Archive for the ‘Saints of the 100s’ Category

Feast of St. Clement I of Rome (November 23)   2 comments

Above:  St. Clement I of Rome

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME

Bishop of Rome, 88/91-97/101

Alternative feast days = November 24 and 25

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Think, my friends, how the Lord offers us proof after proof that there is going to be a resurrection, of which He has made Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead.  My friends, look how regularly there are processes of resurrection going on at this very moment.  The day and the night show us an example of it; for night sinks to rest, and day arises; day passes away, and night comes again.  Or take the fruits of the earth; how, and in what way, does a crop come into being?  When the sower goes out and drops each seed into the ground, it falls to the earth shriveled and bare, and decays; but presently the power of the Lord’s providence raises it from decay, and from that single grain a host of others spring up and yield their fruit.

–1 Clement 24 (Staniforth/Louth, 1987)

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We know little about the life of St. Clement I of Rome.  Ancient traditions contradict each other on many details, including whether he was the third or fourth Bishop of Rome and whether he became a martyr.  Certain ancient texts are allegedly of his authorship, but the (First) Epistle to the Corinthians, a.k.a. First Clement, composed via 96 C.E., is genuine.

St. Clement I, who apparently knew some of the Apostles, was one of a group of presbyters of house churches in the imperial capital city at the end of the first century C.E.  He had the duty of writing to churches in other cities.  In his (First) Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Clement I urged that church to restore its fired presbyters to their rightful positions.  This letter was an early example of the church at Rome involving itself in the matters of churches in other cities.  St. Clement I’s claim to ecclesiastical authority related to Rome being the imperial capital, not the Bishop of Rome being a Supreme Pontiff, for the monarchical Papacy had not yet emerged.

St. Clement I emphasized two primary themes in the epistle.  He stressed obedience to proper leaders–respect for the ecclesiastical hierarchy.  Our saint also emphasized respect for the liturgy and sacraments.  He placed these concerns in the context of Christ and love for God:

Love knows no divisions, promotes no discord; all the works of love are done in perfect fellowship.

–1 Clement 49; from Early Christian Writings (1987), translated by Maxwell Staniforth and Andrew Louth

St. Clement I’s epistle is an intriguing follow-up to the Pauline epistles to that church.

We Christians of today live in a different world than St. Clement I did.  We dare not dismiss him and his concerns, for we own him and many like him a great debt of gratitude; a chain of faith links him and them to us.  Furthermore, his advice in his epistle to the Corinthians retains much of value in contemporary settings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2019 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF EMILY COOPER, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF MAX JOSEF METZGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF WILBUR KENNETH HOWARD, MODERATOR OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

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Almighty God, you chose your servant Clement of Rome

to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability:

Grant that your Church may be grounded and settled

in your truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit;

reveal to it what is not yet known;

fill up what is lacking;

confirm what has already been revealed;

and keep it blameless in your service;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 23:28-32

Psalm 78:3-7

2 Timothy 2:1-7

Luke 6:37-45

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 699

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Feast of Sts. Getulius, Amantius, Caerealis, Primitivus, and Symphorosa of Tivoli (June 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  Temples of Vesta and of the Sybil, Tivoli, Italy

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINTS AMANTIUS AND GETULIUS OF TIVOLI (DIED 120)

Brothers, and Martyrs at Tivoli

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SAINTS CAEREALIS AND PRIMITIVUS OF TIVOLI (DIED 120)

Roman Soldiers, and Martyrs at Tivoli

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SAINT SYMPHOROSA OF TIVOLI (DIED IN THE EARLY 100S)

Wife of St. Getulius of Tivoli, and Martyr

Her feast transferred from July 18

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No information, aside from names, years of death, and places of martyrdom has survived for many Christian martyrs of the Roman imperial period, unfortunately.  We do know slightly more about these five saints, however.  Their stories, combined, provide enough information for a brief post.

The narrative begins with St. Getulius.

St. Getulius was a Roman military officer during the reigns of Emperors Trajan (98-117) and Hadrian (117-138).  After St. Getulius converted to Christianity he resigned his commission.  He and his brother, St. Amantius, also a Christian, went to central Italy, to live among the Sabines.  Hadrian dispatched Caerealis and Primitivus to apprehend the brothers.  Caerealis and Primitivus found Sts. Amantius and Getulius, who converted them to Christianity.  The judge Licinius, under imperial orders, sentenced the four Christians to death.  He granted them an opportunity for a reprieve; the Christians, to avoid execution, had to renounce their faith.  They refused.  Therefore, in Tivoli, in 120, they received the crown of martyrdom via clubbing to death.

