Confession of Faith, Eucharist and Martyrdom

With Special Reference to Early Church Fathers of the East

Burial of Early Christian Martyrs by Jules Eugene Lenepveu

The Church of the first millennium was born of the blood of the martyrs: “Sanguis Martyrum – Semen Christianorum” (Tertullian). We will never understand Christian spirituality—what it is, and what makes it unique—unless we grasp the significance of martyrdom. The early Christians died because they confessed Jesus Christ as Lord. The early martyrs paid an extreme price, by their very lives. But the value of their example is in their commitment to Christ’s lordship. The connection of confession of the Lordship of Christ to the Holy Eucharist and martyrdom is the key to understanding the Christian message.

Our Christian faith demands that we confess Jesus. To be a disciple of Jesus implies a life-long commitment. Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16: 24). It implies willingness even to die in order to follow Jesus. The life of the Apostles and the early Christians was in conformity to this gospel message, and the preached word was attested by their blood. Witness and martyrdom gradually became virtually synonymous, for Christian witness often led to death, which in turn allowed for greater witness.

We live in a period in which there are more Christians killed than in all other centuries combined.2 The merciless killings, genocide, banishment from their birthplace or cultural milieu, rape of women and children, all of these raise so many questions in the mind of the faithful. What is the meaning of these sufferings, especially of innocent children? What is the purpose of God in permitting this harsh time for the Church? How does it serve the spread of the Kingdom of God? Will the present persecution of Christians, and other minorities, serve the purpose of evangelization?

What do we mean by Confession of Faith?
The biblical concepts expressed by the words “confess” and “confession” have in common the idea of an acknowledgment of something. The Hebrew yada’a and Greek homologeo gives the sense—acknowledging or confessing of faith (in God, Christ, or a particular doctrine).3 Since God has revealed himself and his truth decisively in Jesus Christ, confessing Christ becomes the hallmark of genuine Christianity. Jesus taught that “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:32; Lk12:8; Rev 3:5). Confession of Christ, then, is not a private matter, but a public declaration of allegiance, and it requires a matching Christian lifestyle.

In the language of the New Testament, the word “confession” signifies the open acknowledgment of faith in Christ, and of the salvation through Him. The earliest and most basic of Christian confessions was the simple assertion that “Jesus is Lord.” “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10: 9-10). “Confessor” is an antonym of “martyr.” Confessor is the one who confesses the faith in Christianity in the face of persecution, but who is not martyred; while a martyr is one who willingly accepts being put to death for adhering openly to one’s religious beliefs. In the New Testament, the Church taught the necessity of confessing one’s faith by living it (1 Jn 2.14), and  particularly of confessing it in the face of opposition (1Jn 2.22-25). Peter and Stephen set the example by facing suffering and death to proclaim their belief (Acts 4.20; 7.56).4

There are many examples of confession of faith. Peter’s is a personal confession to Christ. Peter confesses that Jesus is the “Christ,” “the Son of Living God” (Mt 16:15-16). Peter’s confession of faith (Mt.16:13-20) follows Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and resurrection where Jesus tells his disciples to “deny oneself and follow the way of the cross” (Mt 16:24). Peter’s confession was made at a time when the Roman emperors were called “sons of god.” Confessing Christ resulted in social alienation (Jn 9:22). The fear of Pharisees prevented many authorities to confess him, so that they wouldn’t be put out of the Synagogue (Jn 12:42, 43). Peter’s declaration about Jesus (Mt 16:13-20), his expression of love to the Lord (Jn 21: 15-17), and Jesus’ subsequent call “Follow me” (Jn. 21:19) in the post-resurrection accounts, indicated his martyrdom with which he was going to glorify God (Jn 21:29). Some other examples of people who made confession are St. Thomas (Jn 20:29), Nathaniel (Jn 1:49), the Centurion (Mk 15:39), and St. Stephen (Acts 8:56).

Relation between Eucharist and Martyrdom
Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a memorial of his death in witness of the supreme truth which he heard from his Father (Jn 9: 40). Jesus died because “he loved those who were his own in the world” (Jn 13:1), and in witness of the plan of God to save humanity. Jesus did not celebrate Mass, but his “Mass” was his agony and death on the Cross. Celebrating Eucharist without sharing in his suffering and death is a farce. So the mystery of the Eucharist, and the mystery of martyrdom, are intimately related.

I. Witness in the Old Testament
The word “martyr” denotes someone who speaks about the events in which he took part, or about people and events known to him personally, and is a witness in trials.5 In several instances, Yahweh himself was called upon as witness (Gen 31:50; 1 Sam 12:5; Job 16:19; Wis 1:6; Mal 3:5). Yahweh summons Israel as witness for his claim as being the true God. Israel is bound to bear witness because she has experienced the saving plan of Yahweh throughout history. Here, the content of witness is a religious truth of the uniqueness and deity of God.6 Since the Israelites “bore witness to Yahweh,” they faced persecution. As we go through the pages of the Old Testament, we will come across many prophets who met persecution on account of being “Yahweh’s witness.”

