During his early years at Alexandria, Origen wrote On First Principles, the first systematic theology ever produced. For 28 years he worked on another book, the Hexapla, a massive work of Old Testament textual analysis. He was one of the few churchmen before the Reformation who learned Hebrew to assist his study of the Old Testament. Origen's method of interpreting Scripture tremendously influenced the Middle Ages. He found three levels of meaning in it: the literal, the moral and the allegorical. He used allegory to reveal Christ in the Old Testament.
Paradoxically, Origen can be called both a father of orthodoxy and a heretic. He wrote at a time when the church was defining its basic doctrines. His contributions have helped theologians for centuries. But his active mind also led him into speculations that the Church rejected. In fact, church councils held in 231 and 232 enacted motions against Origen, and excommunicated him.
Origen found refuge in Palestine and Arabia. The faith was still dear to him. During a third century persecution, pagans threw him into prison. Tortured and condemned to die, only the death of Emperor Decian saved him from execution. But Origen's health was broken. He was close to 70 when he died in 253 or 254.
Though he made serious mistakes, Origen's contribution was inestimatable. One of his students, the church father Gregory of Nazianzus, aptly summed him up as "the stone that sharpens us all." Because no definite dates are associated with Origen's life, we have chosen this day, April 22, to recognize his contribution to the church.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Surprise, surprise...Google's doodle for April 22nd is Earth Day
Guess they decided to go with the obvious choice this time, as opposed to featuring Cesar Chavez on Easter. If they had the civilizational awareness to think of it, I'm sure they could have done a very clever and respectful doodle of the early Catholic church father Origen, whose memory is traditionally celebrated on this day.