St. Getulius left a widow, St. Symphorosa, who also became a martyr during the reign of Hadrian.

God and history have issued their verdicts–against the persecution over which Hadrian presided.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT ST. GALLEN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, who gave to your servants

Saints Getulius, Amantius, Caerealis, Primitivus, and Symphorosa of Tivoli

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 131

1 Peter 3:14-18, 22

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 713

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Feast of St. Blandina and Her Companions, the Martyrs of Lyons (June 2)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Blandina

Image in the Public Domain

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THE 48 MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

Eusebius of Caesarea wrote at length of these martyrs at the beginning of Book 5 of his Ecclesiastical History.

Empire-wide persecutions of Christians were rare in the Roman Empire.  Usually persecutions were regional and occasional.  For some period of time prior to 177 there was no persecution in Lyons.  Then it resumed.

The persecution of Christians in Lyons assumed several forms.  Initially public marginalization, such as exclusion from the marketplace, occurred.  Then pagan mobs attacked Christians and vandalized their homes.  The next stage entailed public interrogation, followed by incarceration and torture.  At this stage most of the martyrs, including St. Pothinus, the aged Bishop of Lyons, died.  By means of torture authorities extracted from some victims false confessions of sordid offenses, such as incest and cannibalism.  Under pressure some Christians, including St. Biblis, renounced the faith, only to reclaim it, then to die horribly.

At the end of the persecution crowds filled the amphitheater for six days to watch the martyrdoms of St. Sanctus (a deacon), St. Attalus (a longtime church member), St. Maturus (a recent convert), St. Ponticus (who was fifteen years old), and St. Blandina (a slave).  St. Blandina was the last one to die.  Eusebius concluded:

After they were exposed and insulted for six days, the martyrs’ bodies were burned to ash and swept by the wicked into the Rhone, which flows nearby, so that not even a trace of them would still appear on earth.  They did this as if to conquer God and defeat their rebirth so that, as they said, “they might not have any hope of resurrection, because of which they have introduced a strange new cult, ignored torture, and gone joyfully to death.  Now let’s see if they will rise again and if their god will save them.”

–Translated by Paul L. Maier (Grand Rapids, MI:  Kregel Publications, 1999), page 178

God and history have issued their verdicts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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Grant, O Lord, that we who keep the feast of the holy martyrs

Blandina and her companions may be rooted and grounded in love of you,

and may endure the sufferings of this life for the glory that shall be revealed in us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 12:1-3a

Psalm 34:1-8

1 Peter 1:3-9

Mark 8:34-38

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 403

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Feast of St. Justin Martyr (June 1)   1 comment

Above:  St. Justin Martyr

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR (100/110-166/167)

Christian Apologist and Martyr

St. Justin Martyr was a major figure in early Christian history.  He, a student of Greek philosophy, pioneered the project of reconciling faith and reason.

St. Justin grew up a pagan.  He, born at Flavia Neopolis (formerly Shechem, Samaria; subsequently Nablus, in the West Bank of the River Jordan), spent years studying and mastering various schools of Greek philosophy.  Our saint sought meaning.  Circa 130 St. Justin found that meaning after a meeting with a Christian on the beach at Ephesus.  Our saint, while acknowledging the wisdom and truth present in Greek philosophy, came to regard Christianity as the sole rational religion and the only

safe and profitable philosophy.

One of the people he debated was one Trypho, a Jew, who argued that the New Testament distorts the Hebrew Bible.  St. Justin replied that the latter actually foreshadows the former.

Circa 150 St. Justin moved to Rome, where he founded a school and where he spent the rest of his life.  Our saint wrote influential texts, some of which have survived.  St. Justin addressed the First Apology (circa 155) to the Emperor Antoninus Pius (reigned 138-161) and his adopted sons, Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161-180) and Lucius Verus.  Our saint refuted allegations of immorality against the Church, argued for the reasonableness of Christianity, and described contemporary Baptismal and Eucharistic rites and theology.  The bases of the Dialogue with Trypho were encounters at Ephesus.  The audience for the Second Apology (161) was the Roman Senate.

St. Justin, orthodox according to the standards of the time, became something of a heretic post mortem, as did other Ante-Nicene Fathers, notably Origen and St. Clement of Alexandria.  St. Justin, for example, concluded that God the Son is subordinate to God the Father, a position antithetical to subsequent orthodox developments in Trinitarian theology.