Prophets in the Old Testament were mainly persecuted by (1) rejection of themselves and their message,7 and (2) physical violence8 to their persons.9 The persecuted prophets10 include: Elijah, who was threatened by the wicked queen, Jezebel, after his confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and ended up running for his life (1 Kings 19:1-4). Isaiah probably lived into the reign of Manasseh, but the time and manner of his death are not specified in either the Bible, or other primary sources. The Talmud (Yevamot 49b) says that he suffered martyrdom by being sawn in two by orders of the king, Manasseh.11 Jeremiah suffered at the hands of government officials (Jer 15:15; 17:18; 20:11; 37:15, 16; 38:4-6). He refers to himself as “a gentle lamb led to the slaughter” (Jer 11:19).12 Prophets in the Old Testament are called defenders of orthodox faith in the one Lord, Yahweh. Their thoughts catalyzed in the fixing of the gaze of Israel on Yahweh, the true God. From the above description, it is clear that the prophets stood for the message and word of Yahweh.

II. Witness in the New Testament
In the New Testament, the term martyr and marturia occur 206 times. In a general, legal, and theological sense, that involves (a) testimony in a court (Cf. Mk 14: 55, 56, 59; Lk. 22: 71), (b) historical attestation or testimony (Cf. Jn 19:35; 21:24), (c) judgment on moral or religious matters passed by an individual (Cf. Jn 1:19; 3:32-33; Tit 1:13), and (d) testimony related to Jesus. (Cf. Jn 1:7; 3:32, 33; 5:31; Acts 28:18; 1 Jn. 5:9-10; Rev 1:2, 9; 12:11, 17; 19:10; 24 etc.)

In the Johannine writings, marturia has the specific sense of evangelical witness to Christ, a witness which flows from a deep faith by Christians. The testimony of the Christians is a confession of who Jesus was, and what he signified for them (1 Jn 5:10). The witness of the beloved disciple in Jn. 19:35 states: “He who saw it, has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth—that you may believe.” The purpose of giving testimony is to invite people to believe. Strathmann rightly observes that the obvious point at issue here is not the historical attestation of remarkable events, but a witness to the saving efficacy of the death of Jesus. In the Johannine context, witness is not a mere reproduction of words and facts, but also an intercession of the one bearing testimony, with his/her whole person, on behalf of the truth about what he has seen and heard.13

As a result of giving testimony to the teachings of Jesus, the disciples became “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Mt 10:16), and were “dragged before governors and kings” for his sake, “to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.” Jesus himself was persecuted.14 After the death of Jesus, faithful followers of the Master were also persecuted15 because the apostles were teaching the people, and proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

After Stephen’s death, “a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). Acts 12:1 declares that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church with the intention of persecuting them. James, the brother of John, was killed with a sword, and Herod tried to restrain Peter, as well. Peter was arrested and put in prison. Only because of the miraculous deliverance by an angel of the Lord was Peter able to escape. All the twelve apostles confessed their faith in Jesus Christ, and became martyrs, except for John.

Paul encountered opposition wherever he travelled.16 He reminded the Christians that they should regard persecution as a necessary aspect of discipleship. “Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). Paul even suggested that his suffering somehow helped to complete the sufferings of Christ. He claimed that his entire life embodied a kind of martyrdom. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). He saw life in Christ as nothing but gain, even if it required death. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21).

Witness in the Book of Revelation
“Apocalypse is the revelation of hope from an exiled Church leader to a persecuted and oppressed people.”17 The subject matter of the revelation was a prophecy regarding “what was going to happen imminently to the Church, and to the world.” Here, the first witness is Jesus Christ himself, the second witness is John, and the third witness is the group of churches, which have to announce the message to the world.

Christians are called upon to endure the persecution and martyrdom from the part of Jews and Romans. They are encouraged to stand firm in faith till the end: “Even if you have to die, keep faithful, I will give you the crown of life for your prize” (Rev 2: 10). As Jesus suffered, died, and resurrected, the final victory was his (Rev 3:21), so also the suffering of the persecuted will end in victory. Here, the meaning is that victory of Christ is the victory of the Church.

Price of Witness
The souls of the faithful martyrs cry out to God for the judgment. “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true Master, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?’” (Rev 6:10). Here, the expression “how long” echoes centuries of oppression which the innocent people underwent. In Rev 7:14, it is said: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” So the meaning is that their shedding of blood is redemptive as the blood of the Lamb.

In Revelation, martyrdom does not always imply physical death but deprivation of life in many facets; denial of civil rights, the right to work, exclusion from the community, banishment, etc. The Bible calls it thlipsis (tribulation), harassment, and the experience of hostility. This is “dying daily” for their faith conviction.

The New Testament uses the technical term, hypomone, which means “perseverance in suffering.” This is also a definition of the virtue, fortitude, or man’s steadfastness, or love of honor. Hypomone refers to the steadfast endurance of Christians under trial and tribulation. This also would fit the description of a pious person (Lk 8:12-15). Mark 13 emphasizes endurance to the end: “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mk 13:13; Mt. 24:13; Lk 21:19). The pastoral letters saw hypomone having a special affinity to pistis (faith) and agape (love) (Cf. I Tim. 4:11; 2 Tim 3:10; Tit 2:2). In Revelation, hypomone is mentioned along with thlipsis, and basileia (Rev 2:3). To be in Jesus (en Iesou) is to experience hypomone (patient endurance) of thlipsis (tribulation) which ensures participation in the basileia (kingdom). Thus, they can be called “(martyrs) who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, and are clothed in the garment of victory” (Rev 7:13-14).

III. Martyrdoms in Syriac Martyrology
The scope of this paper compels us to limit our research on martyrdom to two Oriental Church Fathers, and an account by Eusebius of Caesarea entitled: “Letter of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne,” mentioned in the Syriac Martyrology.

