MARTYRS, THEN AND NOW

“There are many different forms of martyrdom.”   I’ll probably start a few more blogs in the future with that sentence,  but for now I’ll be writing about “the usual”  — giving up your life because of your faith in Christ.

I’ve missed a lot of important dates on the Church’s calendar.   Not in my private life,  but here in The Spruce Tunnel.   They’re actually important dates, and I’m sorry I haven’t shared them with you.   So today,   I’ll look at the man who is on our calendar today:  St. Cyprian.

cyprian 258 ad

He lived a while ago.     He lived in North Africa,  priest and bishop,  witness to Christ,   shepherd of his people,   scholar, writer.     (d. 258 Anno Domini.)

Of course, he attracted the attention of his Rulers (the Roman government).   Uneasy about their power,  they regarded Christianity with suspicion.    The Emperor Decian and the local governor under him,  Paternus,  ordered all Christians to make a “patriotic act”  of sacrificing to idols.  These were gods that most of the Romans didn’t even believe in anymore.

Nevertheless,   St.  Cyprian must refuse an act of sacrifice to the cultural gods,  sham ceremony or not,  symbolic or not.

The result is his arrest, torture, questioning….    Then he was taken to the nearby Mediterranean coastline of northern Africa,  Carthage area.     And beheaded.

cyprian

North African coastline.   Beheading.    Beheading a Christian just for his faith in Christ.

We’re all familiar with the long line of men in orange jumpsuits, marched along this same coastline,  with men in black behind them, carrying knives,   forcing them down into the sand,  and  then beheaded.      Just for their faith in Christ.

Cyprians today

These modern martyrs were simple, law-abiding employees,  and gave no one any trouble.    They were just Christians.

Recently an African man spoke out and said that he recognized his friend among the orange-suited men photographed in that line.   He said:  I know him!     He was not a Christian then,  but he watched as  his Christian friend was arrested, jailed, tortured, and killed, and all the time would not give up his faith in Jesus, Who died for him.    He would choose Christ too, even if it meant his death.

This man witnessed his friend’s courage and steadfast faith and said he wanted that assurance in his own life.  He wanted that strong faith and love for God;  and so he became a Christian.

And so this man became part of the “line-up.”

cypr skull

St. Cyprian’s feast day is shared by St. Cornelius who lived during the same time.    He was elected to be pope in around 250 A.D., although political turmoil around Rome gave him a rocky start to his position.

cyp corneliusThe chief controversy in the Church during his time involved the question of what to do with people who denied Christ when they were arrested because they  were so afraid of torture and death;  and then when the danger was over,  should these  people be allowed back into the Church,  no questions asked?    Could  they re-enter the Church?    Should they?    Ever?

It wasn’t an idle theological question.     St. Cyprian chose mercy for these people, after sincere repentance and a period of penance.   St. Cornelius backed him up.   A few years later St. Cyprian would be martyred.   And a few years after that,  the pope was arrested:   St.  Cornelius would join St. Cyprian and  many others in martyrdom.

Many, many others, even down to today, along the northern coast of Africa.

We’re not finished with our martyrdom,  there, here, then, or now.

St. Paul wrote to us Christians:   If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.   (I Corinthians 15:19)

Yeah.   It’s not this life that we must save.    If we live only  to try to save this life of ours,  we’ll lose the everlasting one in the next.   That’s what Christ told us.

Martyrs are not “miserable.”

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Explore posts in the same categories: Christ the King, Christian Analysis, Martyrs, Persecution ofChristians, Saints

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