Thinking About Polycarp
Polycarp is known for a number of writings but none are more important than his Letter to the Philippians in which he refutes the Gnostic argument that the Incarnation and Resurrection were real physical events and not simple moral teachings or some kind mythology.
A second importance to his Letter to the Philippians is the fact it is considered to be the first to quote the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, The Acts of the Apostles, and the first letters of both John and Peter.
Last night I looked over my copy of Eusebius’s Church History as translated by Paul L. Maier. Under the section covering the Martyrdom Of Polycarp I counted no less than six times Polycarp could have denied Christ thereby saving himself a martyr’s death. All he had to do is swear by Caesar’s fortune and he could have gone free, at least for a little while. “Just curse Christ and I will let you go” the governor told him. But St. Polycarp replied “For eighty six years I have been his servant, and he has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?”
The two Fox News reporters that were released over the weekend were forced to convert to Islam with a gun pointed at the back of their heads. (Peaceful Mohammedans? Nope, but that is a discussion for another post or at least a rehash of previous ones.)
I for one am glad we have the saints, not for their intercession as the Romans would suppose, but rather as examples of faithfulness to the saints still living within a fallen and corrupt world. See Augustana XXI for more on that subject. We should look to and up to the martyrs’ faith that caused them to sing the first hymns of the Church on the way to their deaths. We should look to St. Polycarp’s bold confession after being told he would be burned alive; “you threaten me with fire that burns for a time and is quickly extinguished. Yet a fire that you know nothing about awaits the wicked in the judgment to come and eternal punishment. But what are you waiting for? Do what you will.” and say I hope I would be as bold in my confession.
I hope that I never experience what those two Fox reporters did. That being said, I hope that my faith would be as strong as that of St. Polycarp, and can say “do what you will” if that were to happen to me.