Thursday, February 23, 2012

St. Polycarp of Smyrna

Today’s saint was a disciple of the Apostle John and the spiritual father of St. Irenaeus, one of the great theologians in the early Church. When Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna, in what is now Turkey, St. Ignatius of Antioch passed through his city, a prisoner on his way to martyrdom in Rome. Polycarp went to meet him and kissed his chains. At the age of eighty-six Bishop Polycarp was himself martyred. As he was being led away to be burned at the stake, some of his non-Christian friends begged him to make a sacrificial offering to the idols, save himself from a violent death, and so die some day in peace. His response was: “For eighty-six years I have served Jesus Christ and he has never abandoned me. How could I curse my blessed King and Savior?” The account of his martyrdom has the following prayer of St. Polycarp, his last words. As we pray with St. Polycarp, let us renew our own daily offering to God.

Lord, almighty God, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to the knowledge of yourself, God of angels, of powers, of all creation, of all the race of saints who live in your sight, I bless you for judging me worthy of this day, this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ, your anointed one, and so rise again to eternal life in soul and body, immortal through the power of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among the martyrs in your presence today as a rich and pleasing sacrifice. God of truth, stranger to falsehood, you have prepared this and revealed it to me and now you have fulfilled your promise. I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal priest of heaven, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him be glory to you, together with him and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

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