Difference between revisions of "Famous Persons in the Apostolic Age"
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# [[St. Judas the Apostle]]
# [[St. Judas the Apostle]]
# [[St. Simon the Canaanite]]
# [[St. Simon the Canaanite]]
=== St. Mark the Evangelist and Beholder of God ===
=== St. Mark the Evangelist and Beholder of God ===
Revision as of 18:55, 12 October 2012
- 1 The Twelve Disciples & Apostles
- 2 The Apostles’ Assistants
- 3 The Apostolic Fathers
- 4 Servant Women
The Twelve Disciples & Apostles
- St. Peter the Apostle
- St. Andrew the Apostle
- St. James the Elder
- St. James the Beloved
- St. James the Just
- St. Philip the Apostle
- St. Bartholomew the Apostle
- St. Thomas the Apostle
- St. Matthew the Apostle
- St. Judas the Apostle
- St. Simon the Canaanite
- St. Barnabas the Apostle
St. Mark the Evangelist and Beholder of God
St Mark authored the Gospel of St Mark and founded the Church of Alexandria and is considered the Church’s first pope. St Mark was born in Adenapolis one of the five western cities in northern Africa (Adenapolis, Apollonia, Bitolmais, Toshira, and Birnis). St Mark’s parents were wealthy but as a result of barbarian tribes lost most of their wealth having to depart for the safety of Jerusalem. At that time this family was not aware of the plan of God waiting upon St Mark in Jerusalem. According to the book, “Lamp of Darkness” St Mark lived about 89 years and 5 months. St Mark was martyred on April 26, 68 AD. With this in perspective, it can be calculated that St Mark was approximately 21 years of age at the time of the Lord Jesus Christ’s birth. The length of time in which St Mark spent upon the Alexandrian See was 7 years, 8 months, and 1 day. St Mark was one of the seventy apostles and was the apostle whom was appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ to eat the Passover meal at his home. His home which was known as Zion’s room was also the place where the apostles gathered together following the Crucifixion, the place where the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles as tongues of fire on the Pentecost, and also it is also considered the first church in the entire world.
The Holy Gospel recorded the following about our first pope, the apostle, St Mark: (1) The Lord Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover with His holy disciples in St Mark’s home (Matthew 26:18, Mark 14:13, and Luke 12:10-12). (2) Appearance of the Lord after His Glorious Resurrection to the apostles happened in St Mark’s home (John 20:19, Luke 24:33). (3) The coming upon the disciples of the Holy Spirit happened in St Mark’s home (Acts 1:13 and 2:1). (4) St Mark was with St Barnabas and St Paul 47 AD (Acts 11:27-30). (5) From 47 AD to 49 AD, the first preaching trip involving the apostles Paul, Barnabas, Mark, Seleucia, Salamis, Paphos and Perga in Pamphyli (Acts 13:1-13). (6) 50-52 AD St Mark departed with St Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts 15:39). (7) St Mark was with St Paul in Colossi (Colossians 4:10) in 61 AD. (8) 64 AD-66 AD St Mark departed to Rome for St Paul (2 Timothy 4:11). (9) When the first Council was held in Jerusalem under the leadership of St James the Bishop of Jerusalem, to discuss the acceptance of the Gentiles without circumcision, St Mark attended. (10) After St Mark’s preaching with St Barnabas and St Paul, the Holy Spirit led him to preach on his own which brought the saint to Egypt. St Mark is recognized by all Christians world-wide as one of the four Evangelists who wrote a Holy Gospel. In addition, for our beloved Coptic Church, St Mark is also our preacher, our founder of the Coptic Church, and our first Pope of the See of St Mark. Through St Mark, the prophecy spoken of in the Holy Book of Isaiah the Prophet has been fulfilled, “…there will be an altar for the Lord in Egypt and a pillar at its boundaries…”
St Mark was also one of the seventy apostles; therefore our Coptic Church can be rightly termed “apostolic” as it was indisputably founded by one of the original apostles. Although the disciples and the apostles are considered ecumenical or universal bishops for the Church in general, every church refers to her initial preacher as her first bishop and as such, St Mark is the Coptic Church’s first bishop of the See of Alexandria.
St Mark attended the first ecumenical council held in Jerusalem in 51 AD to discuss the topic of the relevance of circumcision prior to baptism. The holy apostles agreed at this ecumenical council to accept the Gentiles into the Church without circumcision before baptism (Acts 15:23-30).
Following the council held in Jerusalem, St Mark and St Barnabas journeyed to Cyprus (Acts 15:36-40) and there the Holy Spirit led St Mark to preach in the Five Western Cities in North Africa. Following St Mark’s ministry in North Africa he then journeyed to Egypt. The date of this founding saints’ arrival into Egypt was 55 AD.
