Saturday, February 23, 2013

St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

Today is the Feast of St. Polycarp. A friend's grandmother used to tell him, "Always pray to St. Polycarp--not many people know about him, so he's not busy." I've had a something of a devotion to St. Polycarp, the 2nd Century Bishop of Smyrna, since reading his life as a teenager.

Polycarp was a disciple of St. John and was martyred in 155 at the age of 86. The account of his martyrdom is one of the earliest extant lives of the saints. When, on account of his age he was encouraged to deny Christ and live, he said, "I have served my Lord for 86 years and He has done me no harm. How can I deny my King who saved me?"

This was his prayer at the stake as recorded in the Lightfoot translation of The Martyrdom of Polycarp:

O Lord God Almighty, the Father of Thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers and of all creation and of the whole race of the righteous, who live in Thy presence; I bless Thee for that Thou hast granted me this day and hour, that I might receive a portion amongst the number of martyrs in the cup of [Thy] Christ unto resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among these in Thy presence this day, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as Thou didst prepare and reveal it beforehand, and hast accomplished it, Thou that art the faithful and true God. For this cause, yea and for all things, I praise Thee, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, through the eternal and heavenly High-priest, Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, through whom with Him and the Holy Spirit be glory both now [and ever] and for the ages to come. Amen.