Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND SHALL EVER BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE LIFE OF HIEROMARTYR POLYCARPOS, BISHOP OF SMYRNA
(His holy Feast-Day is February 23rd)
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone
As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, thou foundest discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, thou didst also contest for the Faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr Polycarp. Intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion. First Tone
Through godly virtues, thou broughtest forth for the Lord God much spiritual fruit, O thou most blessed Hierarch, and so didst prove worthy of God thy Lord, O wise Polycarp. Wherefore, on this day we who have all been enlightened through thy holy words extol thy praiseworthy memory and glorify Christ the Lord.
This Apostolic and Prophetic man, and model of faith and truth, was a disciple of St. John the Theologian and Evangelist, successor of Bucolus (+Feb. 6th), and teacher of Irenaeus (+August 23). He was an old man and full of days when the Fifth Persecution was raised against Christians under the pagan Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. When his pursuers, sent by the ruler, found Polycarpos, he commanded that they be given something to eat and drink, then asked them to give him an hour to pray; he stood and prayed, full of grace, for two hours, so that his captors repented that they had come against so venerable a man. He was brought by the Proconsul of Smyrna into the stadium and was commanded, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the atheists." By atheists, the Proconsul meant the Christians. But Saint Polycarpos, gazing at the heathen in the stadium, waved his hand towards them and said, "Away with the atheists." When the Proconsul urged him to blaspheme against Christ, he said: "I have been serving Christ for 86 years, and He has wronged me in nothing; how can I blaspheme my King Who has saved me?" But the tyrant became enraged at these words and commanded that he be cast into the fire, and thus he gloriously expired about the year 163 A.D. As Eusebius the historian says, "Polycarp everywhere taught what he had also learned from the Holy Apostles, which also the Church has handed down; and this alone is True" (Eccl. Hist., Book Iv, ch. 14:15).
As Saint Polycarp waited for the fire to be lighted, he prayed:
"Lord God Almighty, Father of Your Blessed and Beloved Child Jesus Christ, through Whom we have received knowledge of You, God of Angels and Hosts and all creation, and of the whole race of the upright who live in Your presence: I bless You that You have thought me worthy of this day and hour, to be numbered among the martyrs and share in the cup of Christ, for resurrection and eternal life, for soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among them may I be accepted before You today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as You, the Faithful and True God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about. For this reason and for all things I praise You, I Bless You, I Glorify You, through the Eternal Heavenly High Priest Jesus Christ, Your Beloved Child, through Whom be glory to You, with Him and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen."
When he had said his Amen, the executioners lit the fire. The eyewitnesses write that the fire sprang up around him like a curtain, and that he stood in its midst glowing like gold and sending forth a delightful scent of incense. Seeing that the fire was not harming him, the executioner stabbed him with a sword. His blood flowed so copiously that it put out the fire, and he gave back his soul to God.
Hieromartyr Polycarpos is regarded as one of the three chief Apostolic Fathers. The year of his birth is reported as anywhere from A.D. 69 to 81, and his Martyrdom is recorded as being from A.D. 155 to 167.
There are two chief sources of information concerning the life of Saint Polycarpos. The first is known as the Martyrdom of Polycarp and the second source is Saint Irenaeus of Lyons' Adversu Haereses.
Saint Polycarpos was a correspondent of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, one of the other Apostolic Fathers. Saint Ignatius addressed a letter to him, and mentions him in the letters to the Ephesians and to the Magnesians. Saint Polycarpos visited Rome during the time of Pope Anicetus, and found their customs for observing Pascha (Easter) differed. They agreed to peaceably disagree on this matter.
Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, a disciple of Saint Polycarpos, relates how and when he became a Christian and in his letter to Florinus stated that he saw and heard him personally in lower Asia; in particular he heard the account of Polycarp's intercourse with Saint John the Evangelist and with other who had seen Jesus Christ. Saint Irenaeus also reports that Saint Polycarpos was converted to Christianity by the Holy Apostles, was consecrated a bishop, and communicated with many who had seen Jesus.
