Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Martyrdom of St Polycarp

This page has links to the full text of the Martyrdom of Polycarp (his feast day is today.) He was the bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor and was martyred around 155 AD.

The text of his martyrdom is a great read in which Polycarp's humanity shines out. For example, the policemen sent to apprehend him were so taken by his courtesy that they regretted they had to do it:

"So when he [Polycarp] heard that they [the police] were come, he went down and conversed with them, the bystanders marvelling at his age and his constancy, and wondering how there should be so much eagerness for the apprehension of an old man like him. Thereupon forthwith he gave orders that a table should be spread for them to eat and drink at that hour, as much as they desired. And he persuaded them to grant him an hour that he might pray unhindered;
and on their consenting, he stood up and prayed, being so full of the grace of God, that for two hours he could not hold his peace, and those that heard were amazed, and many repented that they had come against such a venerable old man."

He must have had a good sense of humor, as this part shows (the Christians were accused of being atheists):

"When Polycarp was brought before him, the proconsul inquired whether he were the man. And on his confessing that he was, he tried to persuade him to a denial saying, 'Have respect to thine age,' and other things in accordance therewith, as it is their wont to say; 'Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, Away with the atheists.' Then Polycarp with solemn countenance looked upon the whole multitude of lawless heathen that were in the stadium, and waved his hand to them; and groaning and looking up to heaven he said, 'Away with the atheists.' "

That wasn't what the proconsul intended!

But the most beautiful part comes when Polycarp testifies to his faith in Jesus: "But when the magistrate pressed him hard and said, 'Swear the oath, and I will release thee; revile the Christ,' Polycarp said, 'Fourscore and six years have I been His servant, and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?'"

St Polycarp, pray for us!

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