Narrations on Martyrdoms
A. The Martyrdom of Polycarp18 (c. 69-c.156)

Polycarp19 was the Bishop of the church in Smyrna20 (around 160 AD), who was devoted to Roman worship. The account is in the form of a letter from eye-witnesses to other churches in the area. It is the earliest chronicle of martyrdom outside New Testament. Information concerning Polycarp’s life, though scanty in detail, is authentic. The acts of his martyrdom (Martyrium Polycarpi)21 are the earliest-preserved, fully reliable accounts of a Christian martyr’s death. One interesting feature of the letter is that the writer is very conscious of how Polycarp’s death followed the pattern of Christ’s. For he waited for his betrayal, just like the Lord did, so that we might follow him…” The author starts his narration like this:

The Betrayal
Those who were looking for him were coming near, so he left for another house. They immediately followed him, and when they could not find him, they seized two young men from his own household, and tortured them into confession. Polycarp was brought to the stadium to share the sufferings of Christ, while those who betrayed him would be punished like Judas.

The Arrest
The police and horsemen came with the young man at suppertime on Friday, with their usual weapons, as if they were approaching a robber. That evening, they found him lying down in the upper room of a cottage. He could have escaped, but he refused, saying: “God’s will be done.” When he heard that they had come, he went down and spoke with them. He asked for an hour to pray uninterrupted. They agreed, and he stood and prayed, so full of the grace of God, that he could not stop for two hours. The men were astounded, and many of them regretted coming to arrest such a godly and venerable old man.

As Polycarp was being taken into the arena, a voice came to him from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man!” When the crowd heard that Polycarp had been captured, there was a big uproar. The Proconsul tried to persuade him to apostatize, saying: “Have respect for your old age, swear by the fortune of Caesar. Repent, and say, ‘Down with the Atheists!’” Polycarp looked grimly at the wicked heathen multitude in the stadium, and gesturing towards them, he said, “Down with the Atheists!” “Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.” “86 years I have served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

Hearing the words of Polycarp, the crowd collected wood and bundles of sticks from the shops and public baths. When the pile was ready, Polycarp took off his outer clothes, undid his belt. When the soldiers went to fix him with nails, he said, “Leave me as I am, for he that gives me strength to endure the fire, will enable me not to struggle, without the help of your nails.”

Polycarp was made an acceptable burnt-offering to God22, he looked up to heaven, and said:

O Lord God Almighty, the Father of Your beloved and blessed Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of You, the God of angels and powers, and of all creation, and of the whole race of the righteous, who live in Your presence;

I bless You because You have granted me this day and hour, that I might receive a portion amongst the number of martyrs in the cup of Your Christ, unto resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among these in Your presence this day, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as You did prepare and reveal it beforehand, and have accomplished it, You that art the faithful and true God.

For this cause, yes, and for all things, I praise You, I bless You, I glorify You, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, through Whom, with Him, and the Holy Spirit, be glory, both now and ever, and for the ages to come. Amen.”

Then, the fire was lit, and the flame blazed furiously. Inside the fire, he looked not like flesh that is burnt, but like bread that is baked, or gold and silver, glowing in a furnace. And we smelled a sweet scent, like frankincense, or precious spices. Eventually, when those wicked men saw that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to pierce him with a dagger. The centurion took the body and publicly burnt it. Later, we collected up his bones, more precious than jewels, and more purified than gold, and put them in an appropriate place where, the Lord willing, we shall celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom each year with joy. 23

B. Martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch24
In the year 106, the emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians, ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods, and to put to death any Christians who refused to worship the idols. In the year 107, Trajan happened to pass through Antioch. Here, they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ, and taught people to scorn riches, to lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity. St Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor, so as to avert persecution of the Christians in Antioch. St. Ignatius rejected the persistent requests of  Emperor Trajan to sacrifice to the idols. The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts. St. Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him. His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses, who accompanied St. Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.

On the way to Rome, the ship sailed from Seleucia and stopped at Smyrna, where Ignatius exhorted everyone not to fear death, and not to grieve for him. In his Epistle to the Roman Christians, he asked them to assist him with their prayers.

For the purpose of this article, I shall not adduce all the historical evidences of the martyrdom of St. Ignatius, but only the “why” of his martyrdom. What was the situation of the 2nd century Syrian church in comparison to the 21st century Syrian Church?

Ignatius had some priorities: (1) to establish the powers of hierarchy in a nascent church, (2) to fight against Docetism, which was a heresy at this time, and (3) to deepen the theology of the Holy Eucharist to ensure the faithfulness to the sacraments. According to Ignatius, the Episcopal authority was the guarantee of unity and orthodoxy.

Docetism is attacked in the Letters to Ephesians, Trallians, and Smyrneans. In the Letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius warns of the people who can mislead Christians with their teachings, and they needed to assert the fundamental truth about incarnation of Christ:

I am offering my life on your behalf… remember me as Jesus Christ remembers you. Pray for the church in Syria, from which they are bringing me in chains to Rome. I was the last and least of the faithful there, and yet I have been deemed worthy to set forward the honor of God (Letter to Ephesians 21).

