Martyrdom: Mighty, Yet Meek | A few days ago, the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrated the beginning of a new Anno Martyrum (Coptic Calendar), which is called “Nayrouz Feast”. The “Nayrouz Feast” is associated with horrific times that Christians in general, and Copts in particular, lived. The most difficult of these times was that of the Roman rule, during which the so-called “Ten Persecutions” occurred.
Martyrdom | The Beginning
They began during the reign of Emperor Nero, reached their peak during the reigns of the two emperors Diocletian and Maximian, and then calmed down in the days of EmperorConstantine even though they never stopped. Besides, they left behind countless martyrs, especially in Egypt, about whose martyrs it is said, “If the martyrs of the whole world were put on one pan of a scale, and the martyrs of Egypt on the other, the Egyptians would tilt the scale in their favor!”
Copts consider the beginning of Diocletian’s reign (284-305 AD) the beginning of the Coptic calendar, and they chronicle events according to it. They also call it the “History of the Martyrs” because of the abundance of blood that the martyrs shed. Al-Maqrizi, the historian, said about him, “He inflicted grievous harm on Christians by shedding their blood, closing their churches, banning their religion, accusing them of apostasy and idolatry, and killing a great number of them. However, he was the last Roman king to worship idols.”
Martyrdom is not surprising. Indeed, the Lord Christ had said, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls.”
Martyrdom | Eternal Life
Martyrs set their sights on eternal life, preferring to live as sojourners in the world and longing to return to their heavenly homeland. They endured unbearable suffering with patience and fortitude, and lived an ascetic life, unwilling to possess anything in this world, believing it was too poor to give them an eternity.
Martyrdom | God’s Love
Martyrdom in Christianity has always been associated with an intense love for God. Martyrs laid down their lives joyfully. They did indeed! St. Polycarp addressed the ruler who had ordered him to deny his faith and repudiate his Lord Christ, saying, “Eighty-six years have I served Christ and He has done me no wrong. He gives me new blessings every day. So how can i possibly insult my Guardian and Benefactor?” In the Epistle of Saint Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans, when he was told that they would save him from death, he wrote, “I am afraid of your love, lest it should do me an injury… I shall willingly die for God, unless you hinder me. I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable good-will towards me.”
Martyrdom | Steadfast Faith
Martyrdom has always been associated with deep and steadfast faith and rare courage before death. That courage astonished everyone and was armed with the power of the words of Christ: “do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” Martyrs showed unique and amazing endurance in wonderful scenes that dazzled their enemies!
Martyrdom | Life Of Meekness
Despite the intense suffering that the martyrs experienced, they did not lose the life of meekness that distinguished them. They did not revolt, riot, or fight their tormentors. On the contrary, they defended their faith with real placidity. Among the historical stances that prove the meekness of the martyrs is the message of the“Theban Legion” to the emperor, in which they said, “Great Caesar, we are your soldiers, but at the same time we are servants of God … We are not revolutionaries. Even though we have our own weapons with which we can defend ourselves and disobey you, we would rather live blameless than defiled!” They were mighty men of valor, yet meek.
Many happy returns!
Indeed, the talk about “Beautiful Egypt” is endless.
H.G. Anba Ermia General Bishop Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center
Delivered to you by COPTICNN™ | Coptic News Network on 2020-09-16 from Cairo, Egypt
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