Oops, not supposed to say the “H” word in Lent 😉 But I really am excited to report that Anglican Mainstream has created a Lent category. So now it will be easy to find each day’s Lenten Daily Devotional.
Thanks so much for your help Lisa!
A friend and former contributor here at L&B, Rick H., this morning sent me the following reflection he wrote about Polycarp, whose martyrdom we commemorate today:
Along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp is one of the three persons known as the chief apostolic fathers. These were early church leaders from approximately AD 90 to AD 160 who are credited with keeping the Christian faith alive in a time of persecution. They were each personally acquainted with one or more of the apostles. Polycarp was at least for a time a disciple of the apostle John. Polycarp’s pupil, Irenaeus, was an early proponent of the tradition holding that the apostle John was in fact the author of the fourth Gospel that today carries his name. Irenaeus wrote that Polycarp had been personally converted to Christianity by some of the apostles.
Polycarp became bishop of Smyrna, an important congregation in an area where the apostles had labored. As they matured, and with the apostles no longer alive to personally keep Christian teaching on an orthodox path, Polycarp and other church leaders were inevitably confronted with various novel and heretical teachings. Polycarp is particularly credited as an important voice against the ideas of Valentinus, an early Gnostic, and those of Marcion, who taught that Jesus was not the son of the “bad” God of the Jews, but rather the son of another, “good” God.
A contemporaneous description of Polycarp’s martyrdom was written by the church of Smyrna in a letter to the church of Philomelium. It is historically an important account because its authenticity is unquestioned and it paints a vivid picture of the persecution of early Christians in Rome.
Because Christians refused to worship the emperor, they were considered criminals. The practice when a Christian was captured was to demand his public apostasy, to release him if he did, and to punish him with death if he refused. Polycarp had been in Rome converting heretics when a particularly fervent wave of persecution arose. He was urged by his friends to leave the city and go into hiding. He went to a farmhouse where he spent three days in prayer and fell into a trance in which he saw his pillow burning. He told his companions that it was necessary for him to die by fire. A body of men came to arrest him, and though escape was possible, he refused. He came down to meet his pursuers, talked with them affably, and even served them dinner. While they ate he prayed for them and for the church. After dinner, he was led away.
The captain of those who captured Polycarp attempted to persuade him to save his life, but he refused. He was led into a stadium in Rome, where a great crowd had assembled. As he entered, a voice from heaven said, “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.” Other Christians present in the crowd attested to hearing the voice but not seeing the speaker. The proconsul was present in the stadium, and urged Polycarp to curse Christ. His famous reply was: “Fourscore and six years have I served Him, and he has done me no harm. How then can I curse my King that saved me?”
It was decided that Polycarp should be burned alive. The fire was said to have made a wall around his body, but Polycarp was unscathed. The executioner was then ordered to stab him to death, and the Smyrnian account is that this resulted in so much blood that the fire was extinguished. His body was then burned. The likely date of his death was February 23, 155.
Spend time today giving thanks to God for the witness of Polycarp. We could not be Christians today if it were not for these early church fathers who so willingly gave up their lives to Christ.
Some of the other entries we’ve posted about Polycarp over the years include:
I especially appreciate this prayer attributed to Polycarp:
O sweet Saviour Christ, in your undeserved love for us you were prepared to suffer the painful death of the cross: let me not be cold or even lukewarm in my love for you.
Lord help me to face the truth about myself. Help me to hear my words as others hear them, To see my face as others see me; Let me be honest enough to recognise my impatience and conceit;
Let me recognise my anger and selfishness; Give me sufficient humility to accept my own weakness for what they are. Give me the grace – at least in your presence – to say. ‘I was wrong – forgive me.’
God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, increase in us faith and truth and gentleness and grant us part and lot among the saints.
— St. Polycarp 69-115
Amen and amen. As I wrote in my tenth-ever blog entry way back in 2004 on the original Lent & Beyond site:
May there be many Polycarps among our leaders (and among us!): those who fear God rather than men, those who are ready to give a reason for their hope in Jesus Christ, those who are willing to suffer persecutions great and small rather than deny their Lord.