In the Letter to Trallians, the Bishop Martyr writes:

Guard yourselves carefully against men of that sort. You will be safe enough so long as you do not let pride go to your head, and break away from Jesus Christ, and your Bishop, and the Apostolic Institutions…25

Again, he expresses his resolve to be truly a Eucharistic Bread for the Lord:

I must implore you to do me no such untimely kindness; pray, leave to me to be a meal for the beasts for it is they who can provide my way to God. I am his wheat, ground fine by the lion’s teeth, to be made purest bread for Christ. Better still, incite the creatures to become a sepulchre for me; let them not leave the smallest scrap of my flesh, so that I need not be a burden to anyone after I fall asleep. When there is no trace of my body left for the world to see, then I shall truly be Jesus Christ’s disciple. So intercede with Him for me, that by their instrumentality, I may be made a sacrifice to God.26

The suffering of martyrdom for Ignatius is to imitate the passion of the Lord:

“Leave me to imitate the passion of my God. If any of you has God within himself, let that man understand my longings, and feel for me, because he will know the forces by which I am constrained.”27

Here and now, I write in fullness of my life, I am yearning for death with all the passion of a lover. Earthly longings have been crucified; there is left no spark of mundane things, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me: “Come to the Father.” There is no pleasure for me in any meats that perish, or in the delights of this life; I am fain for the bread of God, even the flesh for Jesus Christ, who is the seed of David; and for my drink, I crave that blood of his which is love imperishable.28

The Roman Christians met Saint Ignatius with great joy, and profound sorrow. Some of them hoped to prevent his execution, but St. Ignatius implored them not to do this. Kneeling down, he prayed together with the believers for the Church, for an end to the persecution against Christians. On December 20, the day of a pagan festival, they led St. Ignatius into the arena, and he turned to the people: “Men of Rome, you know that I am sentenced to death, not because of any crime, but because of my love for God… I offer myself to Him as a pure loaf, made of fine wheat, ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts.”

After this, the lions were released, and tore him to pieces, leaving only his heart, and a few bones. Tradition says that on his way to execution, St. Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of Jesus Christ, the Name was written in his heart. When the saint was devoured by the lions, his heart was not touched. When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw an inscription in gold letters: “Jesus Christ.” After his execution, St. Ignatius appeared to many of the faithful in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him at prayer for the city of Rome. Hearing of the saint’s great courage, Trajan thought well of him, and stopped the persecution against the Christians. The relics of St. Ignatius were transferred to Antioch (January 29), and on February 1, 637, they were returned to Rome, and placed in the church of San Clemente.

What are the values to which St. Ignatius attached highest importance?

(a) No Church Father has expressed the longing for union with Christ and for life in him with the intensity of Ignatius. In fact, two spiritual “currents” converge in Ignatius, that of Paul straining with all his might for union with Christ, and that of John, concentrated on life in Christ. In turn, these two currents translate into the imitation of Christ, whom Ignatius several times proclaimed as “my” or “our God.” Ignatius thus implores the Christians of Rome:

It is better for me to die on behalf of Jesus Christ than to reign over all the ends of the earth, … do not prevent his martyrdom since he is impatient “to attain to Jesus Christ.” And he explains: “Him I seek, who died for us: him I desire, who rose again for our sake…. Permit me to be an imitator of the Passion of my God! (Rom 5-6).

(b) Secondly Ignatius wants to assert, through his letters and death, the true humanity of Christ, the pronounced Christological “realism” typical of the Church of Antioch, more focused than ever on the Incarnation of the Son of God: “Jesus Christ,” St Ignatius wrote to the Smyrneans, “was truly of the seed of David,” … “he was truly born of a virgin,”… “and was truly nailed [to the Cross] for us” (1:1).

(c) Thirdly he stood for Unity of the Church:

Ignatius’ irresistible longing for union with Christ was the foundation of a real “mysticism of unity.” He described himself: “I, therefore, did what befitted me as a man devoted to unity” (Letter to Philadelphians, 8: 1).

For Ignatius, unity was, first and foremost, a prerogative of God, who, since he exists as Three Persons, is One in absolute unity. Ignatius often used to repeat that God is unity, and that in God alone is unity found in its pure and original state. Unity to be brought about on this earth by Christians is no more than an imitation as close as possible to the divine archetype.

St. Ignatius stood for unity of the hierarchy, clergy and faithful. For example, he wrote:

“It is fitting that you should concur with the will of your Bishop, which you also do. For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted exactly to the Bishop as strings are to a harp. Therefore, in your concord and harmonious love, Jesus Christ is sung. And man by man, you become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, you may, with one voice, sing to the Father…”

St. Ignatius confides to Polycarp:

I offer my life for those who are submissive to the Bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may I, along with them, obtain my portion in God! Labor together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards and associates and servants of God. Please him under whom you fight, and from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your Baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete panoply.29

We feel the dialectic between the two characteristic aspects of Christian life: on the one hand, the hierarchical structure of the Ecclesial Community, and on the other, the fundamental unity that binds all the faithful in Christ. The communion among believers, and of believers with their pastors, was constantly reformulated in eloquent images and analogies: the harp, strings, intonation, the concert, and the symphony.

(d) Ignatius stood for the Catholicity of the Church. He was the first person in Christian literature to attribute to the Church the adjective “Catholic” or “Universal”— “Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” And precisely in the service of unity to the Catholic Church, the Christian community of Rome exercised a sort of primacy of love:

The Church, which presides in the place of the region of the Romans, and which is worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of the highest happiness… and which presides over love, is named from Christ, and from the Father…

As can be seen, Ignatius is truly the “Doctor of Unity”— unity of God, and unity of Christ, unity of the Church, unity of the faithful in “faith and love, to which nothing is to be preferred.”

