Origen (c. 183-253)

Origen (c. 183-253)

Born in Egypt, Origen (183-252) was a "Father of the Church" who succeeded Clement of Alexandria (150-210) and Tertullian (160-240) in Africa, Irenaeus (c. 140-185) in Gaul, and Ignatius in Antioch (30-109).


Born in a Christian family, he had an ardent soul.

Around the year 202, during the persecutions of Septimius Severus, he accompanied his father to his martyrdom and encouraged him to give the Lord the testimony of his blood. He taught the catechumens and courageously assisted several of his students on their way to martyrdom.


The oldest of 7 children, he had to support his family. He renounced all his possessions in order to retain more freedom in serving the Lord, in imitation of the Apostles.


Near the year 230, he was ordained to the priesthood in Cesarea, a city where Origen could have access to Jewish sources through the important imperial library there, a great opportunity for him. But upon his return to Alexandria, he was banished from Egypt and deposed from the priesthood due to a quarrel of ideas. He left and taught at Cesarea and Athens, among others.


Christian posterity didn't retain Origen's philosophical reflections on the origin of the soul, too much influenced by the pagan philosophies of his time. But his Commentary on the Song of Songs was greatly successful and a source of inspiration for other Christian writers.


Decius's persecution (249) was the first systematic, broad-scoped persecution against Christians. It put a term on Origen's activities: imprisoned and tortured, Origen confessed his faith until the death of the tyrant. He was then freed, but his sufferings and ill-treatments had taken their toll: he died soon after, around 254.


Françoise Breynaert, cf. Dictionnaire de spiritualite, Paris, Beauchesne 1981. Article "Origen", by Ricardo Sanles. Volume XI, col.934