Circa 165 St. Justin debated the Cynic philosopher Crescens publicly; this led to the demise of our saint and six of his pupils.  Apparently Crescens was an unsavory character; St. Justin accused him of being immoral and ignorant.  The revenge of Crescens proved St. Justin’s first point.  The Cynic philosopher denounced St. Justin and six of his pupils as Christians.  (The authorities could have arrested St. Justin for years, if they had been of a mind to do; he was living openly and writing apologia to imperial officials, after all.)  When St. Justin and the others refused to sacrifice to the gods, they endured scourging then met their martyrdom via beheading.

These martyrs had the courage of their convictions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF GREVILLE PHILLIMORE, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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O God, who has given your Church wisdom and revealed deep and secret things:

Grant that we, like your servant Justin and in union with his prayers,

may find your truth an abiding refuge all the days of our lives;

through Jesus Christ, who with the Holy Spirit lives and reigns

with you, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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Almighty and everlasting God, you found your martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher,

seeking the true God, and you revealed to him the sublime wisdom of your eternal Word:

Grant that all who seek you, or a deeper knowledge of you, may find and be found by you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 7:7-9

Psalm 16:5-11

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 12:44-50

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 401

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Feast of St. Quadratus the Apologist (May 26)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Roman Empire, 117 C.E.

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

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SAINT QUADRATUS THE APOLOGIST (SECOND CENTURY C.E.)

Early Christian Apologist

Eusebius of Caesarea (circa 260-339) mentioned one Quadratus in his Ecclesiastical History.  The great historian, without explaining who Quadratus was, wrote that Quadratus had written a defense of Christian faith and sent it to the Roman Emperor Hadrian (reigned 117-138) because, as Eusebius explained,

certain wicked men were trying to get our people into trouble.

Eusebius–The Church History:  A New Translation with Commentary, translated by Paul L. Maier (Grand Rapids, MI:  Kregel Publications, 1999), page 136

Eusebius also wrote that copies of that document were commonplace among Christians then praised the intelligence and orthodoxy of Quadratus.  Next the great historian quoted that apologia:

Our Savior’s deeds were always there to see, for they were true:  those who were cured or those who rose from the dead were seen not only when they were cured or raised but were constantly there to see, not only while the Savior was living among us, but also for some time after his departure.  Some of them, in fact, survived right up to our time.

–Maier, page 136

Copies of the apologia of Quadratus were commonplace in the lifetime of Eusebius, but the document has not survived the ravages of time.  We would not have the opportunity to read any part of it except for the fact that Eusebius included an excerpt.

St. Jerome (347-419) understood the apologist to have been St. Quadratus of Athens, the Bishop of Athens, Greece, in the 120s.  Many subsequent scholars have disagreed with that conclusion, though.  On one hand, the apologia dated to 124 or 125, so the timeframe fit.  On the other hand, how many Quadratuses were contemporaries of each other?

Regardless of who St. Quadratus the Apologist was, we can be certain of one fact:  he was the earliest known Christian apologist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 7, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PHILIP AND DANIEL BERRIGAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND SOCIAL ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF ANNE ROSS COUSIN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GERALD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; BROTHER OF BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARIA JOSEPHA ROSSELLO, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF PITY

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Lord God, you have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses.

Grant that we, encouraged by the example of your servant Saint Quadratus the Apologist,

may persevere in the course that is set before us and, at the last,

share in your eternal joy with all the saints in light,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 9:1-10

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Luke 6:20-23

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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Feast of Sts. Victor the Martyr and Corona of Damascus (May 14)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Victor the Martyr

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT VICTOR THE MARTYR

Roman Soldier and Christian Martyr, 165

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SAINT CORONA OF DAMASCUS

Christian Martyr, 165

Also known as Saint Stephanida and Saint Corona the Martyr

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Alternative feast days = November 11 and November 24

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Emperor Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161-180 C.E.), in the words of classical historian Michael Grant, considered Christians to be

self-dramatizing martyrs who perversely refused to participate in the common life of the Roman Empire which, for all its imperfections, seemed to him the most complete earthly expression of the ideal Stoic cosmopolis that he always held before his eyes.

The Roman Emperors:  A Biographical Guide to the Rulers of Imperial Rome, 31 BC-AD 476 (1985), pages 92-93

In other words, Christians were allegedly menaces to society because they refused to conform.  And, if one assumed that the gods would continue to bless the Roman Empire as long as the populace honored the deities, one thought of the Christian gospel as an existential threat to the empire.  From that perspective persecuting Christians was an essential policy, in the name of imperial security.

