Monday, February 23, 2009

Lessons in faith

It's Polycarp's day today, so I have just read the Martyrdom of Polycarp in my Apostolic fathers collection (the Greek/English version edited by Michael Holmes). It's inspiring stuff

Apart from the amazing courage of the man, what strikes you is how political following Jesus was in the second century. He was asked by his first accuser - the police chief called Herod(!) - 'what harm is there in saying "Caesar is Lord" and offering incense and thereby saving yourself?' Polycarp swaid he wasn't going to do that.

Then the proconsul told him to 'swear the oath and I will release you. Revile Christ.' Thus indicating that the authorities viewed following Jesus to be a political act as much as a religious practice.

Polycarp famously replied: 'For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my king who saved me?'

He went on to invite the proconsul to hear an outline of Christian teaching. 'I am a Christian,' he said, 'Now, if you want to learn the doctrine of Christianity, name a day and give me a hearing.'

The proconsul declined and Polycarp was burned at at the stake. He's an inspirational figure, a lesson in faith.


Angela said...

I've always thought Polycarp was wonderful.
Not sure why he is the Patron Saint of those suffering from earache and stomach ache though!

Your post and the bit about "Caesar is Lord" reminded me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was broadcasting on German Radio in the 1930's and said "Jesus Ist Fuhrer", and the authorities interrupted the broadcast.

simon said...

wow - I've never knew that Bonhoeffer quote. It's terrific.

I didn't klnow Polycarp was the patron saint of earache and and tummies, either.

He ought to be the patron saint of people who people who take their faith seriously.