The Holy Hieromartyr [Priestly-Martyr] Polycarp, Bishop Of Smyrna Polycarp, this great apostolic man, was born a pagan. St. John the Theologian converted him to the Christian Faith and baptized him. In his childhood Polycarp was orphaned. Callista, a noble widow, after a vision in a dream, adopted, raised and educated him. From his childhood Polycarp was devout and compassionate. He strove to emulate the life of St. Bucolus, then the Bishop of Smyrna, as well as of the Holy Apostles John and Paul, whom he knew and had heard. St. Bucolus ordained him a presbyter and before his death designated him as his successor in Smyrna. The apostolic bishops, who gathered at the funeral of Bucolus, consecrated Polycarp as bishop. From the very beginning Polycarp was endowed with the power of working miracles. He expelled an evil spirit from the servant of a prince and through prayer stopped a terrible fire in Smyrna. Upon seeing this, many pagans regarded Polycarp as one of the gods. He brought down rain in times of drought, healed illnesses, had the gifts of discernment and prophecy, and so forth. He suffered during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Three days before his death, St. Polycarp prophesied: “In three days I will be burnt in the flames for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ!” And on the third day, when the soldiers arrested him and brought him to trial, he cried out: “Let this be the will of the Lord my God.” When the judge counseled him to deny Christ and to acknowledge the Roman gods, Polycarp said: “I cannot exchange the better for the worse!” The Jews especially hated Polycarp and endeavored to have him burned alive. When they bound him at the stake, he prayed to God for a long time. He was very old and gray, and radiant like an angel of God. The people witnessed how the flame encircled him but did not touch him. Frightened by such a phenomenon, the pagan judges ordered the executioner to pierce him with a lance through the fire. When he was pierced, so much blood flowed from him that the fire was completely extinguished, and his body remained whole and unburnt. At the persuasion of the Jews, the judge ordered that Polycarp’s lifeless body be incinerated according to the custom of the Hellenes. So the evil ones burned the dead body of the one whom they could not burn while alive. St. Polycarp suffered on Great and Holy Saturday in the year 167 A.D.
The Venerable Damian Damian, a monk of the Monastery of Esphigmenou on Mount Athos, was a contemporary and companion of the great Cosmos of Zographou. He lived a life of asceticism on Mount Samareia between Esphigmenou and Hilandar. He died peacefully in the year 1280 A.D. When he reposed, a pleasant and sweet-smelling aroma was emitted from his grave for forty days.
Hymn Of Praise Saint Polycarp God preserves His holy ones So that they do not perish until their appointed time, Until they complete their task. The elder and saint of God Polycarp Journeyed with his deacon. At an inn by the road he spent the night. The elder prayed while the deacon slept, Until an angel of God appeared to the elder And commanded that they immediately arise, And depart from the inn, For the inn was soon to be destroyed. The elder roused the young deacon, But the deacon, fatigued, slept on. Thus, the angel appeared again, And again gave the same warning. Again, the elder woke his deacon, But a heavy sleep overpowered the deacon. One moment he would awake, The next moment he would be drowned in sleep. A third time the angel appeared, And issued a warning for the third time. The elder perceived that this was not a deceit, But verily a warning from God. The saint leaped up and lifted the deacon, And out of the inn they walked. As soon as they walked out of the inn, The entire house was destroyed down to its very foundation. All who were in it perished Because of their secret transgressions. The young deacon was filled with fright, But the saint was silent in prayer. To the Most-high God they offered thanks, And continued on their way under the stars.
Reflection St. Polycarp writes the following to the Philippians about a priest Valentine who fell into the sin of avarice and secretly hid money belonging to the Church: “I am deeply saddened because of Valentine, who at one time was a presbyter among us, because he has forgotten the rank bestowed upon him. That is why I beg you, beware of greed and remain pure and just. Restrain yourself from every vice. He who cannot restrain himself, how will he be able to teach others restraint? He who submits to avarice pollutes himself with idolatry and numbers himself among the ranks of pagans. Who is not aware of God’s judgement? As Paul teaches: Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? (1 Corinthians 6:2). I have not noticed anything similar among you, neither have I heard anything among you, with whom the Blessed Paul lived a life of asceticism and whom he praises at the beginning of his Epistle to the Philippians. He boasts of you throughout the churches, which knew God when we did not yet know him (i.e., Polycarp and the inhabitants of Smyrna.) Brethren, that is why I am very saddened because of Valentine and his wife. May God grant them true repentance. And you, be prudent in this and count not him as an enemy (2 Thessalonians 3:15), but endeavor to correct them as suffering and prodigal members, that your entire body may be sound. Acting thus, you build yourselves up.” Thus the saints dealt with sinners: cautiously and compassionately– cautiously to prevent others from a similar sin, and compassionately in order to correct and save sinners.
Contemplation Contemplate the Lord Jesus in conversation with the woman of Samaria (John, Chapter 4):
- How the woman’s mind was at first smothered completely by carnal sophistry;
- How the meek Lord gradually led her mind toward a loftier and more spiritual reasoning;
- How this encounter culminated in the conversion of many to Christ;
- How the seeds scattered by the Lord at first seem to decay in the physical mind, and how later they resurrect, grow, ripen and bring forth much spiritual fruit.
Homily on the works of Christ “For the works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father hath sent Me” (John 5:36). Brethren, what are these works of Christ? These are the works of the Householder Who returned from a journey and found the home robbed and desolate. These are the works of the Physician Who entered into the most contaminated hospital, brought medicines and began to heal. Furthermore, these are the works of the King Who returned to his country and found it divided and ruined, and His subjects as slaves in a strange land. These are the works of the Elder Brother Who journeyed to a distant land to seek His younger brother who, wandering and prodigal, had become impoverished and wild. These are also the works of the Healer, Shepherd, Hero and Provider. Truly, these are not minor works! An ordinary man with the greatest worldly knowledge, skill and courage would not be able to accomplish even in three thousand years those works which Christ completed in three years. Not only one man, but all men of all times together, would not be able to complete the works of Christ in all eternity. How did the Lord accomplish so many works? He accomplished them with the aid of five main miracles: His humility, His words, His deeds, His blood, and His resurrection. What do the works of Christ witness? The works witness first of all that the earth did not send Him, but heaven; second, that an angel did not send Him, but the Heavenly Father Himself; third, that for such works no one is sufficient except Him Who is as great as God, as wise as God, as almighty as God, as merciful as God–yes, Who is Himself equal to God. Oh, how insignificant are all of our works compared to the works of Christ! With only one grain of Christ’s goodness and zeal, diligence and truthfulness, we can complete our work perfectly. Grant us that grain, O Lord Jesus, for we on earth can neither find this grain nor merit it. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.