When St Mark came to Egypt, many pagan gods were being worshipped by the Egyptians. Some of the gods were considered to be national gods and other idols originated from Greece, Rome, Persia, Syria, and Babylonia. These gods included: (1) Rue: The god of the sun. Rue was considered by the pagans to be the source of light and warmth. Heliopolis “Ainshams” was the center of its worship and from this center gradually its false teachings were spread throughout all of Egypt. (2) Amon: The invisible god. Tibha was the center of worship for this particular god. Later during the Egyptian state, Amon was combined with Rue and the combined worship came to be termed Amon Rua. (3) Osiris: The messenger god of love and peace among the people. This god of peace and love originated from Syria. (4) Diana or Artamis: The god of hunting. (5) Khnoum: The creator god. Tibha was also the center of worship for Khnoum. (6) Anhita: A popular god which came from Persia.
Also when St Mark journeyed to Egypt, Egypt was considered the second greatest city in the world. Second only to Rome, was Egypt. Egypt was widely accepted though as first in the world for science, art, philosophy, and architecture. Its school was recognized world-wide as well as the professors who taught within it. For all those seeking knowledge and philosophy Egypt was the place to come.
In Alexandria there were Greek philosophers and scholars, Jewish scholars and teachers of Scriptures, and Persian wise men. In addition to all this were the priests. In Alexandria, there was the famous Alexandrian Library considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This famed library contained millions of volumes of books of the greatest philosophers and scholars in the world for that time frame.
The Alexandrian population was approximately 600,000.The most famous temple in Alexandria among the School and Library was Serabium. In this temple the idol Serabis was worshipped by most of the population. The Holy Book of Acts 6:9 tells that St Stephen went in dialogue with a Jerusalem Council and that some of the council members were from the City of Alexandria. Also, Apollo, one of the greatest preachers in the early Church was from the City of Alexandria as denoted by the Holy Book of Acts 18:24. Not only was Alexandria the center of civilization for the world, it was also the center for moral corruption.
Politically, Egypt was a Roman state under the direct control of the Roman emperor. Alexandrians revolted against the Roman authority of Augustus Caesar. Caesar sent a Roman military army of 20,000 to Alexandria to put a halt to the revolution. The emperor was in dire need of Egypt’s wheat. Putting an end to the revolution would not be the only act of Augustus Caesar. He also gave social and religious freedom to the Jews residing in Alexandria. This inequality gave rise to many disputes and fights among the Jews and Alexandrians.
This is the state of the wonderful City of Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, when St Mark arrived to preach and teach the message of salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Upon the first day of his arrival, St Mark wandered about the streets of Alexandria until his worn shoes fell apart. St Mark stopped at the first shoemaker shop he approached to have his shoes repaired. The shoemaker’s name was “Anianos” and this shoemaker would later become the second pope of Alexandria.
While Anianos was working to repair St Marks’ worn shoes, the needle in which he was using to repair the soles of St Mark’s shoes injured his hand and Anianos cried out, “Oh God, the only One!” At this exclamation, St Mark spit upon the ground, made mud, and placed the mixture upon Anianos finger and healed it immediately. Discussion ensued between St Mark and Anianos related to his One God. Anianos confessed to St Mark that he had only heard of such God but did not actually know of this One God.
St Mark begins to preach to Anianos about the One God, the Lord Jesus Christ. The message of salvation through the Holy Cross was taught and welcomed by Anianos and his family. Anianos home is considered the first Church in the land of Egypt.
Within a few short years Christianity had spread throughout the land of Egypt. Christianity not only spread and was accepted, through its teachings the behavior and morals of the Egyptian people would also change for the better.
Philon, the Jewish scholar, stated, “St Mark and his disciples did not care about worldly matters, but cared about God’s Glory and His salvation to all people.” The Egyptians became united in true “Agape” love and a heavenly peace. There was no rich or poor classification among the people. Everyone lived an economical life; the rich gave unto the poor so everyone could be considered rich with God. The people ate only one time per day after sunset. Some would fast for three to five days without food.
There is disagreement among scholars about the possible visit of St Peter the apostle to St Mark in Babylon’s fort where there was a great Jewish colony and from which St Peter wrote his first Holy Epistle which concludes with this verse, “…she was in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you and so does Mark my son.” (I Peter 5:13) Some scholars believe this means Rome. Regardless, there is nothing to contraindicate the possibility of St Peter’s visit to Babylon. Further, some scholars suggest St Simeon the Cannite visited Egypt as well. To establish the newly growing Church, St Mark, ordained Anianos as a bishop and along with this ordained twelve priests and seven deacons. St Mark at this particular time also wrote his Divine Liturgy, now referred to as the “Divine Liturgy of St Cyril.” St Mark first wrote the Divine Liturgy in Greek then it was translated to the language of Behari Coptic. Three of Anianos assistants were Mlios, Kardanos, and Primos.
St Mark founded the School of Alexandria to counteract the idolatrous school in Alexandria which had become world famous for its philosophy, science, medicine, mathematics, and astronomy. St Mark wrote the Apostles Teachings, Rituals, and Traditions that were specific for the See of Alexandria. Following all of this, St Mark departed Alexandria in 65 AD to further his ministry in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Five Western Cities in Northern Africa.
After continuing to strengthen the churches in North Africa, St Mark at St Paul’s request joined the apostle in Rome to help in preaching and teaching those there. St Paul stated in the two Holy Books, II Timothy 4:11 and Philemon 1:24 that St Mark was indeed useful for the ministry.