C. The Letter of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne30
In 177 A.D., there existed a Christian community in Southern France in the two towns of Lyons and Vienne. The Christians there were Greeks who migrated from Asia. After the persecution and the martyrdom, the surviving community of Lyons sent a letter31 to the churches of Asia and Phrygia, and this letter was preserved by Eusebius of Caesarea in his work, “Ecclesiastical History.” The document is not only a story of heroism, but gives us an idea of how the Christian community understood martyrdom. Most of the martyrs mentioned by Eusebius were Greeks of Asiatic origin.32 The Christians were subjected to social restrictions, banned from public places, and market places. They were hounded and attacked openly, assaulted, beaten up, and stoned. Eusebius mentions Ponthinus and Ireneus who were bishops of Lyons. During the public trial of Christians, Vetlius Epiagathus claimed that the judgments pronounced were unjust. Some martyrs even refused to give names to the torturers. Metal plates were applied to Sanctus, the deacon, which were heated up in fire until they were red hot. Sanctus’ body became swollen, and enflamed, and for every question addressed to him, he answered: “I am a Christian.” (HE 5.1). People kicked and slapped bishop Ponthinus. Maturus, Sanctus, Blandina, and Attalus were thrown to beasts (HE 5.1, 37). Blandina was hung on a stake as food for the beasts (HE 5.1, 41). Attalus was dragged into the amphitheatre and placed on a red-hot chair. All the bodies of martyrs were exposed for six days, then they were burnt, and their ashes were thrown into the Rhone River (HE 5.1, 6

IV. The Eucharist and Martyrdom
(a) There is a close relationship between martyrdom and the Eucharist. The pre-Nicene Fathers assigned great importance to martyrdom, because of the factual situation of their lives, and also because they conceived of Christian life as following and imitation of Christ. The imitation of Christ leads to imitation of Christ in his death. Ignatius of Antioch explicitly mentions that he will truly be a disciple of Christ only when he imitates him by martyrdom: He wants to imitate the passion of his God (Letter to Romans, 2-7).

(b) Since martyrdom is an imitation of the passion of Christ, and since the Eucharist, too, is an imitation of the passion, it follows that there should be a special connection between the Eucharist and martyrdom. Both belong to the same order of things. As bread and wine are like participations in the martyrdom of Christ, we understand the mention in narration of Polycarp’s martyrdom “like a loaf baking in the oven.”33 The text of the prayer follows the text and content of the very ancient anaphoras (paleo-anaphoras) in the Church. Polycarp is said to have died on “the Greater Sabbath”; John mentions that it was “a Great Sabbath day” on which Jesus died. The description is more typological than chronological, signifying that it was Christ who died in Polycarp. That is why Polycarp was called a “martyr.”34

(c) Later on, martyrdom was thought to have a special sacramental quality of its own, like that of the Eucharist. Tertullian is believed to be the author of the Passion of Perpetua and Felicita. He stated that Christ is the martyr: “Now it is I who suffer what I suffer” Perpetua says, “but then there will be another in me who will suffer in my place, because I will be undergoing martyrdom for Him.”35

A similar thing is said having to do with an account of the martyrdom of Polycarp: “I bless thee [God] for granting me this day and hour, that I may be numbered among the martyrs, to share the cup of thine Anointed, and to rise again unto life everlasting, both in body and soul, in the immortality of the Holy Spirit.”36 As Polycarp was struck with a blow from a dagger, it is said that there was “such a copious flow of blood, that the flames were extinguished.”37

(d) According to Cyprian, the Cup of the Lord prepares men and women for, and makes them worthy of, the cup of martyrdom, because the Lord’s cup gives the strength to struggle, and to confess the name of Christ.38 The profound logic of worship requires that he who performs the sacrifice, identifies himself completely with this sacrifice; therefore, the one who performs the Eucharistic action must identify himself with the martyrdom of Christ to the point of becoming himself a martyr: “Rightly did he (Abel) who took such part in the sacrifice of God, becomes afterward himself a sacrifice to God, so that he being the first to exhibit martyrdom, imitated the Lord’s passion by his glorious blood.39

We can say that both martyrdom and Eucharist are imitations of the passion of Christ. Furthermore, for Cyprian, Christian life as a whole is meant to be martyrdom.40 We have observed that there is profound harmony between martyrdom and worship, between spirituality and liturgy, between Eucharistic and ethical commitment to the Christian life.

e) Theological Similarities of Martyrdom with Eucharistic Anaphoras41 In the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, scholars are virtually unanimous in understanding the prayer of Polycarp as an adaptation to martyrdom of a Eucharistic anaphora.42 In the Birkat ha-mazon, in the Didache, in The Martyrdom of Polycarp, and in the anaphora of the Apostolic Tradition, this second part is always a thanksgiving for the present moment. The prayer of Polycarp can be used to understand more precisely what is being expressed at this moment in the anaphora. Polycarp prays: “I bless you for having made me worthy of this day and this hour, of taking part in the number of your martyrs, and of the cup of your Christ, for resurrection into eternal life, both of soul and of the body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit.”43

