Above: Image of Enperor Licinius I on a Coin
Image in the Public Domain
SAINTS NARCISSUS, ARGEUS, AND MARCELLINUS OF TOMI (DIED IN 320)
The Reverend J. Robert Harris, from the middle 1950s to the late 1960s the pastor of Plains Baptist Church, Plains, Georgia, once preached a sermon that stuck in the memory of a parishioner, Jimmy Carter. If being Christian were a crime, Harris asked, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Harris was an appropriate person to ask that question, for he had had to leave Fort Gaines Baptist Church, Fort Gaines, Georgia, due to his public support for the civil rights of African Americans. (The local newspaper in Fort Gaines was curiously silent regarding his departure, I learned during research for my M.A. thesis. I know, for I read the newspapers in question.) Years later he had to retire from Plains Baptist Church, officially due to ill health, after preaching a sermon about the brotherhood of man.
There was enough evidence to convict Sts. Narcissus, Argeus, and Marcellinus of Tomi.
Two versions of the hagiography of these three saints have survived. According to version #1, these brothers, all of them Roman soldiers during the reign (308-324) of Licinius I, refused to perform their military service due to their consciences. The predictable courts-martial followed, as did their executions at Tomi, Pontus (now Constanta, Romania), near the Black Sea. According to version #2, these brothers, all of them Roman soldiers, refused to offer sacrifices to the gods. Authorities executed Sts. Argeus and Narcissus by beheading them. St. Marcellinus, the youngest of the brothers, suffered flogging and incarceration prior to execution by drowning in the Black Sea. Either way, the brothers died because they obeyed their Christian consciences.
These three saints prompt me to ask myself how much I would risk to obey my conscience, informed by Christianity and Judaism before it. While I wrestle with that question I ask you, O reader, how much you would sacrifice to obey your Christ-informed conscience, if matters were ever to come to that. For many of us, the relatively fortunate, it is a largely hypothetical question. For many others, however, it is daily life.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
NOVEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF ANNE STEELE, FIRST IMPORTANT ENGLISH HYMN WRITER
Almighty God, who gave to your servants Saints Narcissus, Argeus, and Marcellinus of Tomi
boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ
before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith:
Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us,
and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2 Esdras 2:42-48
Psalm 126 or 121
1 Peter 3:14-18, 22
–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 713