Saturday, February 24, 2007

+ St. Polycarp of Smyrna, Bishop and Martyr +

Today is the Feast Day of St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. On February 23, 155 AD, Polycarp was martyred for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor (and thus, he refused to recognize Caesar as a "god"). For this crime of "Atheism" he was burned alive at the age of 86, and courageously and faithfully went to his death as a witness to our Lord Jesus Christ, the apostles, and the holy catholic faith.

His was the first Christian martyrdom to be recorded outside of Scripture. His Epistle to the Philippians (ca 120 AD) is one of the earliest non-Biblical Christian writings. In this work, he quotes all four gospels as well as most of the corpus of the New Testament epistles. Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John, and was in turn the teacher of St. Irenaeus, the great bishop of Lyons who defended the incarnation of our Lord against the Gnostics and other heretics.

As our current culture is becoming increasingly intolerant of, and hostile toward, the Christian faith, the Rev. Dr. John Stephenson (general editor of the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series), has called St. Polycarp "the most pertinent figure of our time."

In 2002, a group of Lutheran pastors and laymen formed the Society of Saint Polycarp (SSP), a brotherhood bound together by subscription to a Rule that emphasizes daily liturgical prayer, the salutary use of the Holy Sacraments, and Catholic tradition - all within the context of those Christians, commonly called "Lutherans," who confess the Augsburg Confession (1530) and all the documents styled the Book of Concord (1580).

I currently serve as the Dean of the Society of St. Polycarp. If you are interested in more information about the SSP, please feel free to e-mail me at with any questions.


Peter said...

My father, Just, and I just came back from Turkey, and were in the region of Smyrna and Polycarp. Inspring story indeed. If you ever get the chance, Turkey's a wonderful place to go. John, Paul, and Peter were there, and perhaps Mary was in Ephesus. We even visited John's tomb . . . which had absolutely no guards, no crowds, no nothing. We saw the rock churches of the Cappadocian Fathers, as well as Hagia Sophia, which is now a museum.

Father Hollywood said...

Thanks, Peter, for causing your brother to stumble into breaking the ninth commandment - that sounds like a spectacular trip! There is so much rich history there that is, as you point out, off the beaten path of the typical tourist. Very cool!