On this day of the year 167 A.D., St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna(1), was martyred. His life began at the end of the first Christian century, and he became the disciple of St. John the Evangelist. He was the one about whom the Lord said, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, Who was dead, and came to life: I know your works, tribulations and poverty, but you are rich; and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.‘” (Revelation 2:8-10)
St. Polycarp went to Rome in the year 157 A.D. to settle a dispute with Arikestus, Bishop of Rome, in regard to the Easter feast. He shepherded his flock well and remained on his chair for a long time until a good old age. He wrote many articles and discourses about the Holy Advent, death, hell, torments of hell, the Virgin St. Mary and many others. He attracted many souls to the Lord with his life-giving teaching.
When Emperor Marcus Aurelius incited persecutions against Christians, they strongly pressured him saying, “Swear and we will set you free; curse Christ and we will spare your life.” Polycarp replied, “I have served my Lord Christ for 86 years and He never harmed me so how can I blaspheme against my King Who saved me?”
The Governor said, “If you do not fear the wild beasts, I will make the fire consume you if you do not repent.” St. Polycarp said, “You threatened me with fire that burns for a while, then burns out, for you do not know the everlasting fire of judgement and the eternal punishment that are awaiting the evil ones. Now why are you lingering? Do whatever you want.”
After severe tortures and many threats, the saint wished to shed his blood for Christ’s name. He commanded and taught his people to be steadfast in faith and told them that they would not see his face after that day. They wept and tried to hold him down to prevent him from leaving but they failed to stop him.
He went and confessed the Lord Christ before the Governor who ordered to cut off his head after much torture; thus he received the crown of life. Some of the believers took his body, shrouded and buried it with great honor.
His prayers be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.
(1) Known as Izmir, in Turky.