Friday, August 7, 2015

Embracing Martyrdom

I attempted to open and read an article entitled "The Coming Persecutions", written by Patrick Archbold of Creative Minority Report. My guess is that the persecutions have already begun or that the Remnant Newspaper website is down; try as I might, with none of my browser options could I open the thing. Anyway, we won't get paranoid. The thought about persecution had already come to me earlier this morning on the memorial of Pope St. Sixtus and his four deacon companions, martyrs. For some odd reason Valerian's persecution seemed familiar and possible in our day and time, and not just at the hands of the crazed fanatics of ISIS. Blame if you will the Second Reading from the Office of St. Sixtus and Companions, martyrs, from St Cyprian's letter to Successus:

"Dear brother, the reason why I could not write to you immediately was that all the clergy were embroiled in the heat of the conflict. They could not possibly leave, all of them having prepared themselves for divine and heavenly glory.
  But now the messengers have come back, those whom I sent to the City to find out and report the truth of whatever decrees had been made about us – for people have been imagining all sorts of different possibilities. Here, then, is the truth:
  Valerian sent a rescript to the Senate, saying that bishops, presbyters, and deacons should all receive immediate punishment; that senators, knights, and other men of importance should lose their rank and their property, and if they still persisted in being Christians, they should lose their heads; and that matrons should be deprived of their property and be sent into exile. Members of Caesar’s own household, whether they had confessed their faith before or were only confessing it now, should be deprived of their property, bound in chains, and sent as slaves to his estates.
  To this command, Valerian attached a copy of the letters which he had sent to the governors of the various provinces about us; and we daily await the arrival of these letters, bracing ourselves, each according to the strength of his faith, for the suffering that is to be endured, and looking forward to the help and mercy of the Lord and the crown of eternal life.
  You should know, however, that Sixtus was martyred in the cemetery on the sixth of August, and four deacons with him. Moreover, the prefects in the City are daily pushing forward this persecution, and anyone who is presented to them is martyred and all his property confiscated by the state.
  I beg you to make these things known to the rest of our colleagues, so that through their encouragement the whole brotherhood may be strengthened and made ready for the spiritual conflict – so that each one of us may think less of death and more of immortality – so that everyone, dedicated to the Lord with full faith and total courage, may rejoice in this confession and not fear it, for they know that the soldiers of God and Christ are not destroyed, but crowned.
  Dearest brother, always fare well in the Lord."

The thought came to me this morning that, contrary to all the evidence, we tend to attribute civility to those who govern now in the place of Emperor Valerian and his magistrates, excluding the possibility that they are indeed just as likely to turn on us as the emperor did on the members of his own extended family, slapping them in chains and sending them off to his estates when some odd scruple kept him from beheading them and ridding himself of them immediately and entirely. I think it had something to do with the way St. Cyprian wrote up his report. Cyprian, if you will, understood and got himself and his Church busy preparing for something quite real and not all to be excluded just because we want so desperately to cling to this existence: "the grass withers and the flower fades".

More important for me than drawing parallels between "the prefects in the City" and whomever might be somebody's useful idiot today was the counsel given to the saints and not to pretend the civility of the other or to stand on our own rights and prerogatives, but rather we too in our day "... dedicated to the Lord with full faith and total courage, may rejoice in this confession and not fear it, for they know that the soldiers of God and Christ are not destroyed, but crowned."

We're approaching the feast days of not only the witness of St. Lawrence but also of that of St. Maximilian Kolbe, neither man destroyed by his torturers and murderers, but both indeed crowned and filling our world with hope for all their courage and light. To think of these crowned champions and wish/pray ourselves into their company is to set our souls aright and abandon certain delusions and much folly about what ought to be in this world.

It is quite hot these days in Kyiv (dog days of summer). Windows open at night remind me of my own younger days at home before AC, when folks sat outdoors visiting until it got cooler and sleep came per force to overwhelm the restless soul. While there is no particular virtue in that sort of living (before AC), there is certainly realism displayed. Would that with realism we could face those who seek to harm us (spawn of Satan as they are) and we could set our hearts and our sights more perfectly on the Dawn from on High Who comes to visit us and will take us to Himself in Glory.


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