Monday, February 23, 2009

Feast of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

Today is the modern Western Church's date of the Feast of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, Bishop and Martyr - which includes commemoration by the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in the sanctorial calendar of its latest hymnal, Lutheran Service Book (LSB).

St. Polycarp (c 69 - c 155 AD) was a pivotal figure in the early church, and is considered an apostolic father, a link to the original apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. Polycarp was himself a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, the one entrusted to take care of the mother of God and the author of the fourth Gospel (as well as the three Epistles of John, and the Revelation) - the last living apostle. St. Polycarp was also the spiritual father of the great theologian and defender of the faith, St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (died c 202 AD), and is St. Irenaeus's link to the apostles.

St. Polycarp's faithfulness unto death has inspired persecuted Christians since the second century. You can read the ancient account of St. Polycarp's martyrdom at the age of 86 for steadfastly refusing to worship Caesar here.

You can also read the holy bishop's early second century Epistle to the Philippians here. It is his only known extant work.

Sanctus Polycarpus orat pro nobis.

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