Archive for the ‘St. John the Evangelist’ Tag

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


Above:  Ichthys

Image in the Public Domain



Bishop of Antioch and Martyr

His feast transferred from October 17

met and wrote to


Bishop of Smyrna and Martyr

His feast = February 23



Bishop of Lyons and Martyr

His feast transferred from June 28


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


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.


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).


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


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.








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


Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   Leave a comment

Above:  Donkeys

Image Source = Mates II

Putting the Saddlebags on Jesus, Not the Donkey

JANUARY 21, 2018


Jonah 3:1-5, 10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,

Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.

So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.  Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk.  And he cried out,

Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God say what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he said he would bring upon them and he did not do it.

Psalm 62:6-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7 He alone in my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

10  Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,

even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

11  On the scales they are lighter than a breath,

all of them together.

12  Put no trust in extortion;

in robbery take no empty pride;

though wealth increases, set not your heart upon it.

13  God has spoken once, twice have I heard it,

that power belongs to God.

14  Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,

for you repay everyone according to his deeds.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with this world as though they had no dealings with it.  For the present form of the world is passing away.

Mark 1:14-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them,

Follow me and I will make you fish for people.

And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.  Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired him, and followed him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

Jonah 3:

Mark 1:

St. Simon Peter, Apostle and Martyr:

St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr:

St. James the Greater, Apostle and Martyr:

St. John the Evangelist, Apostle:


Rumi, or, as Persians and Afghanis call him, Jelaluddin Balkhi, lived from 1207 to 1273 C.E.  He was one of the great poets.  Professor Coleman Barks has translated many of Rumi’s works into English.  Among these is “A Basket of Fresh Bread,” part of which I quote here:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you are scattered,

simplify your worrying lives.  There is one

righteousness:  Water the fruit trees,

and don’t water the thorns.  Be generous

to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous

reason-light.  Don’t honor what causes

dysentery and knotted-up tumors.

Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.

The spirit and the body carry different loads

and require different attentions.

Too often

we put saddlebags of Jesus and let

the donkey run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

what the spirit does best, and don’t let a big load

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

(Source = The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A. J. Arberry, and Reynold Nicholson, HarperCollins, 1995; paperback, 1996; page 256)

Following God requires us to make changes.  The grace may be free to us, but it is not cheap.  We read in Jonah 3 that the prophet’s message found a receptive audience, but we discover in Jonah 4 that this fact disappointed Jonah.  He needed to lay aside his desire to see the people of Nineveh suffer for their sins.

As for Paul of Tarsus, all I can say is that I do not recall hearing this passage or the verse immediately before it read at a wedding, for good reason.

Yet those who marry will experience distress in life, and I would spare you that.–1 Corinthians 7:28b

Paul expected Jesus to return very soon, so marriage and other matters of daily life seemed relatively unimportant to him.  Two thousand years later, however, human relationships continue and Jesus has yet to return.  Some parts of the Bible are timeless; others are not.

And the Apostles?  Some of them left family businesses behind, and most of them died because they insisted on spreading the news of Jesus.  Nearly two thousand years later countless members of successive generations have known the mercies of Jesus because of what these men did.  I owe my faith in part to them.

Grace was not cheap for them.  This is the grace which grants repentance–literally turning around or changing one’s mind–and then forgiveness of sins.  Such grace scandalizes some of us from time to time, but we benefit from grace, too.  Consider this:  Somebody might find the grace God has extended to you scandalous.

Playing with Rumi’s word pictures, how often do we put the saddle bags on Jesus and let the donkey run loose in the pasture?  How often do we, perhaps out of ignorance, malnourish ourselves spiritually?  And how often do we water thorns?  I need to deal with these issues at least as much as do many other people.

The reality is that we–you and I–will not be the most effective ambassadors for Christ until, by grace, we begin to correct these bad habits and continue to replace them with good habits.  What we–you and I–do affects others in ways we cannot imagine.  Our influence, whether direct or indirect, is greater than we know.  So, by grace, may it be as positive as possible.