History, VOLUME 12

St. Polycarp – The Story of his Martyrdom

February 23 is the Feast Day of St. Polycarp of Smyrna, a martyr of the second century. In remembrance, we offer the story of his martyrdom…

The Encyclical Epistle
of the Church at Smyrna
Concerning the Martyrdom
of the Holy Polycarp

Modern paraphrase of a 19th century translation,
excerpted from [easyazon_link identifier=”0974479691″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Water, Faith and Wood:
Stories of the Early Church’s Witness for Today[/easyazon_link]

C. Christopher Smith. Doulos Christou Press, 2003.

— PAGE 2 —

Chapter 6
Polycarp is Betrayed by a Servant.
And when those who sought him were at hand, he departed to another
dwelling, where his pursuers immediately came after him. And when they
did not find him, they seized two youths that were there, one of whom,
being subjected to torture, confessed. It was thus impossible that Polycarp
should continue to hide, since those who betrayed him were of his own
household. The Irenarch then (whose office is the same as that of the
Cleronomus), whose name was Herod, hastened to bring him into the
stadium. These events all happened that he might fulfill his special lot, being made a partaker of Christ, and that the ones who betrayed him might undergo the punishment of Judas himself.
Chapter 7
Polycarp is Found by His Pursuers.
His pursuers then, along with their horsemen, and taking the youth with
them, went forth at supper-time on the day of the preparation (Friday) with
their usual weapons, as if going out against a robber. And having come to
the place where Polycarp was in the evening, they found him lying down in
the upper room of a certain little house, from which he might have escaped
into another place; but he refused, saying, “The will of God be done.” So
when he heard that they had come, he went down and spoke with them.
And as those who were present marveled at his age and faithfulness, some
of them said: “Was so much effort made to capture such a venerable man?
Immediately then, in that very hour, he ordered that something to eat and
drink should be set before them, and indeed as much as they wanted to eat,
while he asked them to allow him an hour to pray without disturbance. And
on their giving him leave, he stood and prayed, being full of the grace of
God, so that he could not be silent for two full hours, to the astonishment of those that heard him, and thus many began to repent that they had come
forth against such a godly and venerable old man.

Chapter 8
Polycarp is Brought into the City.
Now, as soon as he had ceased praying, having made mention of all those
that had at any time come in contact with him – both small and great,
illustrious and obscure, as well as the Church throughout the whole world – the time of his departure had arrived and they set him upon a donkey,
and guided him into the city, the day being that of the great Sabbath. And
the Irenarch Herod, accompanied by his father Nicetes (both riding in a
chariot), met him, and taking him up into the chariot, they seated themselves beside him, and endeavored to persuade him, saying, “What harm is there in saying, Caesar is Lord, and in sacrificing and the other ceremonies observed on such occasions, and so to ensure your safety?“ But he at first gave them no answer; and when they continued to urge him, he said, “I shall not do as you advise me.” So they, having no hope of persuading him, began to speak bitter words unto him, and cast him violently out of the chariot, and thus he dislocated his leg in the fall. But without being disturbed, and as if suffering nothing, he went eagerly forward with all haste, and was conducted to the stadium, where the tumult was so great, that there was no possibility of being heard.
Chapter 9
Polycarp Refuses to Revile Christ.
Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, a voice came to him from
heaven, saying, “Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!” No one
saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brothers who were there
also heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the roar became great
when the crowd heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near,
the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that
he was, the proconsul sought to persuade him to deny Christ, saying,
“Respect your old age,” and other similar things according to their custom,
such as, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the
Atheists.” But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen in the stadium that day, and waving his hand toward them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, “Away with the Atheists.” Then, the proconsul urged him, saying, “Swear and I will set you free. Reproach Christ.” Polycarp declared, “Eighty-six years have I served him, and he never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior? “
Chapter 10
Polycarp Confesses Himself a Christian.
And when the proconsul pressed himagain, and said, “Swear by the fortune
of Caesar,” he answered, “Since you are vainly urgent that, as you say, I
should swear by the fortune of Caesar, and you pretend not to know who
and what I am, hear me declare with boldness that I am a Christian. And if
you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, give me a day, and you will hear them.” The proconsul replied, “Persuade the people.” But
Polycarp said, “I have thought it right to offer you an account of my faith; for we are taught to give all due honor (which entails no injury upon ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. But as for these crowds, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me.”

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