St. Victor was a Roman soldier stationed in Syria.  He, being a Christian, refused to perform his civic duty–to offer a sacrifice to the gods.  For this offense St. Victor became a prisoner and suffered tortures.  Before his jailers beheaded him, they blinded him.  St. Corona/Stephanida, from our perspective in 2017 the teenage wife of one of the soldiers torturing St. Victor in Damascus, was also a Christian.  She nursed St. Victor while he was in prison.  For that she also went to martyrdom.

Although certain governments are inherently bad–evil, even–others are not.  Even when a government is not necessarily bad (at least not mostly or entirely), certain actions one might take in service to the state are inherently immoral, even when one performs them in the name of national security.  One might not seek to engage in perfidy, but one might perform perfidious acts anyway.  One might not know what one is really doing.  May God forgive one.

May one also honor the faith of Sts. Victor and Corona.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY CLAY SHUTTLEWORTH, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DANIEL C. ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.

Inspire us with the memory of Sts. Victor the Martyr and Corona of Damascus,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross, and give us courage

to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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Feast of Sts. Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Irenaeus of Lyons (February 23)   2 comments

ichthys

Above:  Ichthys

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH (CIRCA 35-107/115)

Bishop of Antioch and Martyr

His feast transferred from October 17

met and wrote to

SAINT POLYCARP OF SMYRNA (69-FEBRUARY 23, 155/156)

Bishop of Smyrna and Martyr

His feast = February 23

met

SAINT IRENAEUS OF LYONS (CIRCA 130-CIRCA 202)

Bishop of Lyons and Martyr

His feast transferred from June 28

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So gird up your loins now and serve God in fear and sincerity.  No more of the vapid discourses and sophistries of the vulgar; put your trust in Him who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory and a seat at His own right hand.  All things in heaven and earth have been made subject to Him; everything that breathes pays Him homage; He comes to judge the living and the dead, and God will require His blood at the hands of any who refuse Him allegiance.  And He that raised Him from the dead will raise us also, if we do His will and live by His commandments, and cherish the things He cherished–if, that is to say, we keep ourselves from wrongdoing, overreaching, penny-pinching, tale-telling, and prevaricating, and bear in mind the words of our Lord in His teaching, Judge not, that you be not judged; forgive, and you will be forgiven; be merciful, that you may obtain mercy; for whatever you measure out to other people will be measured back again to yourselves.  And again, Happy are the poor and they who are persecuted because they are righteous, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

–St. Polycarp, the Epistle to the Philippians, Logion 2, in Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers, translated by Maxwell Staniforth and Andrew Louth (New York, NY:  Penguin Books, 1987), page 119-120

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This post replaces three older posts and emphasizes the relationships and influences that bound these three saints in faithful witness.  After all, one of my goals during the ongoing renovation of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize relationships and influences.

ignatius-of-antioch

Above:  St. Ignatius of Antioch

Image in the Public Domain

We know little about the life of St. Ignatius of Antioch, whose other name was Theophorus, or “Bearer of God” or “Borne of God.”  He was either the second (if one takes the word of Origen) or the third (if one believes Eusebius of Caesarea) Bishop of Antioch.  In 107 or 115 (depending on the source one consults) ten Roman soldiers escorted St. Ignatius on a long route from Antioch to Rome, to die by becoming lion food.  The purpose of the extended parading of our saint was to humiliate him.  Nevertheless, St. Ignatius conducted himself with dignity and therefore converted many people to Christianity.  Along the way St. Ignatius met St. Polycarp of Smyrna and wrote seven epistles:

  1. To the Ephesians,
  2. To the Magnesians,
  3. To the Trallians,
  4. To the Romans,
  5. To the Philadelphians,
  6. To the Smyrnaeans, and
  7. To Polycarp.

As St. Ignatius wrestled with his anxieties he encouraged others in their faith.

Since I had been impressed by the godly qualities of your mind–anchored, as it seemed, to an unshakable rock–it gave me much pleasure to set eyes on your sainted countenance (may God give me joy of it).  But let me charge you to press on even more strenuously in your course, in all the grace with which you are clothed, and to call all your people to salvation.  You must do justice to your position, by showing the greatest diligence both in its temporal and spiritual duties.  Give thought especially to unity, for there is nothing more important than this.  Make yourself the support of all and sundry, as the Lord is to you, and continue to bear lovingly with them all, as you are doing at present.  Spend your time in constant prayer, and beg for ever larger gifts of wisdom.  Be watchful and unsleeping in spirit.  Address yourself to people personally, as is the way of God Himself, and carry the infirmities of them all on your shoulders, as a good champion of Christ out to do.  The heavier the labour, the richer the reward.

