Bishop of Rome, Martyr, c.230 – feast day 23 November
Clement was active as an elder in the Church in Rome towards the end of the first century and is thought to have been a disciple of the apostles. He wrote a letter to the Corinthians which focused on ministry in the Church and dealt with controversial issues relating to authority and duty. The letter clearly reveals an exercise of authority on the part of one senior presbyter intervening in a conflict in another Church, which gives us an insight into the history of the developing Church and its ministry. Clement’s hierarchical view of Church order set a future pattern for episcopal practice and ministry. He seems to have been president of a council of presbyters which governed the Church in Rome and he appears to be writing on their behalf. A fourth-century document states that Clement was exiled to the Crimea where he was then put to death by being thrown into the sea with an anchor around his neck.
Here is part of Clement’s letter to the Church in Corinth
How blessed and wonderful are the gifts of God, my friends! Some of them we can already comprehend — the life that knows no death, the splendour of righteousness, the liberating power of truth, the faith that is perfect assurance, the holiness of living chastely — but what of the things God has prepared for those who wait for him? Only the creator and Father of eternity knows their greatness and their beauty. Let us strive then, to be found among those who wait for him, that we too may share in these promised gifts. And how is this to be done, my friends? By fixing our minds on God; by finding out what would be pleasing and acceptable to him; by doing what is in harmony with his perfect will; and by following the way of truth. Thus injustice, wrongdoing of every kind, greed, covetousness, quarrelling, malice and fraud should all be renounced.
This is the way, dear friends, that we find our salvation, even Jesus Christ, the high priest by whom our gifts are offered, and the defender by whom our weakness is aided. Through him we can gaze into the highest heaven and see the reflection of God’s perfect and pure face. Through him the eyes of our hearts are opened, and our dim and darkened understanding unfolds like a flower in the sunlight; for through him the Lord has willed us to taste the wisdom of eternity. As it is written in Scripture: ‘He is the splendour of the majesty of God, and is as much greater than the angels as the title he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.’
So my dear friends, let us serve resolutely in the army of the Lord, never swerving from his unerring commands. In the case of our physical bodies, the head is nothing without the feet, and our feet are useless without the head. Even the seemingly insignificant parts of our bodies are necessary and valued for the good working of the whole, each part working co-operatively, all united by a common subordination to maintain the integrity of the body.
In the same way let this corporate body of ours in Christ Jesus be maintained in integrity. Each of us should give precedence to the other according to his or her spiritual gifts. The strong are not to despise the weak, and the weak are to respect the strong. The rich should provide for the poor out of their resources, and the poor for their part should thank God for giving them somebody who can meet their needs. If you are wise, then display your wisdom by good deeds; and if you are modest, let others speak of your modesty instead of proclaiming the fact yourself.
To God we owe everything, and therefore on every count we are under obligation to thank him. Glory be to him for ever and ever. Amen.
We possess a fine icon of Clement, ‘written’ by the Jersey artist Karen Blampied in 2010.