Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Here is the recount of the martyrdom of the church father Polycarp as told in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs:

Hearing his captors had arrived one evening, Polycarp left his bed to welcome them, ordered a meal prepared for them, and then asked for an hour alone to pray. The soldiers were so impressed by Polycarp’s advanced age and composure that they began to wonder why they had been sent to take him, but as soon as he had finished his prayers, they put him on a donkey and brought him to the city. Brought before the tribunal and the crowd, Polycarp refused to deny Christ, although the proconsul begged him to ‘consider yourself and have pity on your great age. Reproach Christ and I will release you.’

Polycarp replied, ‘Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He has never once wronged me. How can I blaspheme my King, who saved me?’ Threatened with wild beasts and fire, Polycarp stood his ground. ‘What are you waiting for? Do whatever you please.’ The crowd demanded Polycarp’s death, gathering wood for the fire and preparing to tie him to the stake. ‘Leave me,’ he said. ‘He who will give me strength to sustain the fire will help me not to flinch from the pile.’ So they bound him but didn’t nail him to the stake.

As soon as Polycarp finished his prayer, the fire was lit, but it leaped up around him, leaving him unburned, until the people convinced a soldier to plunge a sword into him. When he did, so much blood gushed out that the fire was extinguished. The soldiers then placed his body into a fire and burned it to ashes, which some Christians later gathered up and buried properly.


What an incredible account.  I am reminded that the call of the Christian and the path to true spirituality is a path of death.  Death to self, death to stuff, death to wants, death to reputation, death to rights.  Francis Schaeffer calls this a hard wall, that we must bump into on journey with Jesus.  This is a great picture of the faithfulness of an old saint who practiced dying to his self daily, and thus when the time came to give up his life, it was the final expression of the regular practice of a Christian disciple.


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