The martyrdom of Polycarp

Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna, in Asia Minor, in the first half of the second century. He had been a disciple of John the Apostle. When an old man, he was arrested outside the city and dragged into the amphitheater to be burned alive (as he had himself seen in a vision). Respecting his age the Roman Pro-consul urged him to avoid death by confessing Caesar as divine, by reviling Christ, and by renouncing his followers whom the Romans called “atheists” (since Christians had no visible forms of worship). In reply, Polycarp waved his hand at the bloodthirsty crowd filling the arena and declared: “Away with the atheists. For eighty-six years I have been the servant of Christ, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me? I am a Christian.” When the Pro-consul threatened Polycarp with wild beasts, and then with fire, Polycarp replied: “Why are you waiting? Come, do what you will.” Polycarp prayed: “O Lord God . . . I bless you that you have granted me this day and hour, that I may share, among the number of the martyrs, in the cup of your Christ, for the Resurrection to everlasting life, both of soul and body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit . . .” On Feb. 22, AD 156, Polycarp was burned at the stake, thereby proving that the one “loved by God” was a true “lover of God.”