Bishop Anianos, his priests and deacons were known for their honesty, for their ministry, and taught through Egypt. They established the first church in Bokalia now known as “St Mark Church in Alexandria.” St Mark returned to Alexandria around 67 AD, where he wrote his Holy Gospel in Greek for the believers in Alexandria.
The great success of St Mark’s evangelism led to persecution and torture of Christians in Alexandria by the idolatrous governors and people of the city. St Mark was one of the ones who would ultimately be put to death because of his ardent belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
On 29 Baramoudah (April 16) 68 AD, St Mark celebrated the Glorious Resurrection Feast with the believers which coincided with the Feast of Serabis, as previously mentioned, the most famous of idols worshipped in the City of Alexandria. The idolaters angrily broke into the church and attacked St Mark while the saint was praying the Divine Liturgy of the Glorious Feast of the Resurrection at the altar. The crowds of idolaters tied up St Mark with a band around his neck and dragged him into the streets of Alexandria. From one street to another they inhumanely dragged the saint crying and screaming “Drag him to the bulls’ house.”
The “bulls’ house” refers to the Bokalia area where the Coptic Church was later built in his honor, known as “St Marks’ Church in Alexandria.” They continued to torture the bleeding St Mark until finally he was thrown into prison. The Lord Jesus Christ through a great Heavenly light appeared to St Mark and healed him saying, “Be strong My beloved apostle, your heart will be filled with joy. Be in peace as tomorrow you will have the crown of martyrdom and be with Me in the Heavenly Jerusalem.”
The following day, the idolaters tied up the apostle once again with a neck bond and dragged his body through the streets as they had done before. This time they drug his body until his head separated from his body. Upon this day, St Mark received three crowns, the crown of apostolicity, the crown of evangelism, and the crown of martyrdom. All the while during his torture, St Mark prayed, “Thank you Lord because you have allowed me to suffer persecution and torture for Your Holy Name.” St Mark near his death requested that the Lord forgive those who brought about his death and then departed from his earthly existence. After St Mark’s martyrdom, the idolaters hurriedly brought firewood to burn his body. A great wind suddenly blew, a great rain suddenly fell and the idolaters in fear scattered. St Mark’s disciples came and affectionately carried his holy body and buried him in the Church which carries his name in Bokalia. St Mark’s blood became the first shed in Egypt and millions of martyrs would follow his example and chose earthly death rather than deny their Lord Jesus Christ.
This is written in the History of Patriarchs by Bishop Saouris; St Mark was martyred on the last day of Baramoudah the year 35 following the Lord Jesus Christ’s Glorious Resurrection on 24 of Nissan. The Coptic Church celebrates his martyrdom on Baramoudah.
A few centuries later, St Mark’s body was stolen by Italian traders and taken to Italy where it remained for hundreds of years. His Holiness Pope Cyril the Sixth succeeded in returning St Marks’ holy body to Egypt on 17 Baounah, June 24, l969
St. Luke the Apostle
He is the 3rd Evangelist, the writer of the Holy Book of Acts and the partner of St. Paul in his ministry trips. Ibevanios mentioned that St. Luke was one of the seventy disciples and one of Emmaus’ disciples. Other scholars mentioned that he was a Gentile from Antioch and converted to Christianity very early around 36 AD by one of the disciples. He met St. Paul in his 2nd ministry trip on his way to Macedonia and accompanied St. Paul to Philippi (Acts 16:9, 16:6-8, 16:10). After the founding of the Philippian Church, St. Luke remained there to take care of it until he met again St. Paul on his last trip to Jerusalem. He accompanied St. Paul in his imprisonment in Caesara and Rome till the martyrdom of
In reality, St. Luke was a very humble person, although he wrote his Holy Gospel and the Holy Book of Acts he did not mention much about himself. He remained honest and faithful to St. Paul as he mentioned to St. Timothy “Luke alone is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11). He was martyred in his 84th year in Elaea in Greece and his relics with those of St. Andrew the Apostle were transferred to the Apostles’ Church in Constantinople as mentioned by St. Jerome.
St. Luke wrote his Holy Gospel based on what he heard from witnesses as St. Mary the Virgin to a well-to-do-man from Alexandria, called Theophilus about 70 AD. He wrote the Holy Book of Acts recording the history of the Church beginning from the Ascension of the Lord to the 2nd year of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome and so he is the true father of the history of the Christian Church. He was a physician (Colossians 4:14) and so he presented the Lord Jesus Christ in his Holy Gospel as the true physician for the human race and the true Savior of the world. Also, he was painter and to him it belongs the honor of painting the first portrait of St. Mary the Virgin.