The parallel between this and the anaphora can confirm my suggestion that there is some sense here that the community is now offering what the Lord himself first offered. The Lord offered himself; the community now gives thanks that it can offer itself, together with the Lord. Martyrdom is the acting out in the very flesh of what the Eucharist accomplishes ritually, but in both cases, the offering is in pattern of what Christ accomplished. Christ’s death, martyrdom, the Eucharist are all three “taking part in the cup of Christ for the resurrection into eternal life.” All three can be called priestly services. All three give thanks to the Father for this. In terms of Trinitarian theology, we may say that the community by its anamnesis and offering stands in the same relation to the Father in which Christ stood in his Passion, a relationship in which the martyr also stands.44

V. Martyrdom in West Syriac Liturgy

The liturgy and spirituality of West Syriac Churches (Syro-Antiochian Churches), keeps the memory of the martyrs very vibrant. The commemoration of martyrs, and beseeching their intercession, is very common in the liturgy. The prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors occupy a venerable position in its liturgical tradition. Our liturgy recalls Christ as “the head of Martyrs” (rîšo dsohde). The martyrs are called Sohde Brîke (Blessed Martyrs) Sohde daskallaw (the crowned martyrs).45 From the very beginning of Christianity, martyrs became the object of veneration, and a cult of martyrs developed in the Church. There is a special place in churches of Syriac Tradition, and of Marthoma Syrian Christians, set aside to preserve the relics of martyrs. This is called Bet Sohde (house of martyrs).

(a) In the Divine Eucharistic Liturgy, martyrs are remembered during the tûyōbo46 (the preparatory service) and in the fourth diptych (intercessory prayers). The canonical prayers47 of each day are replete with the memory of martyrs. In the liturgical week, Friday finds itself specially consecrated to the commemoration of the passion and death of Jesus on the cross, and to the martyrs who were associated with his passion and death.

In the daily cycle, both the qōlo of evening (ramšo) prayers, and the morning (safro) prayers have stanzas about martyrs. We recall the intercession of martyrs before the final blessings given on solemn days. The martyrs, whose names were recalled in the prayers, are John the Baptist, the preacher of truth, Saint Stephen, the noble Theodore, Saint George, Saints Sergius and Bacchus, Saints Kuriakose, Morth Julitta, Morth Shmouni and her seven children, Saint Behnam, his sister, Sarah, and the forty holy martyrs, and Saint Thomas.48 The Marthoma Syrian Christians are very particular in celebrating the Dukrōno (memory) of Saint Thomas, the Apostle of India.

(b) In the liturgical texts, we can see a series of names given to the martyrs, namely: “Servants of the most High God,” “Towers of truth,” “Planters of true faith,” “Athletes of Faith,” “Builders of Holy Church,” “Uprooters of error,” “Earthly stars,” “Spiritual salt,”49 “Sons of the Church of the First-born,” “Beloved of the Father,” “Friends of the Son,” and “Familiars of the Holy Spirit.”50 The martyrs have been selected to be watchers at every hour of the day over the whole world.51

c) What inspired the martyrs?

The martyrs were motivated by a vision of the Son, who extended his hands on the cross, from whose side blood and water gushed forth for the absolution of the world. During Monday morning prayer, we recite: “The martyrs saw Christ hanging on the wood, and his side pierced with a lance, and blood and water flowing from it; and they hastened to encourage one another: ‘Come let us die for our Lord who died for us.’”52 (Qōlo d’firmo- d’qādîše). The martyrs were filled with the “new wine” (hamro hadto) which flowed from the cross. This can be understood in the context that Jesus is symbolized as a “life-giving cluster of grapes.” The Syriac word used is tûtîto. Saint Ephrem uses this as a symbolic title of Christ. He is the one who unmistakeably makes the grapes brought back from Canaan, a type of Christ on Cross. “And they came to the Valley of Eschol, and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them…” (Num. 13: 23). This particular symbol is included in one of the alternate Sedre, recited especially in the Qurbōno offered from the resurrection days to the Pentecost.53

The Jews pressed Jesus the “life giving Cluster of grapes” and “life-giving Cluster,” which when pressed, provides the taste of the life which is to be inherited forever. We recite:

On the summit of the cross, the Jews made a wine-press, and pressed in it the grapes of blessing; they pressed it, but they did not taste it; the holy Church received it, and every day she takes her pleasure in it, halleluiah, and her children drink of it, and take their pleasure in it forever54 (Friday Morning, Qōlo d’firmo- daslîbo).

As their Savior, “the cluster of grapes” was pressed on Golgotha, and the martyrs too became clusters, and they, too, were pressed by the persecutors. “The martyrs were spiritual clusters, whom their judges pressed like grapes, and their blood flowed on the earth, and they were sacrifices to God, who crowned them, halleluiah, and magnified them.”

VI. Christian Martyrdom in the Modern Times
According to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the official martyrology contains the names of 132 Catholics who have died for the faith since 2001. Its 2005 report acknowledges that there are “many more possible ‘unknown soldiers of the faith’ in remote corners of the planet. 45.5 million of the estimated 70 million Christians died for Christ in the last century. This prompted Pope John Paul II to urge the faithful to do everything possible to recover the names and stories of the martyrs.55 Some of the familiar names in the modern age include: St. Thomas More (1478-1535), the Syrian Catholic Archbishop Mor Flabianos Mikhael Melki (1858—August 28, 1915); as well as St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Edith Stein, and Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who were all killed in Nazi concentration camps; Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, who was assassinated while celebrating Mass; and in recent times, the 21 Egyptian Copts (Orthodox) beheaded by ISIS at Sirte, Libya (2015). We see in these martyrs the matching of confession of faith and martyrdom.56

In India, two centuries ago, Tippu Sultan, a Muslim ruler, imprisoned Mangalorean Catholics and other Christians at Srirangapatanam (in today’s Mysore). Their captivity lasted for 15 years (1784–1799). The number of captives held is believed to be around 60,000.