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, (Mark 1:14)
Lord, preach the gospel throughout this diocese. Give each of us a passion to share the good news with others.
and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Holy Spirit, bring us to repentance.
Holy Father, let your kingdom come into our hearts and minds. Thank you.
A word received: Thank me for my faithfulness.
Tuesday: 47, 48; Genesis 37:12-24; 1 Corinthians 1:20-31; Mark 1:14-28
Wednesday: 49, ; Genesis 37:25-36; 1 Corinthians 2:1-13; Mark 1:29-45
Notes from the Front Line
***** Please pray for Fr. Nigel Mumford:
That the calcium mass will dissolve away.
That strength will be restored to his legs.
Words received for a Sunday School lesson in March
“And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.'” (Acts 9:5a) A word received: I want my people to ask that question: “Who are you?” When they ask who I am I always find a way to answer them.
“Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon him, went forward and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?'” (John 18:4) A word received: “Whom are you seeking?” Are you seeking me, or are you seeking something less which cannot satisfy? Seek me and you will find me.
“They answered him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am he.’ And Judas, who betrayed him, also stood with them.” (John 18:5) A word received: They sought me to take me into their power. I tell you: seek me to come under and into my power.
“Now when he said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:6) A word received: I AM. I AM the one you are seeking. Learn to know me as “I AM“.
“Then he asked them again, ‘Whom are you seeking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.'” (John 18:7) A word received: I ask you once again, “Who or what are you seeking?” Look to me; I will satisfy you with fresh bread — my living word.
“Jesus answered, ‘I have told you that I am he. Therefore, if you seek me, let these go their way,'” (John 18:8 ) A word received: I laid down my life for you. Look to me and receive what I have for you.
Check out what the Lord has said to us in the Sunday School Lessons which have been posted on http://christchurchsundayschool.blogspot.com/.
When mind and heart are united in prayer and the soul is wholly concentrated in a single desire for God, then the heart grows warm and the light of Christ begins to shine and fills the inward man with peace and joy. We should thank the Lord for everything and give ourselves up to His will; we should also offer Him all our thoughts and words, and strive to make everything serve only His good pleasure.
St. Seraphim of Sarov
Hat tip to Fr. Stephen at Glory to God for All Things (read the full post for Fr. Stephen’s commentary)
While not specifically a Lenten prayer, I find it helpful in this season to remember that Christ’s light can overcome and transform ANY darkness in our hearts if we invite Him in!
Christ our God, you were transfigured on the mountain and manifested your glory to your disciples as they were able to bear it. Shed your everlasting light upon our darkness, that we may behold your glory and enter into your sufferings, and proclaim you to the world, for you give light in the darkness and are yourself the light, now and forever. Amen.”
— (Eastern Orthodox, in Fredercik B. Macnutt, The Prayer Manual,London: Mowbray, 1951, pp.121-22)
Sorry I’m so late with the follow-up. I simply missed the story.
On January 25 we had prayed, and on January 28, Rt Rev Peter Imasuen was released by his kidnappers. God is good! God is good! God is good!
Sudan’s 20-year civil war, which claimed more than 2 million lives and displaced about 7 million people, came to an end in January 2005 when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed by the two warring parties — the Government of Sudan in the north and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in the south.
Despite initial hopes for the success of the peace agreement, southern Sudanese leaders have been frustrated by the northern government’s refusal to live into its major terms, including sharing oil revenues, drawing fair borders and the building of infrastructure.
Presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in Sudan from 11 April to 13 April 2010.
Lord God Almighty,
You are bigger than two millenia of violence. You are bigger than international oil companies. You are bigger than Chinese arms manufacturers and dealers. You are bigger than the United Nations. You are bigger than the government in Khartoum. You are bigger than the Janjawid. You are bigger than the Lord’s Resistance Army.
We bind unto this land the strong name of the Trinity, and we proclaim Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in Sudan as it is in heaven. Amen.
Folks, I feel called to pray for this election, one week after Easter. Do you prefer regular prayers posted online or assembled resources to be used in worship services? Leave comments as to what would be useful. Thanks. JW