Hannah, Parish Assistant reflects on the story of St Clement (Feast Day 23rd November).
Clement, believed to be a disciple of St. Peter and of St. Paul, is best known as the fourth Pope and for his Epistle to the Corinthians, an insight into the early Church’s ministry and preserving peace to the Corinthians. Little is known of him beyond a few facts, but it is the story of his death which led me to deeper reflection:
About 110 A.D. Clement was sentenced to a martyr’s death in the arena by the Emperor Trajan. According to a fourth century story, Trajan had banished the pope to the Crimea in the southern Ukraine because of his success in evangelization. The people of the country were converted and seventy‑five churches built. A frustrated Trajan then ordered Clement to be thrown into the sea with an iron anchor. But he had an impact even after his martyrdom because the tide receded two miles every year, finally, revealing a divinely built shrine which contains the martyr’s bones
In works of art, St Clement can be recognized having an anchor at his side (similar to the photo above). There are a variety of symbols in the Christian tradition, such as, the cross, fish (icthus), chi rho, and doves. Symbols allow us to create imagery around our faith. They allow us to go beyond the written word and use creativity and simplistic beauty to capture truth.
Anchors have been a Christian symbol for many years. I have seen the anchor symbol in churches and Christian settings, but I have never connected the anchor to anything beyond the scripture found in Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
For sailors, an anchor is used as stability and security during stormy weather and large waves. Similar to sailors, the anchor is a symbol for us of Christ’s unfailing hope and faithfulness.
For me, life is like a journey at sea, moments of calm wind and moments of wild weather. Sometimes we have control over the direction of the ship, but many times we don’t. In those moments, I drop the anchor on the side of the ship and look for hope. During the times of darkness, stress, and hardship, Christ’s love can calm the toughest waters. In the story of Saint Clement’s death, he is thrown into the sea with an anchor and drowns, and every year a beautiful shrine appears. Even in the dark moment, there is a glimmer of beauty and hope.