Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr
Amidst the sweetness he is enjoying from the contemplation of the Word made Flesh, John, the Beloved Disciple, beholds coming towards him his dear Polycarp, the Angel of the Church of Smyrna (Apoc. ii. 8), all resplendent with the glory of martyrdom. This venerable Saint has on his soul the fervent love that made him say, in the amphitheatre, when asked by the Proconsul to curse his Divine Master: “Six-and-eighty years have I served Him, and He has never done me any wrong–nay, He has laden me with kindness. How could I blaspheme my King, who has saved me?” After having suffered fire and the sword, he was admitted into the presence of this King, his Saviour, in reward for the eighty-six years of his faithful service, for the labours he had gone through in order to maintain faith and charity among his flock, and for the cruel death he endured.
He was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, whom he imitated by zealously opposing the heretics, who were then striving to corrupt the faith. In obedience to the command of his holy Master (II. St. John, i. 10), he refused to hold intercourse with Marcion, the heresiarch, whom he called the first-born of Satan. This energetic adversary of the proud sect, that denied the mystery of the Incarnation, wrote an admirable Epistle to the Philippians, in which we find these words: Whosoever confesses not that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is an Antichrist. Polycarp, then, had a right to the honour of standing near the Crib, in which the Son of God shows Himself to us in all His loveliness, and clothed in flesh like unto our own. Let us honour this disciple of John, this friend of Ignatius, this Bishop of the Apostolic Age, whose praise was pronounced by Jesus Christ himself, in the Revelations of Patmos. Our Saviour said to him by the mouth of Saint John: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life (Apoc. ii. 10). Polycarp was faithful even unto death, and has received his crown; and whilst we are celebrating the coming of his King among us, he is one of the Saints who assist us to profit of the holy season. Continue reading