The Apostles’ Assistants
St. Timothy was a disciple to St. Paul and his accompanier in his trips of ministry. The first time to be mentioned was in the Holy Book of Acts at the beginning of the second ministry trip (Acts 16:1). He was from Lystra in Galatia of Asia Minor. His father was Greek and his mother and grandmother were righteous Jews (2 Timothy 1:5). And so since his childhood he grew in the way of righteousness and piety “and that from childhood you have known the holy scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). As he ardently believed in the ministry of St. Paul so St. Paul used to call him his son in the faith (1 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Timothy 1:2, and 2 Timothy 1:2). St. Paul chose him as his fellow in his trips and his helper in the ministry because of his righteousness and gifts. St. Paul circumcised him to prepare him for the ministry among Jews. He went with St. Paul to Phrygia, Galatia, Taroas, Philippi, Ephesus, Macedonia, and Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:1, Romans 16:21, Acts 20:3-4). He followed St. Paul in his last trip to Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:3). He was with St. Paul in his imprisonment in Rome as he was mentioned in the Holy Epistles that St. Paul wrote from jail (Philippians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, and Philemon 1:1).
He was ordained a Bishop for Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:18) and so St. Paul wrote two Holy Epistles to him about the duties of the priests in the ministry. St. Paul praised him for his wisdom and righteousness (2 Timothy 1:4, 1 Timothy 5:23). St. Paul called him “my fellow worker (Romans 16:21)”, “Our brother and minister of God and our fellow laborer in the Gospel of Christ (1 Thessalonians 3:2)”, “A true son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2)”, “the beloved son (2 Timothy 1:2)”, and “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:17)”.
It is mentioned by tradition that St. Timothy lived to a very old age and was martyred in Ephesus 97 AD by pagans.
He was one of St. Paul’s faithful disciples and he was mentioned in the 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, and Titus Epistles. He was a Greek Gentile (Galatians 2: 1& 3) and converted to Christian faith by St. Paul’s ministry and so St. Paul called him his son in the faith (Titus 1:4). He joined the Council of Jerusalem 50 AD (Galatians 2:1). St. Paul sent him two times to Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:13) and (2 Corinthians 8: 16 & 17, 12:18). He joined St. Paul in his 2nd imprisonment in Rome (2 Timothy 4:10). St. Paul ordinated him as a Bishop for Crete and called him fellow and the laborer with him (2 Corinthians 8:23). He lived to a very old age and departed and was buried in Crete and so he is their intercessor.
The Apostles in Jerusalem sent him with Barnabas and Paul to Antioch, Syria and Cilicia to declare the decisions of the Council (Acts 15:22). He was a prophet (Acts 15:22 & 23). He had the Roman citizenship. He was a fellow for St. Paul in his second ministry trip after Barnabas had left him (Acts 15:40, 15:18-22). He followed St Paul in Macedonia and Philippi (Acts 16:12-39) where they suffered persecution and imprisoned there and the Lord freed them and so the Philippian Jailer believed (Acts 16:25-34). He followed St. Paul to Thessalonica then to Athens (Acts 17:13-15), and Corinth (Acts 18:5). He was martyred in Macedonia.
The Apostolic Fathers
St Clement the Roman
St Clement, the Roman, was the third Bishop of Rome as stated by St. Irenaeus. Eusabius the scholar further elaborates that St Clement became a Bishop of Rome in the 12th year of Domitian’s regime. So his bishop years extended from 93AD to 101AD.
Tertullian, the scholar, and Ibevanios Bishop of Cyprus concur that St Peter the Apostle ordained St Clement, the Roman, a Bishop for Rome. In order to keep peace in the Roman Church, St Clement, left the Bishop’s See to Linos, then to Anaklitos, and after Anaklitos he then returned to his See. Scholars agree that St Clement had a direct relationship with St Paul and St Peter the apostles. Origen the scholar and Eusabius from Caesara both concur that St Paul the Apostle eulogized St Clement in his Epistle to the Philippians “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life (Philippians 4:3).” Letter of St Clement, the Roman, to the Corinthian Churches:
The Letter of St Clement, the Roman, to the Corinthian Church was accepted from the beginning as a document directly related to the Post Apostolic Era. Its style is similar to the style of the First Epistle to the Corinthians written by St Paul the Apostle.
Many problems developed in the Corinthian Church during the time of St Paul due to believers not submitting and obeying the ordained legal bishop there having exiled him and some priests. St Clement wrote his letter to this church focusing on the bond of love and Christian agape as mentioned by St Paul in his First Epistle chapter 8.
St Clement began his Epistle exactly as St Paul in his Epistles with this beautiful verse, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Chris be with you (I Corinthians 1:1) “from the Church of God in Rome to the Church of God in Corinth (1:2).”
St Clement wrote, “Who can describe the blessed bond God is love? Who is capable of describing its glory? No one can talk about the glory of Agape. Agape unites us with God. Love sustains everything. Love suffers long and is kind. No bride is in love. Love doesn’t allow envy. Love makes everything harmonious.”
“When love rules, the good deeds will follow. Many of God’s gifts come to the believer who does good deeds before God.” “All the saints of the Old Testament became glorified before the Lord not by themselves, nor their good deeds, but by God’s will. Likewise, we are so called according to God’s will in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are holy not by ourselves, not by our wisdom, nor by our understanding, not by our good deeds that we did in a pure heart but by justification in the faith through our Lord Jesus Christ, through which all those saints were justified. Glory be to Him forever.
