Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr

Today’s readings 

Saint Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna and a disciple of the apostles. He is known to have accompanied Saint Ignatius of Antioch to Rome to confer with Pope Anicetus concerning the celebration of Easter, which was quite a controversy in that time. He was known to be a man of faith and wisdom, and who lived by the injunction found in our first reading today: “Rely not on your own strength…”

Because he lived that way, he was able, at the age of 86, to accept martyrdom with the peace of a life lived with integrity and in the faith of Jesus Christ. Having been placed in the pyre for his execution, he prayed: “I bless You because You have granted me this day and hour, that I might receive a portion amongst the number of martyrs in the cup of Your 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 Your presence this day, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as You did prepare and reveal it beforehand, and have accomplished it, You that art the faithful and true God. For this cause, yea and for all things, I praise You, I bless You, I glorify You, through the eternal and heavenly High-priest, Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, through Whom, with Him and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and ever and for the ages to come. Amen.”

It is said that the flames did not even scorch him, that instead they formed a dome around him, and from it there was a pleasing aroma, like fine incense. He was later executed by being thrust through with a lance, with the praise of God on his lips. He could do that because he trusted in God’s promises, those promises of which the Psalmist sang today: “For the LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.”

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