Sunday, December 3, 2017

Vatican Apostolic Library

The Vatican Apostolic Library, the official library of the Roman Catholic Church,  is located in the Vatican Palace and entered via the Belvedere Courtyard.  It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains 75,000 historical documents, 1.1 million printed books, and some 8,500 incunabula (ancient manuscripts).  It is a research library for scholars of history, law, philosophy, science and theology and is open to anyone who can satisfactorily document their scholastic qualifications and research needs.  I just received permission to access the library from January 15 to February 5 to research women in the early church who were involved in the ministry of hospitality and healing.

The Vatican Library was first envisioned by Pope Nicholas V as a place that would lure pilgrims and scholars to the Vatican to facilitate its scholastic transformation.  Nicolas wanted it to be a public library where scholarship would flourish, but his death prevented him from carrying out his plan.  The vision was fulfilled by his successor Pope Sixtus IV who officially founded the Vatican Library in 1475.

In March 2014, the Vatican Library began a four-year project of digitizing its collection of manuscripts to be made available online.  The Vatican Secret Archives, the central repository for all of the acts promulgated by the Holy See, were separated from the Vatican Library at the beginning of the 17th century.  They contain another 150,000 items.  The Vatican has begun to digitize that collection as well, and information can be accessed on the Vatican Apostolic Library website.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Ordination of Women

These posts are from a post-doctoral research project that contributes to the ongoing conversation about the ordination of women for Christian service. The scope is limited to practices and rituals related to the ministry of hospitality and healing between the birth of Christ and 400 CE.  It identifies the call of women to serve in the early Church in the first centuries, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit and the characteristic qualities of the women involved.  The work is organized two parts that appear in reverse order in this blog.

The first part discusses the custom of hospitality in the Middle East and the story of Abraham welcoming the three strangers.  That custom has been passed down through Hebrew, Christian and Islamic beliefs to create an association of hospitality with holiness.  Mary of Nazareth, Mary of Magdala, the group of women known as the myrrh-bearers, and other women of high standing accepted the teaching of Jesus and provided hospitality for the early Church out of their own resources.

The second part profiles women who provided for the first gatherings of Christian converts in their homes. Phoebe, Lydia and Dorcas were three wealthy Greek women who provided financial support for the churches in Corinth, Philippi and Joppa respectively.  

Priscilla and Aquila were a Jewish couple who played a key role in the development of the church in Rome.  Olympias, a Christian noblewoman of Greek descent dedicated her life to the church in Antioch.  Macrina had a profound influence on the development of the church in Caesarea.  Melania owned grand estates in Iberia, Africa, Numidia, Mauretania and Italy and contributed to the establishment of the early Christian church in Africa.