So what should we do our brethren? Do we become lazy? Do we neglect love? No but with zeal and courage we should complete every good deed as the Lord and Creator of everything rejoiced with what He did.”
Also St Clement in his teaching of eternal life and resurrection of bodies followed the same teachings as chapter 15 in the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians. The Dogmatic Importance of the Letter:
St Clement’s Letter has great dogmatic importance as it clearly declares the dogma of apostolic succession. St Clement, the Roman, stated that the Christian priesthood was of great importance as it is clearly an extension of the priesthood of the Old Testament. St Clement further stated that the church’s Shepard hood through her bishops and priests is through apostolic succession and hierarchy, and it is of utmost importance for the church’s witness and continuity.
“The apostles preached the Gospel which they received from the Lord Jesus Christ who Himself brought the teachings from God the Father. Therefore if the apostles brought their teachings from the Lord Jesus Christ both teachings originated from God’s will. Likewise, after they had received their teachings, believed in the Glorious Resurrection or our Lord Jesus Christ, and were justified by faith departed full of the Holy Spirit to all regions of the world to preach the Holy Gospel that the Kingdom would soon come. From province to province and city to city they preached and with the Holy Spirit they chose other men from among the new believers to be bishops, priests, and deacons for the church. The apostles knew the position of the bishop and priesthood might cause envy, which could develop into plots and conspiracies. The apostles taught that when a church leader died, other would be chosen who should be justified to follow them in the bishop’s position. So it is not a faithful church that will dismiss anyone ordained for the priesthood or bishophood by the apostles or upon approval of the entire church. The Position of Bishop in St Clement’s Letter:
St Clement was the first to use the title “bishop” as the one who oversees. He also called bishop’s priests. There was no distinction for the Roman Church as compared to the other churches, the letter was only a trial by St Clement to overcome the envy and conspiracies in the Corinthian Church and did not express any more dignity for the Roman Church versus the Corinthian Church. The concept of church meant the church as the body of the Lord Jesus Christ not limited by its locality and so St Ignatius, bishop of Antioch wrote many letters to different churches. All of those fathers understood the catholicity of the church as the true and precise understanding. They also understood it is not right for any bishop to interfere in another church’s affairs in the scope of another bishop. With this in mind, one can understand why the Pope of Alexandria refused to accept Origen whom was ordained as a priest by another bishop outside his See. Therefore ensuring the dignity of the bishop’s See was a respectable dogma in the primitive Church. Conclusion of the Letter:
St Clement concluded his Epistle by Liturgical Prayer, which stated the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ who is “the only beloved Son of God through whom God taught us, sanctified us and brought us to the Glory.” The Lord Jesus Christ is the Supreme Pontiff and the Guard of our souls.” Then, St Clement sang hymns that expressed the mercy and care of God. Finally St Clement concludes his letter with a prayer for the governor of the regime, which clearly declares the relationship between the church and state.
“O You our Master, Give them the Kingdom’s authority by your supreme and ineffable power. So as we confess with dignity and glory which came upon them in obedience to Your will. Give them O Lord the health, the peace, the strength and the ability to practice their high leadership that you gave them. O You, our Master, the King of Kings and the Heavenly King of ages gave the man the power, the authority and the glory to rule over everything on the earth. O Lord, lead their thoughts with every good deed that is justified before You to practice in gentleness the power and authority you gave them in peace and humbleness so they can confess Your power and Your goodness. Amen.”
This was a brief overview of St Clement’s Letter to the Corinthian Church and you can find the entire manuscript in Ante Nicene Fathers, Vol.1.
St. Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna
St. Polycarp was born in 70 A D to a Christian family who received its faith from the very Apostles of Lord Jesus. In these Apostolic times, the young Church lived and was strengthened by visits of the Apostles and their disciples. They had already warned of difficult times in their Epistles, calling the Christians too that "you say also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed " (1 Peter: 13). St. Polycarp was chosen by the bishop as his personal secretary; and later, when he was forty years old became the Bishop of Smyrna. There, he remained for 86 years of his life, faithfully serving the Church.
St. Polycarp was one of the most illustrious of the Apostolic Fathers, who, being the immediate disciples of the apostles, received instructions from their mouths, and inherited of them the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ in a degree so much the more eminent as they lived nearer the fountain head. He embraced Christianity very young, about the year 80, was a disciple of the Apostles, in particular of St. John the Evangelist, and was constituted by him Bishop of Smyrna, probably before his banishment to Patmos in 96 AD.
He seems to have been the angel or Bishop of Smyrna who was commended above all the bishops of Asia by the Lord Jesus Christ himself in the Apocalypse, and the only one without a reproach. Our Savior encouraged him under his poverty, tribulation, and persecutions, especially the calumnies of the Jews, called him rich in grace, and promised him the crown of life by martyrdom (Revelation 2:8-10).
