Archive for the ‘Zoroastrianism’ Tag

Feast of St. Maruthas (December 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  A Map of the Sassanid Empire in the 400s

SAINT MARUTHAS (DIED CIRCA 415)

Roman Catholic Bishop of Maypherkat and Missionary to Persia

His feast transferred from December 4

In this post I repeat the pattern of writing about foundational figures.  Today’s great man was a saint who risked his life for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and founded many churches.

St. Maruthas (died circa 415, although some sources claim that he lived into the early 420s) was the Bishop of Maypherkat, in Roman Mesopotamia (Syria in those days; southwestern Turkey these days), near the border with Persia, then called the Sassanid Empire (224-651).  Sassanid policy had been to persecute Christians, killing many of them, ruthlessly.  Then Yezdegerd I (reigned 399-420) came to power.  St. Maruthas, who functioned as a Roman diplomat as well as a bishop, sought the permission of Emperor Arcadius (reigned 383-408) to ask Yezdegerd I to change this policy.  Alas, Arcadius was too busy harassing St. John Chrysostom to have time for such a request.

A few years later, however, St. Maruthas had his opportunity.  He, while on a diplomatic mission for Emperor Theodosius II (reigned 402-450), obtained Yezdegerd’s permission to found churches anywhere in the Sassanid Empire.  Thus the saint began to establish an ecclesiastical infrastructure there.  Apparently, the saint impressed the Sassanid monarch with this expertise in medicine.

The saint was talented in other ways.  He also composed hymns, wrote an account of Persian martyrs, and composed theological treatises.

It is worth noting that Yezdegerd I’s approval of the Christian mission offended many Zoroastrians.  That faith tradition, as I understand it, affirms life–everything from gardening to enjoying life to procreating.  Anything deemed destructive–from being perpetually grumpy to taking life–is bad, according to Zoroastrianism.  In fact, one traditional label of Zoroastrianism is “the good religion.”  Yet, in the name of “the good religion,” Persian monarchs supervised bloody persecutions.  I am not surprised, however, for there is a long history of people killing and oppressing others in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH CARDINAL BERNARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CHICAGO

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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God of grace and glory, we praise you for your servant Saint Maruthas, who made the good news known in Persia.

Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds of the gospel, so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of your love,

and be drawn to worship you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

Feast of St. Simeon Barsabae and His Companions (April 21)   Leave a comment

Above:  Exaltation of the Cross

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SAINT SIMEON BARSABAE (DIED 341)

Bishop of Seleucia and Ctesiphon

The account of the martyrdom of St. Simeon Barsabae and his companions requires contextualization.  Relations between the Roman Empire and the revived Persian Empire under the Sasanid Dynasty were difficult, punctuated by wars.   The Sasanids governed from 226 to 651, thus the beginning of their tenure coincided with a difficult century for the Roman Empire.  Rome stabilized somewhat in the late 200s yet experienced civil war in the early 300s.  Constantine I “the Great” (reigned jointly from 306 to 323 and alone from 323 to 337) legalized Christianity.  This was a political move, an attempt to stabilize the empire and extend its lifespan by grafting onto it the hierarchy and organization of the Church.

Meanwhile, in Persia, King Shapur/Sapor II (reigned 310-379) perceived his Christian population as disloyal.  Persian policy had been to persecute heterodox populations, but religious toleration had taken its place.  Then Constantine I legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire.  Acting on the premise of guilt by association, Shapur II resumed persecution of Christians and other non-Zoroastrians.  Attempting to use Zoroastrianism to unify his realm by force if deemed necessary, Shapur II declared heresy (as he defined it) a death penalty offense.

St. Simeon Barsabae (died 341), Bishop in Ctesiphon, capital city of Persia, refused to betray his faith.  And many of his fellow Christians likewise refused.  The persecution during which these valiant people died was notoriously harsh and violent.  St. Simeon had to witness the beheading of about a hundred of his fellow Christians.  Among them were the following:

  1. Usthazanes, the royal tutor, whom the saint had led back to Christ after apostasy;
  2. Abdechalas and Ananias, two priests;
  3. and Pusicius, a layman who had encouraged Ananias.

Finally, on Good Friday, St. Simeon and his daughter, Askitrea, went to Jesus.

The persecution of Persian Christians persisted after Shapur II’s death.  I refer you, O reader, to the case of St. James Intercisus.  Yet, as the 1968 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica tells me,

Nonetheless, substantial Christian communities survived in parts of Iran long after the close of the Sasanian dynasty.–Volume 17, page 672

Persecutors, I suppose, think that they are doing what is necessary for the greater good.  Yet they are mistaken, of course.  An immoral or amoral monster probably does not look at his reflection and recognize evil, or at least bad behavior.  He probably justifies his actions to himself.  I find it ironic that one would commit murder in the name of Zoroastrianism, a faith tradition which affirms life.  Yet people have killed in the name of Christ, love incarnate.  God, save us from your alleged followers!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF STEVE DE GRUCHY, SOUTH AFRICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ARNULF OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, AND SAINT GERMANUS OF GRANFEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ETHELBERT OF KENT, KING

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT SOUTHWELL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Everloving God,

by your grace and power

your holy martyrs Saint Simeon Barsabae and his companions triumphed over suffering

and were faithful even to death;

strengthen us with your grace

that we may faithfully witness

to Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Amen.

2 Chronicles 24:17-21

Psalm 3 or 116

Hebrews 11:32-40

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989), pages 680-681

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A Related Post:

The Church’s One Foundation:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/the-churchs-one-foundation/

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