Today is the feast of St Justin Martyr.
A Palestinian from Nablus, Justin was originally a pagan who went round all the various philosophical schools of the day (Stoics, Peripatetics, Pythagoreans and Platonists) before becoming completely disillusioned with the unsatisfactory nature of their account of the world and its meaning.
In around 132 he encountered a Christian sage and became convinced that Christianity was the true philosophy (he seems to have found the argument that everything in the New Testament was prophesied in the Old particularly persuasive).
Having converted to Christianity, he assumed the traditional cloak of the professional philosopher, and became a distinguished teacher of what he regarded as the one true philosophy – the truth revealed by God through the scriptures and in the person of his incarnate Son.
Justin developed his understanding of the New Testament as a fulfilment of the Old, showing how the Old Testament prefigures the incarnation, passion and resurrection of Jesus, and arguing that those who believe in Jesus and follow his law are the true chosen people of God.
Justin also contended that all philosophical systems point (however imperfectly) to the true philosophy. The Church is the community of those who are devoted to the Logos (in Greek, Word, Reason, Logic) of God – i.e. the second person of the Trinity.
The divine Logos has put a logos – a word, a reason, a germinative seed of truth – into all human hearts, and, in the person of Jesus Christ, he has incarnated himself in history as the one who is the way, the truth and the life.
In baptism and in the Eucharist (Justin articulates the truth of the real presence in unambiguous terms), we (who contain within our hearts this logos of truth) are integrated with the incarnate Logos, and share with him in offering the “spiritual sacrifice” of the Mass.
Greek philosophers believed that a “spiritual sacrifice” was the only kind worthy of God. The Greek word for “spiritual” used by Justin in this context is logiki – in other words, Justin’s “spiritual sacrifice” is no non-fleshly sacrifice but a sacrifice in which the incarnate Logos (crucified, risen, glorified, truly present on the altar) is offered.
(Our modern English translation of the Mass speaks of a “spiritual sacrifice”, but the Latin oblatio rationabilis captures Justin’s understanding far better, inasmuch as rationabilis captures the authentic meaning of logiki in a way that “spiritual” does not – though even the Latin misses the Logos – logikos echo.)
Justin was martyred around 165. His belief in the truth of the “spiritual sacrifice” – the sacrifice of the Logos – made it impossible for him to comply with the insistence that he should offer sacrifice to pagan deities.