Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

Greetings From Paris/Polycarp

Turns out they have the internet over here in Paris, so I figure we might as well blog a little…

Paris is amazing!  I have pretty much seen everything that I wanted to see so far- and I’ve only been here for 4 days!  But, in seeing everything that I knew that I wanted to see ahead of time, I came across a few things that were added to the list.  So far I have been to the Luxembourg Garden- one of my favorites because I recently read Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”- as well as The Tuileries Garden, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower (during the day, lit up at night, and sparkling during the first 10 minutes of every dark hour), Sacre Coeur, and today I spent about 7 hours in the Louvre- and barely put a dent in everything there is to see there!  I took about 5 zillion pictures- quite a few were paintings and sculptures of either the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, Jesus, or John the Baptist’s head on a platter, which seem to be pretty common themes there.  I plan to get them posted soon, so hold your breath on those.

On the flight over I read some Eusebius, and I am very much drawn to the stories of the martyrs of the early Christian church.  One such Eusebius early Christian church martyr story was about a guy named Polycarp who was the leader of the church in Smyrna.  Eusebius only says Smyrna is in Asia, but I have since learned that it is in Turkey.  His story was very inspirational (and I think would make a great movie), and his martyrdom led to an end of the persecutions for a period of time in Asia.  So I thought I would post a couple excerpts from the story here (and I decided to go ahead and change all of the thee’s and thou’s to you’s and so forth).

Chapter XV- Under Verus, Polycarp with Others suffered Martyrdom at Smyrna

(I cut out part of the beginning of the story- there were other martyrs in Smyrna, and Polycarp is being sought after.)  “But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard of these things, continued undisturbed, preserved a quiet and unshaken mind, and determined to remain in the city. But being persuaded by his friends who entreated and exhorted him to retire secretly, he went out to a farm not far distant from the city and abode there with a few companions, night and day doing nothing but wrestle with the Lord in prayer, beseeching and imploring, and asking peace for the churches throughout the whole world. For this was always his custom. And three days before his arrest, while he was praying, he saw in a vision at night the pillow under his head suddenly seized by fire and consumed; and upon this awakening he immediately interpreted the vision to those that were present, almost foretelling that which was about to hapen, and declaring plainly to those that were with him that it would be necessary for him for Christ’s sake to die by fire.”

(Polycarp moves once more to a second farm, but refuses to move again and says, “The will of God be done.”  His pursuers find him at the second farm…)

“But he did not hesitate, but immediately gave orders that a table should be spread for them. Then he invited them to partake of a bounteous meal, and asked of them one hour that he might pray undisturbed. And when they had given permission, he stood up and prayed, being full of the grace of the Lord, so that those who were present and heard him praying were amazed, and many of them now repented that such a venerable and godly old man was about to be put to death.”

(Polycarp is brougt to the city, and the captain of the police and the captain’s father try to persuade him to recant, but he does not.  Fast forward to when Polycarp is led into the stadium)

“Finally when he came up, the proconsul asked if he were Polycarp. And when he confessed that he was, he endeavored to persuade him to deny, saying, ‘Have regard for your age,’ and other like things, which it is their custom to say: ‘Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, Away with the Atheists.’ (They called Christians “atheists” because they would not worship the rulers, i.e. Caesar, as their gods)  But Polycarp, looking with dignified countenance upon the whole crowd that was gathered in the stadium, waved his hand to them, and groaned, and raising his eyes toward heaven, said, ‘Away with the Atheists.’ But when the magistrate pressed him, and said, ‘Swear, and I will release thee; revile Christ,'”

“Polycarp said, ‘Fourscore and six years have I been serving him, and he has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?'”

“But when he again persisted, and said, ‘Swear by the genius of Caesar,’ Polycarp replied, ‘If you vainly suppose that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as you say, feigning to be ignorant who I am, hear plainly: I am a Christian…”

“But the proconsul said, ‘I have wild beasts; I will throw you to them unless you repent.’ But he said, ‘Call them; for repentance from better to worse is a change we cannot make. But it is a noble thing to turn from wickedness to righteousness.’ But he again said to him, ‘If you despise the wild beasts, I will cause you to be consumed by fire, unless you repent.’  But Polycarp said, ‘You threaten a fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is quenched; for you know not the fire of the future judgment and of the eternal punishment which is reserved for the impious. But why do you delay? Do what you will.’

“[The crowd] cried out and asked the [president of the games] Philip to let a lion loose upon Polycarp. But he said that it was not lawful for him, since he had closed the games. Then they thought fit to cry out with one accord that Polycarp should be burned alive. For it was necessary that the vision should be fulfilled which had been shown him concerning his pillow, when he saw it burning while he was praying, and turned and said prophetically to the faithful that were with him, ‘I must needs be burned alive.'”

“…then the materials prepared for the pile were placed about him; and as they were also about to nail him to the stake, he said, ‘Leave me thus; for he who has given me strength to endure the fire, will also grant me strength to remain in the fire unmoved without being secured by you with nails.’ So they did not nail him, but bound him. And he, with his hands behind him, and bound like a noble ram taken from a great flock, an acceptable burnt offering unto God omnipitent, said, ‘Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of you, the God of angels and of powers and of the whole creation and of the entire race of the righteous who live in your presence, I bless you that you have deemed me worthy of this day and hour, that I might receive a portion in the number of the martyrs, in the cup of Christ, unto resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the immortality of the Holy Spirit.  Among these may I be received before you this day, in a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as you, the faithful and true God, have beforehand prepared and revealed, and have fulfilled. Wherefore I praise you also for everything; I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal high priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom, with him, in the Holy Spirit, be glory unto you, both now and for the ages to come, Amen.’

“When he had offered up his Amen and had finished his prayer, the firemen lighted the fire; and as a great flame blazed out, we, to whom it was given to see, saw a wonder, and we were preserved that we might relate what happened to the others. For the fire presented the appearance of a vault, like the sail of a vessel filled by the wind, and made a wall about the body of the martyr, and it was in the midst not like flesh burning, but like gold and silver refined in a furnace. For we perceived such a fragrant odor, as of the fumes of frankincense or of some other precious spices. So at length the lawless men, when they saw that the body could not be consumed by the fire, commanded an executioner to approach and pierce him with the sword. And when he had done this there came forth a quantity of blood so that it extinguished the fire…”


September 12, 2007 Posted by | Christian, Church History, Eusebius, Faith, Life, Martyr, Polycarp, Religion | 2 Comments