23 February 2009

The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp

Today, the Church remembers the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, one of the early Church Fathers and bishop of Smyrna. His martyrdom occurred around the year 155. He was burned to death and a letter from the Church at Smyrna describes Polycarp’s martyrdom as miraculous. The fire is described as (my translation of the Latin in quotation marks) “like the sail of a ship filled with the wind around the body” of Saint Polycarp. With this martyr’s body surrounded by flames, “the flesh did not appear to be burning, but as bread being baked or like gold and silver being purified in a furnace.” Coming from the fire was a “fragrant smell” which “smelled like precious spices.”

Here is Saint Polycarp’s prayer in the fire:
Domine Deus omnipotens, Pater dilecti ac benedicti Filii tui Iesu Christi, per quem tui notitiam accepimus, Deus angelorum, et virtutum et universæ creaturæ totiusque generis iustorum in conspectu tuo viventium; benedico tibi, quoniam me hac die atque hac hora dignatus es, ut in numero martyrum acciperem partem calicis Christi tui ad resurrectionem in vitam æternam animæ et corporis in incorruptione per Spiritum Sanctum; inter quos utinam suscipiar hodie coram te tamquam sacrificium pingue et acceptum, quemadmodum præparasti et mihi præmonstrasti et nunc adimplevisti, Deus, mendacii nescius ac verax. Quapropter de omnibus te laudo, tibi benedico, te glorifico per sempiternum et cælestem pontificem Iesum Christum, dilectum tuum Filium, per quem tibi, cum ipso et Spiritu Sancto, gloria et nunc et in futura sæcula. Amen.

(My translation)
Lord God Almighty, the Father of Your Beloved and Blessed Son Jesus Christ, through Whom we have received knowledge of You, the God of angels, and of powers, and of all creation, the whole race of the just who live in Your sight; I praise You, for You have considered me worthy of this day and hour, to be among the number of Your martyrs, to have a share in the cup of Your Christ to the resurrection of everlasting life, in soul and body into incorruptibility by means of the Holy Spirit; among whom would that I be accepted today in the Presence of You as a rich and pleasing sacrifice, according to the way You have prepared and revealed to me, and now have fulfilled, ever-truthful God, in Whom there is no falsehood. Wherefore I praise You for all things, I bless You, I glorify You through the eternal and heavenly High Priest Jesus Christ, Your Beloved Son, to Whom and You, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory now and to the coming ages. Amen.

The Lectio Brevis at Lauds this morning comes to life in the context of Saint Polycarp’s experience in the burning flames:

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (translated from the Latin)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we also may be able to comfort them who are in all distress, by the exhortation by means of which we are also exhorted by God; for as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so also by Christ does our comfort abound.