Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Palm Sunday Parallel

It is a snowy Palm Sunday, and I just finished re-reading the Martyrdom of Polycarp (written c.155 A.D.).  After the Acts of the Apostles' recounting of the martyrdom of Stephen, MoP is the earliest Christian writing focused on the martyrdom of an individual.  Polycarp was an amazing figure by all accounts - instructed and ordained bishop of Smyrna by the Apostle John, he spent over half his life in ordained service to the Church; and he finished strong.  

When told that his life would be spared if he but swear by Caesar and curse Christ, he responded, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?  ... You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why do you hesitate? Bring forth what you will."

Polycarp's courage at that moment was a participation in Jesus' own when facing the Cross - and God did not want the Church or the world to miss that truth:  the magistrate who had Polycarp hunted and taken into custody bore the name Herod, and he had Polycarp led into the city on a donkey - like Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

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