In the recent past, there were gang rapes of Christian women, the murder of two nuns: that of Sr. Rani Maria and Sr. Valsa John, and of priests like Fr. Thomas Pandippally; sexual assaults of nuns, ransacking of churches and convents, etc. Protestant churches have also paid a high price in India. In 1999, a Hindu fanatic group set fire to a Jeep in which Graham Staines57 and his two children were sleeping during the night. For the last two years, the situation has worsened: there were 200 episodes of anti-Christian violence perpetrated by Hindu extremist groups.

“Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith; it means bearing witness even unto death” (CCC 2473). Martyrdom is foundational to our understanding of Christian spirituality. Martyrdom is not a choice, but a calling, and a gift. As we have seen the early martyrs—Polycarp, Ignatius, and many others, who did not, in fact, choose martyrdom, at least not directly. They chose to be faithful to Christ; martyrdom just happened to be the result. In the accounts of their martyrdoms, we have seen frequent references directly to the Eucharist, or allusions to the Eucharist. It is the love of Christ in the Eucharist which compels us to preach Christ to the gentiles as Paul did: “…(he) welcomed all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered” (Acts 28: 30-31).

Now we come to certain conclusions which we deem are biblically informed, and missiologically sound. A biblical theology of persecution creates the framework within which we can develop a proper missiology.58

1. Biblical perspectives teach us that persecution is anticipated and necessary in God’s plan—Jesus foretold the necessity of His own persecution and death in fulfilling the mission that God the Father ordained for Him, (Mk 8:31, Lk. 24:26). Christ was destined to encounter and endure violent persecution and, ultimately, death in order to inaugurate God’s plan for the salvation of the world. The Bible repeatedly reveals that Christ’s disciples will also encounter the same hostile responses from the world that Jesus experienced, simply because they bear witness to Him (Mt 10:22; Mk 13:9-13; Lk1:49, 21:12-19; 1 Pet 4:14; Rev 1:9). The sufferings of Christ naturally overflow into the lives of those who bear His name (2 Cor 1:5).

2. Persecution is a necessary corollary of our identification with Christ, as we have seen in the account of martyrdoms of Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch.

3. Persecution is a necessary force in the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. The Acts of the Apostles report the growth of the Church in many distant places, because of the scattering of the early Christians in consequence of persecution in Jerusalem (Acts 12: 1-3). Jesus understood that the expansion of the Church, and God’s Kingdom upon the earth, would only be achieved in the context of a cosmic battle against the kingdom of darkness, and ultimately the Church will prevail (Mt 16:18). Persecution serves to test and strengthen one’s faith (Rom 5:3-4; Jas. 1:3, 1 Pet.1:6-7, 4:12).

4. Both saving faith, and suffering for that faith, are essential aspects of God’s plan for establishing the Church. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ, you should not only believe in Him, but also suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29). Thus, Paul invites his young disciple, Timothy, to join him in preaching the gospel, and in suffering for the gospel of Christ, (2 Tim 1:8).

5. Persecution is evil and temporal—Persecution, at its core, is essentially a form of spiritual warfare that is completely evil in its origin and power. The Apostle Paul describes spiritual warfare (Eph 6:12), noting that the ultimate source of persecution of God’s people is Satan: Satan sought to destroy the faith and ministry of Simon Peter (Lk 22:31), and entered into Judas, causing him to betray Jesus (Lk 22:3; Jn. 13:2, 27). Satan filled the heart of Ananias, and caused him to lie to the Holy Spirit about a gift to the church (Acts 5:3). He is the source of temptation, and of apostasy for the Christian believer (1 Cor 7:5; 1 Tim 5:15), and hinders the work and mission of God. But Satan will be forever vanquished, and God’s Kingdom will eternally destroy the forces of evil and darkness.

6. The present suffering of believers (which is referred to as “light and momentary”) is placed in contrast to the future of Christians, which is described as being filled with “eternal glory,” (Rom 8:18; 2 Cor 4:17-18; Col 3:1-4). Christians are urged to keep this eternal perspective in mind in order to help them endure persecutions.

7. In India the Christians are loved for their good services, but hated for the vestiges of the colonial past. Especially in northern India where many people do not know about two thousand-year-old Christian churches, who share the Indian culture and values. There should be more efforts to project that Christianity is not Western, but Asian in its origin and ethos.

8. Missionaries have to go in search of the lost and the least. When people recognize the value of service we do, they shall slowly come to know Christ. The priorities of the Church should change from serving the rich and the elite, to serving the poor, as St. Mother Teresa did. Through her humble and self-less services, people all over the world understood the message of the Gospel.

9. Missionaries should not run away because they fear persecution. There are theologians in India, who say that we should not preach Christ as the One and Only Savior of the world. There are also missionaries who stop short of giving Baptism, and other sacraments, to the catechumens, but maintain a group of “Christubhaktas” (Devotees of Christ). Both of these tendencies are not in-line with the “Mission Mandate” of Christ (Mt 28:19-20). Catholic theologians, as well as missionaries, should have the Christian courage to teach and preach in a hostile society and political situation. Persecution (rightly endured) reveals Jesus to the world (2 Cor 4:8-11).

