St. Clement of Alexandria
Clemens, Titus Flavius (Clemens Alexandrinus), St. Clement of Alexandria. This remarkable man was born either at Athens or Alexandria, but the exact date of his birth is uncertain. He was a philosopher and theologian, and lived in the end of the second and beginning of the third century. He was well versed in Greek science, and being attracted by the teaching of Christianity, he set himself to investigate its truth. Wherever an exponent of the new religion could be found, Clement sought him out to learn more from his lips. With this end in view, he travelled over Greece, Italy, Egypt, Palestine, and the East. Among all his teachers, he expressly mentions Pantaenus, by whom he was induced to embrace Christianity. When Pantaenus, who was head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria, died, Clement succeeded him as its head, and continued to work there as an exponent of Christianity, from 190 to 203 (?) He attracted numerous pupils, so great was his fame as a teacher, some of whom rose to distinction in later years. Among these may be mentioned Origen, and Alexander who ultimately became Bishop of Jerusalem. When the persecution under Severus broke out, Clement, with others professing the Christian faith, fled. Of his subsequent life very little is known.
A peculiarity of Clement's teaching was that, when he embraced Christianity, he did not abandon his eclectic system of philosophy, afterwards called Neo-Platonism, and always utilized heathen antiquities, when, with their help, he could throw light upon Christian doctrine.
Clement's works are published as part of the Anti-Nicene Christian Library (1867). The one we have to do with here is The Instructor, or Paedagogus, in which he gives advice and instruction on questions of morality. Appended to this work is the poem Stomion polon adaon, which was first translated by Dr. H. M. Dexter in 1846, as |Shepherd of Tender Youth.| The original, which is a dithyrambic ode to the Saviour, is a curious production. Here is a literal rendering of the latter part of the ode: -- |Guide [us] Shepherd of rational sheep; guide unharmed children, O Holy King, along the footsteps of Christ; O Heavenly Way, Perennial Word, Immeasurable Age, Eternal Light, Fount of Mercy, Performer of Virtue; noble [is the] life of those who hymn God, O Christ Jesus, heavenly milk of the sweet breasts of the graces of the Bride pressed out of Thy wisdom. Babes nourished with tender mouths, filled with the dewy wisdom of the rational pap, let us sing together simple praises, true hymns to Christ [our] King, holy fee for the teaching of life.| From this string of epithets several translators have, with remarkable ingenuity, woven very attractive versions.
Clement is interesting to hymnologists as having been the author of this earliest extant versified Christian hymn. He died early in the third century.