This saint was respected by the faithful to a degree of veneration. He formed many holy disciples, among who were St. Irenaeus and Papias. When Florinus, who had often visited St. Polycarp, had broached certain heresies, St. Irenaeus wrote to him as follows: "These things were not taught you by the bishops who preceded us. I could tell you the place where the blessed Polycarp sat to preach the word of God. It is yet present to my mind with what gravity he everywhere came in and went out; what was the sanctity of his deportment, the majesty of his countenance and of his whole exterior, and what his holy exhortations to the people were. I seem to hear him now relate how he conversed with John and many others who had seen Jesus Christ; the words he had heard from their mouths. I can protest before God that if this holy bishop had heard of any error like yours, he would have immediately stopped his ears, and cried out, according to his custom, Good God! That I should be reserved to these times to hear such things! That very instant he would have fled out of the place in which he had heard such doctrine."
St. Jerome mentions that St. Polycarp met at Rome the heretic Marcion in the streets, who resenting that the holy bishop did not take that notice of him which he expected, said to him, "Do you not know me, Polycarp?" "Yes," answered the saint, "I know you to be the firstborn of Satan." He had learned this abhorrence of the authors of heresy, who knowingly and willingly adulterate the divine truths, from his master, St. John, who fled out of the bath in which he saw Cerinthus.
St. Polycarp kissed with respect the chains of St. Ignatius, who passed by Smyrna on the road to his martyrdom, and who recommended to our saint the care and comfort of his distant Church of Antioch, which he repeated to him in a letter from Troas, desiring him to write in his name to those churches of Asia to which he had not leisure to write himself. St. Polycarp wrote a letter to the Philippians shortly after, which is highly commended by St. Irenaeus, St. Jerome, Eusabius, Photius, and others, and is still extant. It is justly admired both for the excellent instructions it contains and for the simplicity and perspicuity of the style, and was publicly read in the church in Asia in St. Jerome's time. In it he calls a heretic, as above, the eldest son of Satan.
About the year 158 he undertook a journey of charity to Rome, to confer with Pope Anicetus about certain points of discipline, especially about the time of keeping Easter, for the Asiatic churches kept it on the fourteenth day of the vernal equinoctial moon, as the Jews did, on whatever day of the week it fell; whereas Rome, Egypt, and all the West observed it on the Sunday following. It was agreed that both might follow their custom without breaking the bands of charity. St. Anicetus, to testify his respect, yielded to him the honor of celebrating the Eucharist in his own church. St. Polycarp’s Martyrdom:
St. Polycarp’s martyrdom was mentioned in a letter which was soon afterward written by the Christians at Smyrna to the Christians at Philomenius. This letter has come to be called the Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp:
In the sixth year of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, Statius Quadratus being proconsul of Asia, a violent persecution broke out in that country, in which the faithful gave heroic proofs of their courage and love of God, to the astonishment of the infidels. When they were torn to pieces with scourges till their very bowels were laid bare, amidst the moans and tears of the spectators, who were moved with pity at the sight of their torments, not one of them gave so much as a single groan, so little regard had they for their own flesh in the cause of God. No kinds of torture, no inventions of cruelty, were forborne to force them to conformity to the pagan worship of the times.
The year Polycarp was martyred, there was a civil celebration in Smyrna, and games were being held at the local amphitheater. A well-known Christian boy named Aereanicus had been martyred, preferring to fight the beasts rather than to follow pagan practices, the alternative given to him. When he had been slain by the animals, the Christians were accused of having brain washed him into doing such a foolish thing as prefer death to a "simple sacrifice". The mob began shouting; "Bring us Polycarp!"
When St. Polycarp heard of these events, he was not disturbed, and desired to remain in the city. But the faithful were able to convince him to withdraw to a farm nearby with a few friends. St. Polycarp prayed night and day, for all men and for the churches throughout the world. One night while he was praying, St. Polycarp had a vision, seeing his pillow blazing with flames. He came to his friends and said, "I must be burned Alive."
Herod, the Irenarch, or keeper of the peace, whose office it was to prevent misdemeanors and apprehend malefactors, sent horsemen by night to arrest St. Polycarp. Now, the soldiers who were searching for him arrived at Polycarp’s own house, and when they could not find him, they seized two young servant boys. One broke down under their torture and betrayed where the bishop had gone. And late in the evening of that Friday, they rode to the farm. They took the servant boy with them and found St. Polycarp in bed in the upper room of the small cottage. When he heard of their arrival he went downstairs and talked with them. St. Polycarp knew why they had come and greeted them. The soldiers became upset that there had been such an uproar and eagerness to arrest such an old man. St. Polycarp ordered a meal for the band of captors, and asked them to give him an hour or so in order that he might pray. This was granted. The soldiers were astonished to see the bishop pray intently for two hours, remembering the names and the needs of so many of his and the whole church with so much earnestness and devotion that several of those that were come to seize him repented they had undertaken the commission. They set him on an ass, and were conducting him towards the city when he was met on the road by Herod and his father Nicetes, who took him into their chariot, and endeavored to persuade him to a little compliance, saying, "What harm is there in saying Lord Caesar, or even in sacrificing, to escape death?" By the word Lord was meant nothing less than a kind of deity or godhead. The bishop at first was silent, in imitation of our Savoir, but being pressed, he gave them this resolute answer, "I shall never do what you desire of me." At these words, taking off the mask of friendship and compassion, they treated him with scorn and reproaches, and thrust him out of the chariot with such violence that his leg was bruised by the fall. The holy man went forward cheerfully to the place where the people were assembled. Upon his entering it a voice from Heaven was heard by many, "Polycarp, be courageous, and act manfully." He was led directly to the tribunal of the proconsul, who exhorted him to respect his own age, to swear by the genius of Caesar, and to say, "Take away the impious," meaning the Christians. The saint, turning towards the people in the pit, said, with a stern countenance, "Exterminate the wicked," meaning by this expression either a wish that they might cease to be wicked by their conversion to the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, or this was a prediction of the calamity which befell their city in 177, when Smyrna was overturned by an earthquake, as we read in Dion and Aristides. The proconsul repeated, "Swear by the genius of Caesar, and I discharge you; blaspheme Christ." St. Polycarp replied, "I have served him these fourscore and six years, and he never did me any harm, but much good, and how can I blaspheme my King and my Savoir? If you require of me to swear by the genius of Caesar, as you call it, hear my free confession- I am a Christian; but if you desire to learn the Christian religion, appoint a time, and hear me." The proconsul said, "Persuade the people." The martyr replied, "I addressed my discourse to you, for we are taught to give due honor to princes as far as is consistent with religion. But the populace is an incompetent judge to justify myself before." Indeed rage rendered them incapable of hearing him.
