505
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Learning about time was part of the indoctrination of Christians in the late antique West. Time played an important role in Scripture and also in the pagan milieu from which most catechumens came. Thus, bishops were required to explain to their flocks traditional Christian concepts of time, while at the same time refute unacceptable ideas concerning time (i.e., astrology, pagan festivities), which were normally an ingrained part of the late Roman mind-set. The sermon was the predominant means of communicating these ideas. Chapters one and two begin by establishing the boundaries of time (Creation and eschatology). Bishops attempted to link all time to Christ by demonstrating that time-units had their origin in Creation and their consummation in the dies iudicii. This belief in Christ's mastery over time proved advantageous in anti-pagan and anti-heretical polemic. Chapters three through five examine the time-units themselves (e.g., the year, month, seasons, week, day and night). Symbolic exegesis and technical explanations of the workings of time-units were used to fortify the belief that all time comes from God, which, in turn furthered the demythologization of sun, moon, and stars. Chapter six examines episcopal prescriptions as to how lay Christian should spend their day-to-day life. As a general rule, bishops promoted the devotion of all time to God, requiring, at least as an ideal, that their flocks live like ascetics. This included frequent fasting and almsgiving and daily public and private worship. Chapters seven and eight follow episcopal attempts to enlarge their calendars with festivals, thus increasing the special periods of time during which the laity would be fixated on God.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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