This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 19 -- St. Germanicus

There's a letter from around AD 156 that tells how St. Germanicus died. Busted as a Christian, he was thrown to the wild beasts in the arena. Unlike some folks, who cringed and cowered, he took an aggressive posture. The proconsul, whether for pity or admiration, urged Germanicus to recant his faith and offer a stick of incense to the Emperor's numen (divinity). Germanicus then began to antagonize the beasts in earnest so that they would fall upon him, killing him quickly. He stands as a model of constancy.

He's not, however, the point of the letter. His story is followed up by Quintus the Phrygian, who apostatized. I'm not saying I'd cave like he did, but watching an old man get dismembered by angry animals, up close and personal, with the crunches of bone and tendon loud as life and the smell of fresh kill in the air, knowing I'd be next... yeah, actually I guess I am saying that I'd fold too.

Not Polycarp (February 23) though. He was an 86 year old man who saw himself busted and burned -- he saw it clear as crystal, but didn't run. They came to gaffle him, and demanded that he offer incense and say "Away with the atheists." [Romans called the Christians atheists because the Christians denied the existence of all the gods of the empire.] Polycarp declined the incense, looked toward heaven, and said, "Away with the atheists," waving his hand at his accusers.

I think it is a pretty good joke, but I guess the Romans didn't appreciate the humor. They started in with all sorts of threats to get Polycarp to apostatize, but he was steadfast, so they ordered him to be burned to death. The built a pyre and put him in, but he just glowed like precious metal being refined. A guard was ordered to stab him, but when he did, a dove flew out of his body, and then so much blood gushed out that the fire was extinguished. But so was Polycarp.

I didn't really mean to hijack Germanicus' story with Polycarp's, but it all seemed of a piece. It's sort of an apostate sandwich between two slices of martyr. So even though I will have to find another saint for February 23, I'm keeping Polycarp and Germanicus together.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I'm teaching a home schooling group (sr. high kids) Christian Literature this and next sememster. May I print this and share it with them for our study of The Martyrdomn of Ploycarp?