My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 23rd of February, Our Holy Orthodox Church
Commemorates the holy Hieromartyr
POLYKARPOS (POLYCARP), Bishop of Smyrna.
Saint Polykarpos, the glorious Martyr of Christ, was born and raised in the city of Ephesos, which gave birth to him in A.D. 68. His parents were extremely wealthy, pious, and merciful to the poor. The father of the Saint was Pankratios, and his mother was Theodora.
The person in authority of Ephesos was one named Marcius, a pagan who had received intelligence that Pankratios and Theodora were Christians. He dispatched soldiers who brought the holy couple before him for questioning. At that time, Theodora was with child, carrying Polykarpos in her womb. Marcius addressed them with a stern voice: "Why do you not obey the imperial decrees, but rather scorn the great gods and offer homage to the Christ?" Pankratios and Theodora, without any cowardice, answered, "We, O excellency, were taught by the Apostles of the Lord that we ought to believe in, and reverence, the True God, the Creator of the heaven and the earth, our Lord Jesus Christ. In His name were we baptized. We confess and proclaim Him. As for the inanimate and insensate idols, which you possess as gods, we turn our backs to them and deem them objects of contempt." Upon hearing this declaration from the Christian couple, Marcius was filled with rage. He commanded his soldiers to cast the man and his pregnant wife to the ground and render them a serious thrashing. Pankratios and Theodora were thrown into prison where they suffered from hunger and thirst and countless other hardships. It was there that the blessed Theodora gave birth to a son. The All-Good God, Who foresees all things, knew that Marcius would seek their offspring with the intention of raising the infant according to his own pagan beliefs. The Lord, sent forth His Angel to the prison. The Angel entered the dungeon and healed the wounds of Pankratios and Theodora. After this, he empowered the new parents and foretold that the Ephesian ruler was about to put them to death. He encouraged them not to cower before death on behalf of Jesus Christ. He prophesied that they would be crowned with the crown of Martyrdom and become inheritors of the heavenly Kingdom. The Angel then spoke of their son and said that he would entrust the newborn baby to a wealthy Christian widow who would have have baptized and raise him in the Faith. After the Angel had delivered his divinie message, he took up the infant and vanished.
Marcius sentenced them to death. The soldiers took the Christian couple and marched them outside of Ephesos. After they ascended to a high place, their heads were severed. The soldiers left the martyric holy relics as food for wild animals. After a brief time passed before the Christians came secretly and interred the Saints with reverence and piety. The devout and God-fearing widow, Kallisto, received the child. She had him baptized and named him Pankratios, after his father. Kallisto raised him as her own child, bringing him into her home. As the boy grew, she was amazed at his intelligence and good behavior. When he came of age, she put him in school where he learned his lessons quickly. In a short time, he also learned the entire order of the Church services. He practiced humility, cheerfulness in adversity, continence, discipline, and other moral excellences. His chief love and joy ws to be merciful to the poor and to give alms. As a result of this virtue, Pankratios came to be named Polykarpos.
When the Saint became twenty-four years of age, he heard that Saint John the Theologian was preaching the Gospel in other parts of Asia. Polykarpos desired to hear the Apostle’s teachiing and with the permission of his foster mother departed to see Saint John, with whom were also the God-bearing Ignatios of Antioch and the Venerable Voukolos. The blessed Polykarpos attached himself to them, and they walked about together from place to place. As another Apostle, Polykarpos was put to the test by great hardships. He endured hunger, thirst, nakedness, and every other hardship possible, in order to preach the word of Christ, After the pasage of considerable time, a decree was issued from Emperor Domitian at Rome that banished Saint John the Theologian and Evangelist to the island of Patmos in Greece. When the Apostle was about to go to exile, he CONSECRATED THE BLESSED Voukolos as Bishop of Smyrna. He also appointed Polykarps to be a member of Voulolos’ synod. Thereafter, the holy Apostle John bid them farewell, taking Saint Prochoros, his disciple, and went to Patmos.
Bishop Voukolos perceived that Polykarpos was worthy of holy orders. For the present, owing to Polykarpo’s youthfulness, Bishop Voukolos enrolled him in the order of Deacon with the approval of the whole Church. As a Deacon, Polykarpos showed himself approved among his won contemporaries, as Saint Stefanos the holy Martyr, did among those of the Apostles, for, being well-equipped in speech and adorned with good deeds. As the years advanced, so did Polykarpos in age until the flower of white hair began to appear above his temples. The Lord, for His part, set His seal on this and ratified the design, giving Bishop Voukolos commandment in a vision. Accordingly, Voukolos appointed Polykarpos to an office in teh Presbyterate. Polykarpos accepted the holy order, upon which he beheld a vision and received much comfort.
Saint Polykarpos in no wise wished to have the dignity of this rank bestowed upon him. He kept protesting that he was unworthy. The Venerable Voukolos, however, perceived his disciple’s virtue and his divine achievements. Bishop Voukolos knew that the time of his repose was near. He gathered together all the Bishops of the region, together with the clergy and people. He revealed to them his imminent death and named his successor. He wished to have the holy Polykarpos succeed him. Though the assembly was saddened at the disclosure of his repose, yet they gladly accepted to have Polykarpos preside over the Church of Smyrna. Therefore, the Priest Polykarpos, notwithstanding his earnest entreaties and desire to decline, was elevated to the hierarchical throne of Smyrna. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God