The proconsul then assuming a tone of severity, said: "I have wild beasts." "Call for them," replied the saint: "for we are unalterably resolved not to change from good to evil. It is only good to pass from evil to good." The proconsul said: "If you contemn the beasts, I will cause you to be burnt to ashes." Polycarp answered: "You threaten me with a fire which burns for a short time and then goes out, but are yourself ignorant of the judgment to come, and of the fire of everlasting torments which is prepared for the wicked. Why do you delay? Bring against me what you please." Whilst he said this and many other things, he appeared in a transport of joy and confidence, and his countenance shone with a certain heavenly grace and pleasant cheerfulness, insomuch that the proconsul himself was struck with admiration. However, he ordered a crier to make public proclamation three times in the middle of the Stadium (as was the Roman custom in capital cases): "Polycarp hath confessed himself a Christian." At this proclamation the whole multitude of Jews and Gentiles gave a great shout, the latter crying out, "This is the great teacher of Asia; the father of the Christians; the destroyer of our gods, who preaches to men not to sacrifice to or adore them." They applied to Philip the Asiarch to let loose a lion upon St. Polycarp. He told them that it was not in his power, because those shows had been closed. Then they unanimously demanded that he should be burnt alive.
Their request was no sooner granted but every one ran with all speed to fetch wood from the baths and shops. The pile being prepared, St. Polycarp put off his garments, untied his girdle, and began to take off his shoes, an office he had not been accustomed to, the Christians having always striven who should do these things for him, regarding it as a happiness to be admitted to touch him. The wood and other combustibles were heaped all round him.
The executioners would have nailed him to the stake; but he said to them: "Suffer me to be as I am. He who gives me grace to undergo this fire will enable me to stand still without that precaution." They therefore contented themselves with tying his hands behind his back, and in this posture looking up towards heaven, he prayed as follows: "O Almighty Lord God, Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of thee, God of angels, powers, and every creature, and of all the race of the just that live in thy presence! I bless thee for having been pleased in thy goodness to bring me to this hour, that I may receive a portion in the number of thy martyrs, and partake of the chalice of thy Christ, for the resurrection to eternal life, in the incorruptibleness of the Holy Spirit. Amongst whom grant me to be received this day as a pleasing sacrifice, such a one as thou thyself hast prepared, that so thou majesty accomplish what thou, O true and faithful God! Hast foreshown. Wherefore, for all things I praise, bless, and glorify thee, through the eternal high priest Jesus Christ, thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee and the Holy Spirit be glory now and for ever. Amen."
He had scarce said Amen when fire was set to the pile, which increased to a mighty flame. But behold a wonder, say the authors of these acts, seen by us reserved to attest it to others; the flames forming themselves into an arch, like the sails of a ship swelled with the wind, gently encircled the body of the martyr, which stood in the middle, resembling not roasted flesh, but purified gold or silver, appearing bright through the flames; and his body sending forth such a fragrance that we seemed to smell precious spices. The blind infidels were only exasperated to see his body could not be consumed, and ordered a spearman to pierce him through, which he did, and such a quantity of blood issued out of his left side as to quench the fire.
