Monday, February 22, 2010


“St. Polycarp”
Iconifer and Date are UNKNOWN


Biographical Information about St. Polycarp [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Polycarp

Readings and Commentary:

Revelation 2:8-11

"To the angel of the Church in Smyrna, write this:

'"The first and the last, who once died but came to life, says this:
"I know your tribulation and poverty, but you are rich.
I know the slander of those who claim to be Jews and are not,
but rather are members of the assembly of Satan.
Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer.
Indeed, the Devil will throw some of you into prison,
that you may be tested,
and you will face an ordeal for ten days.
Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

'""Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The victor shall not be harmed by the second death."'"
Commentary on
Rev 2:8-11

This passage from St. John’s Revelation is the second of the letters to the seven churches. Smyrna, following Ephesus, was the second most important commercial center and the home to a large and persecuted Christian population. The Christians came from a less affluent population which is why there is a reference to their poverty. The context of the letter is encouraging them to remain faithful even in the face of persecution. St. John envisions a short but intense period of turmoil (“…you will face an ordeal for ten days”) that for some will culminate in physical death (“…the second deaththe first “death” being death to sin in Baptism).

Psalm 31:3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17

R. (6) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name's sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors,
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in yonr kindness.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Commentary on
Ps 31:3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17

This is an individual lament. The section links nicely to the death of martyrs withInto your hands I commend my spiritandYou hide them in the shelter of your presence from the plottings of men.” The psalmist gives us a song of faith very appropriate for the one who is put to the test for their faith. It is a prayer for rescue and a submission of will to God's saving power.

John 15:18-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world,
and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you.
Remember the word I spoke to you,
'No slave is greater than his master.'
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me."
Commentary on
Jn 15:18-21

Jesus gives the disciples a paradox in telling them that, while they are part of the world, they do not belong to the world. John gives us three different meanings of "the world."  In this instance it probably refers to fallen Israel - the spear of the devil that opposes God and hates the truth.  In other instances it refers to the universe created by God (John 1:10) and the fallen family of mankind in need of redemption. (John 3:17 ).[3]  The disciples are separated from that society through their association with Christ. He then reminds them that because they are his, they too will suffer persecution by those he came to save.
CCC: Jn 15:19-20 675; Jn 15:20 530, 765

It is especially apt that the scripture we use to memorialize Saint Polycarp is taken from the Gospel of St. John and the Evangelist’s Revelation. Polycarp was one of St. John’s ardent disciples and must have spent hours listening to his words. Armed with knowledge gained from one who walked with the Lord, St. Polycarp was on fire with the Holy Spirit and able to take up the hugely difficult mission of promoting and guarding the faith in that all-important second generation of Christianity.

Imagine the difficulty of passing on the story of the God’s only Son with no New Testament to point at.  It had not been codified when St. Polycarp walked the earth. Imagine trying to answer questions or dispute false teachers with no Catechism to guide you; none had been written. What guided St. Polycarp was the image and message of Christ he had received from St. John the Evangelist and, what we can only surmise, an incredible faith in God. These virtues, wielded heroically, earned him a place of honor in the eyes of the Church he helped form. Indeed, in addition to the Bishop's Mitre, he also wears the Martyr's Crown, having given his life for the sake of the Gospel.

His example bolsters our courage as we take up the mission Christ left us, to take the Gospel he gave us into the world. Just as in the time of St. Polycarp, the Gospel message is not welcomed by most, not by those who value secular hedonism, not by those who embrace the lack of faith that is atheism, not even by many in civil authority who seek to limit the expression of our faith and the values espoused by it. When faced with these challenges we call out to St. Polycarp and the other saints who, like him, fought the noble fight against false teachers and a resisting culture. We ask for his prayers on this, his feast day, that we may remain strong in the face of the enemy and firm in our convictions.


[1] The icon is “St. Polycarp” Iconifer and Date are UNKNOWN
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[3] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, © 2010, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. p. 161

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.