–St. Ignatius of Antioch, the Epistle to Polycarp, Logion 1, in Early Christian Writings (1987), page 109

St. Ignatius, no advocate of sola scriptura, encouraged the frequent celebration of the Eucharist and considered Christian factionalism to be “the beginning of all evils” (the Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, Logion 8).

polycarp-of-smyrna

Above:  St. Polycarp of Smyrna

Image in the Public Domain

We also know little about the life and much about the death of St. Polycarp of Smyrna (69-115/156), who studied under St. John the Apostle/Divine/Evangelist.  St. Polycarp, a native and the Bishop of Smyrna, in Asia Minor, was a link between the Apostles of Jesus and St. Irenaeus of Lyons (circa 130-circa 202), the first great Catholic theologian.  St. Polycarp defended Christian orthodoxy against heresies, especially Marcionism (which sought to remove Jewish influences from the canon of scripture) and Valentinianism (a variety of Gnosticism).

In 106 or 114 our saint traveled to Rome to meet with Pope St. Anacetus (reigned circa 155-circa 166).  They agreed to disagree regarding the issue of Quartodecimanism, the position (dominant in churches in Asia Minor) that the churches ought to celebrate Easter on the date of 14 Nisan (the date of the Passover), regardless of the day of the week upon which that date falls.  St. Polycarp favored Quartodecimanism; the Pope thought that the celebration of Easter should always fall on a Sunday.

In 107 or 115, shortly after returning to Smyrna from Rome, St. Polycarp became a martyr.  Authorities arrested him at a pagan festival and burned him at a stake.

St. Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians, perhaps a composite of two epistles (in the style of 2 Corinthians), has survived, fortunately.  (Many ancient documents have not survived, sadly.)  One Evarestus wrote The Martyrdom of Polycarp, which has also survived.  These two documents have provided much invaluable information about St. Polycarp.

Such then is the record of Polycarp the Blessed.  Including those from Philadelphia, he was the twelfth to meet a martyr’s death in Smyrna; though he is the only one to be singled out for universal remembrance and to be talked of everywhere, even in heathen circles.  Not only was he a famous Doctor, he was a martyr without a peer; and one whose martyrdom all aspire to imitate, so fully does it accord with the Gospel of Christ.  His steadfastness proved more than a match for the Governor’s injustice, and won him his immortal crown.  Now, in the fullness of joy among the Apostles  and all the hosts of heaven, he gives glory to the Almighty God and Father, and utters the praises of our Lord Jesus Christ–who is the Saviour of our souls, the Master of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church the wide world over.

–Evarestus, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Logion 19, in Early Christian Writings (1987), page 131

irenaeus

Above:  St. Irenaeus of Lyons

Image in the Public Domain

St. Polycarp met a very young St. Irenaeus of Lyons (circa 130-circa 202).  We know little about the native of Asia Minor, who studied at Rome and became a priest and Lyons.  We do know, however, that St. Irenaeus was a tolerant man.  Even as he argued against certain heresies he contended for the lenient treatment of heretics.  In the case of the Montanists, apocalyptic ascetics in Asia Minor, St. Irenaeus, who argued against their theology and practices, carried to a letter on their behalf to Pope St. Eleutherius (reigned circa 174-189) in 177/178.  Our saint favored toleration fo the Montanists.  The Pope, who did not consider them to be threats, did not countenance any actions against them.

In our saint’s absence Pothinus, the Bishop of Lyons, became a martyr.  In 178, when St. Irenaeus returned to the city, he became the next bishop.  As the Bishop of Lyons our saint wrote to Pope St. Victor I (reigned 189-198) in support of Quartodecimanism.  St. Irenaeus, the first great Catholic theologian, also wrote against Gnosticism.  Whereas St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215) refuted Gnosticism with a Christian Gnosis, St. Irenaeus argued against that heresy by citing the goodness of creation and the resurrection of the dead, quoting scripture, and affirming Apostolic Succession.

Sts. Irenaeus seems to have become a martyr in 200, give or take a few years.

Sts. Ignatius, Polycarp, and Irenaeus were foundational figures in Christianity.  They were spiritual giants to whom we who follow Christ in the twenty-first century owe a great debt of gratitude.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF HENRY USTICK ONDERDONK, EPISCOPAL BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Grant, almighty God, that following the teaching of

Sts. Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Irenaeus of Lyons,

we may know you as the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,

that we may be counted worthy ever to be numbered among the sheep who hear his voice;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Nehemiah 8:1-8 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:97-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Matthew 13:51-52

–Adapted from The Church of South India, The Book of Common Worship (1963), page 67

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