Originally published October 1, 2008

HT: The Way of the Fathers

A 6th-century monastery has been found in Iraq. You really should click that link and read the Smithsonian article because this is fascinating stuff. There are a few things I want to highlight for my own purposes:

Inside the plain walls of the chapel, one shell-shaped niche is decorated with intricate carvings and an Aramaic inscription asks for prayers of the soul of the person interred beneath the walls. Shades of a cobalt blue fresco can be found above the stepped altar. (snip)

After World War I, the monastery became a refugee center, according to chaplain and resident historian Geoff Bailey, a captain with the 86th Combat Support hospital. Christians supposedly still came once a year in November to celebrate the feast of St. Elijah (also the name of the monastery’s founding monk).

We have a monastery from the late 500’s, founded by a monk named St. Elijah, with frescos above the altar, and a request for prayers to prayed by the deceased at a grave. Monasticism, saints, images, altars, praying to the dead.

Almost all non-Catholics (Anglicans and Episcopals excepted, I think) would claim that these are all signs of gross apostacy. Yet many of these same non-Catholics would claim that the Church did not apostatize until the 1000’s or later. How, in the absence of any evidence that any orthodox Christians saw these practices as apostacy, and in the presence of their widespread use throughout history, and in the presence of explicit defenses of these practices by orthodox Christians, can these Protestants claim to practice the true ancient faith? If you’re going to say that these practices are un-orthodox, you must also say the Church apostatized sometime before this monastery was built. And this is just ONE monastery. There are scores more, and much, much more such evidence in other places. (The catacombs for one example.)

The Orthodox Church is the only other contender even in the ballpark for the title of The Historic Church. This is precisely the sort of thing that brought me to the Catholic Church.