The sole surviving work attributed to Saint Polycarpos is his letter to the Philippians and an account of The Martyrdom of Polycarp; both of these works form part of the writings usually collected under the title The Apostolic Fathers. The latter is considered the earliest genuine account of a Christian Martyrdom, and one of the very few genuine such writings from the actual age of the persecutions. It is also one of the earliest accounts of the veneration of Holy Relics, as the Martyrdom records that after Saint Polycarp's immolation, the faithful piously gathered up his bones as precious treasures.
HIERARCHICAL ENTREATY TO GOD FOR THE UNCOVERING OF THE STOLEN PRECIOUS RELIC OF OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS, THE HIEROMARTYR POLYCARP BISHOP OF SMYRNA, THE PROTECTOR OF THE REGION OF NAFPAKTOS.
Written by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou.
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who sanctifies those who love You and rest within them, Who sets Your servants as vessels of Your Holy Name, precious members of Your Holy Body, temples of the Holy Spirit, who loved Your servant and healer Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, granting him the rank of the Archpriesthood and the holy work of martyrdom, Who led the Holy Relic of Your Saint to this Holy Monastery of the Panagia named Ampelakiotissa, for the sanctification of Your people, and has shown this to be a dwelling place of glory and a spring of unemptying wonders, we thank You today, for the Divine Liturgy which we have celebrated , and we glorify Your Holy and Greatly-Hymned Name.
You are the Giver of Good things and the Source of Life. You are He Who knows the depths of our hearts. You are he who enriches us with every spiritual wisdom. You are He who blesses us, through the intercessions of Your Saint, and placed within this Monastery an inexhaustible treasure, and made us inheritors of the holy Relics of this Apostolic Father. Therefore we hymn You, we bless you, we glorify you, our True God, Who works great, wondrous, glorious and magnificent deeds...
ABOUT THE DEVOUT WIDOW CALLISTA AND THE SAINT
There lived in Smyrna a devout widow by the name of Callista. She had taken deep into her heart the Christian teaching and tried to lead a life pleasing to God.
At the same time that Callista had become a Christian, a young boy of Smyrna, Polycarp, had been orphaned. Callista yearned to undertake some particular good deed for the sake of Christ. She thought of taking in someone who needed a home, and when she heard of this small boy, left without a mother or father, without a piece of bread, she took him to live with her as a son.
Polycarp had a happy childhood in the home of the widow Callista. Secret services in the homes of Christians or somewhere in caves on the city's outskirts, gatherings with Christians from other countries, who told stories about the Mother of God, about Christ, Whom they had seen walking in the flesh in the towns and countryside of Judea--all this was so fresh and joyous, and filled the soul with a tender happiness.
It happened when Polycarp was already somewhat older, that his benefactress had to go away for several months. She entrusted Polycarp with the care of the household until her return. And what did the pious youth do?
Polycarp began giving alms to the needy, to orphans and widows. He did not refuse anyone who asked him for bread; he gave them also wine and butter from the household stores. His generosity was such that the rich store of provisions finally became altogether depleted.
As the widow Callista was returning home, she was met by one of her servants, who told her that nothing was left, that Polycarp had given everything away. On reaching home, Callista went straight to the store rooms. They were full. Amazed, she called Polycarp.
Meanwhile, the blessed youth, anticipating the return of his benefactress, had reflected that it might be very difficult for her to come home and find all the provisions gone. With pure faith of his young years, he called out to God.
"Lord, Lord, help me! At the time of Thy Prophet Elijah, Thou didst fill the vessels of the widow of Sarepta. For the glory of the Name of Christ, fill these storerooms!"
And then, by the prayers of the youth, there was a miracle. All the food supplies in Callista's house were miraculously replenished, and in greater abundance than before.
When Callista saw that everything in the house was in order, she grew angry at the servant who had informed her that Polycarp had given everything away, and she wanted to punish the servant. But Polycarp related all that had happened. This miraculous occurrence prompted Callista to be even more charitable. And when she died, she made the young Polycarp her heir. Polycarp distributed this inheritance among the poor; he tried to help all those in need. Bishop Bucolus made him first a deacon, then a priest. Before he died, he received a wondrous revelation from God that Polycarp was to be his successor on the Episcopal throne.
For many decades, Saint Polycarp guided the Church of Christ in peace.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God