The malice of the devil ended not here: he endeavored to obstruct the relics of the martyr being carried off by the Christians; for many desired to do it, to show their respect to his body. Therefore, by the suggestion of Satan, Nicetes advised the proconsul not to bestow it on the Christians, lest, said he, abandoning the crucified man, they should adore Polycarp: the Jews suggested this, "Not knowing," say the authors of the acts of martyrs, "that we can never forsake Christ, nor adore any other, though we love the martyrs, as his disciples and imitators, for the great love they bore their king and master." The centurion, seeing a contest raised by the Jews, placed the body in the middle, and burnt it to ashes. "We afterwards took up the bones," say they, "more precious than the richest jewels or gold, and deposited them decently in a place at which may God grant us to assemble with joy, to celebrate the birthday of the martyr." It was at two o'clock in the afternoon, which the authors of the acts of martyrs call the eighth hour, in the year 166, that St. Polycarp received his crown, according to Tillemont; but in 169, according to Basnage. His tomb is still shown with great veneration at Smyrna, in a small chapel. St. Irenaeus speaks of St. Polycarp as being of an uncommon age. The Epistle of St. Polycarp to the Philippians
The epistle of St. Polycarp to the Philippians, which is the only one among those which he wrote that has been preserved, is a standing proof of the apostolic spirit with which he was animated, and of that profound humility, perfect meekness, burning charity, and holy zeal, of which his life was so admirable an example. The beginning is an effusion of spiritual joy and charity with which he was transported at the happiness of their conversion to God, and their fervor in divine love. His extreme abhorrence of heresy makes him immediately fall upon that of the Docaetae against which he arms the faithful, by clearly demonstrating that Christ was truly made man, died, and rose again: in which his terms admirably express his most humble and affectionate devotion to our divine Redeemer, under these great mysteries of love. Besides walking in truth, he takes notice, that to be raised with Christ in glory, we must also do his will, keep all his commandments, and love whatever he loved; refraining from all fraud, avarice, detraction, and rash judgment; repaying evil with good forgiving and showing mercy to others that we ourselves may find mercy. "These things," says he, "I write to you on justice, because you incited me; for neither I, nor any other like me, can attain to the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, into whose epistles if you look, you may raise your spiritual fabric by strengthening faith, which is our mother, hope following, and charity towards God, Christ, and our neighbor preceding us. He who has charity is far from all sin." The saint gives short instructions to every particular state, then adds, "Every one who hath not confessed that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is antichrist; and who hath not confessed the suffering of the cross, is of the devil; and who hath drawn the oracles of the Lord to his passions, and hath said that there is no resurrection nor judgment, he is the oldest son of Satan." He exhorts to watching always in prayer, lest we be led into temptation; to be constant in fasting, persevering, joyful in hope, and in the pledge of our justice, which is Christ Jesus, imitating his patience; for, by suffering for his name, we glorify him. To encourage them to suffer, he reminds them of those who had suffered before their eyes: Ignatius, Zozimus, and Rufus, and some of their own congregation, "who are now," says our saint, "in the place which is due to them with the Lord, with whom they also suffered."
She is the most famous woman mentioned in the Holy Epistles of St. Paul. She came before men in the Holy Epistle to the Romans “I commended to you Phoebe our sister who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also (Romans 16:1&2)”. She was a virgin and St. Paul mentioned her as a deacon serving women in the Church of Cenchrea in Corinth. She was the writer for St. Paul in the Holy Epistle to the Romans and also she carried that Holy Epistle to them.
She and his husband Aquila were the perfect example of the true Christian marriage as St. John the Chrysostom said. They lived in Rome and left to Corinth when the emperor Claudius exiled all Jews from Rome and there St. Paul met them in his second trip of ministry (Acts 18:2). They hosted St. Paul in their house for one and a half years. They were like St. Paul tents makers. They followed St. Paul to Ephesus where they stayed there and their house became a Church. St. Paul met them again in Ephesus during his 3rd trip and so he wrote “Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord with the church in their house (1 Corinthians 16:19).”
They returned to Rome and continued their ministry and so St. Paul sent his greetings to them in his Holy Epistle to Romans “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my fellow workers in Christ Jesus who risked their own necks for my life to whom not only I give thanks but also all churches of the gentiles” (Romans 16:3-5).
Again they left Rome returning back to Asia Minor especially Ephesus to continue their ministry and so St. Paul wrote to Timothy “Greet Priscilla and Aquila” (2 Timothy 4:19). It is clear that St. Priscilla and her husband were highly educated in addition to their righteousness as the Holy Book of Acts mentioned that they taught Apollos from Alexandria the Orthodox faith in the Lord although Apollos was fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord though he knew the baptism of John (Acts 18:24-26). She is a role model for the Christian married woman.
St. Thekla, the Martyr
She was a virgin and a disciple of St. Paul from Iconium. She was rich, beautiful and engaged to one of the well-to-do men in Iconium (Acts 13:51). When St. Paul arrived at Iconium in his first ministry’s trip she believed in his ministry and so vowed to be a virgin for the Lord. When her mother discovered her faith she went and betrayed her to the governor of Iconium who persecuted her with different sufferings and pains. He threw her in fire but the Lord sent heavy rain which extinguished the flames and so she was saved. She followed St. Paul to Antioch and ministered to pagan women there. In Antioch, the governor also persecuted her and threw her to the wild animals naked three times for three days but the Lord saved her. After that he threw her in a pit filled with snakes but the Lord saved her. She went after that to her home land in Iconium and ministered there, then went to Syria where she lived the hermitic life and the Lord granted her the gift of healing sickness. She departed at the age of 90 years and was buried in Solicaia of Syria. Because of her great sufferings and pains, the church called her martyr.