An admonition of St. Paul to his beloved disciple Timothy is worth noting: “Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord” (2 Tim 1:8), “preach the word, be urgent, in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience, and in teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).

  1. Paper presented at Theological Colloquium held at St. Mary’s Malankara Seminary, Trivandrum (Jan. 13, 2017).
  2. At the end of the second millennium, the Church has once again become a Church of martyrs. The persecutions of believers – priests, Religious and laity—has caused a great sowing of martyrdom in different parts of the world. The witness to Christ borne even to the shedding of blood has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants. In our own century the martyrs have returned, many of them nameless, “unknown soldiers” as it were of God’s great cause. As far as possible, their witness should not be lost to the Church. Perhaps the most convincing form of ecumenism is the ecumenism of the saints and of the martyrs. The communio sanctorum speaks louder than the things which divide us (Pope Paul VI, Homily for the Canonization of the Ugandan Martyrs, as cited in John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, No. 37, 1994).
  4. E. Day, “Confessor,” in New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 4 (Washington D.C.: Thomson-Gale, 2003), 82.
  5. Cf. Strathmann, “Martyrs,’ TDNT, Vol. IV (Stuttgart: 1993) 475.
  6. Cf. C. Westermann, Isaiah 40-66, 123.
  7. They were persecuted through ridicule (2 Kings 2:23, Jer. 20:7); by being told to be quiet (Amos 2:12, 7:13); by unpleasant looks (Jer. 1:8,17; 5:3); by being debarred from attending God’s house (Jer. 36:5).
  8. Physical violence includes: they were placed in the stocks (Jer. 20:2); they were kept in chains (Jer. 40:1); they were slapped in the face (1 Kings 22:24); they were imprisoned in cells, dungeons and cisterns (Jer. 37:15-16 & 38:6).
  10. Hanani, the seer, was reproved King Asa for relying on the king of Aram, instead of on the Lord, saying that from that time onward he would be at war. The king was so enraged that he put Hanani into prison (2 Chron. 16:7-9).
  11. Cf.
  12. Amos was insulted by the chief priest at the sanctuary in Bethel, and told never to prophesy there again (Amos 7:10-15). Zechariah—the son of Jehoiada the priest—was stoned to death for rebuking the people who turned aside to Asherah poles and idols, and for forsaking the Temple. Some of the better known accounts of persecution involving the Lord’s faithful include the three Hebrews who were thrown into the fiery furnace, and Daniel being cast into the lions’ den (Dan. 3:13-20). In the book of Esther, the Persian King Ahasu­erus persecuted the Jews (Esther 3:1-12; 5:14).
  13. Cf. Antonysamy Peter Abir, Strength of the Weak (Bengaluru: Asian Trading Corporation, 2016) 72.
  14. The chief priests and Pharisees gathered the Sanhedrin together and took counsel how to put him to death (Jn. 11:47-53). “They spat in his face, and struck him; and some slapped him” (Mt. 26:67). Later, he was flogged and handed over to be crucified (Mt. 27:26). He was mocked (verse 29) and struck on the head again and again (verse 30).
  15. Peter and John were seized and were put in jail (Acts 4:1-3). Stephen was seized and brought before the Sanhedrin. False witnesses testified against him (Acts 6:13) and was stoned to death (Acts 7: 59, 60).
  16. His life was one long experience of suffering, beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks, betrayals, sleeplessness and deprivations of every kind, all for the sake of the gospel.
  17. Swete, Apocalypse, No. 12.
  18. Translated by J. B. Lightfoot,
  19. Bishop of Smyrna, 2nd century martyr (Born 69 AD, Smyrna, Turkey).
    Polycarp, a disciple of Saint John, probably the Apostle, was visited by Ignatius of Antioch in the course of Ignatius’ journey to Rome for martyrdom (c. 116); and Ignatius wrote a letter to Polycarp from Troas, as well as a letter to the community at Smyrna. Polycarp was an old man, at least 86, and probably the last surviving person to have known an apostle, having been a disciple of St. John. This was one reason he was greatly revered as a teacher and church leader.
  20. A city in Asia Minor (modern Izmir in Turkey).
  21. The martyrium was composed in the form of a letter, written at the request of the Church at Philomelium, to provide an account of Polycarp’s heroic martyrdom.
  22. Three days before he was arrested, while he was praying, he had a vision of the pillow under his head in flames. He said prophetically to those who were with him, “I will be burnt alive.”
  23. Thus, Polycarp became the twelfth martyr in Smyrna, his memory is even remembered among the heathen. The death of this illustrious teacher and pre-eminent martyr was consistent with the Gospel of Christ.
  24. Saint Ignatius (also known as Theophorus, “God-Bearer”) was probably born in Syria in about the year 50 A.D. and became a Christian fairly late in life. There is some evidence that he was a disciple of Saint John the Apostle. Ignatius was one of the earliest bishops for the Church in Antioch, probably the third. Saint Ignatius was the first writer, outside the New Testament, to refer to the virgin birth, and use the term “Catholic Church.” Primarily known through the seven letters he wrote to the Christian communities in the course of his journey, from his capture for his faith in Antioch, to his death in Rome.
  25. Letter to Trallians, 7, “It is asserted by some who deny God—in other words, who have no faith—that His sufferings were not genuine (in fact, it is they themselves in whom there is nothing genuine). If this is so, then why I am I now a prisoner? Why am I praying for a combat with lions? For in that case, I am giving away my life for nothing; and all the things I have ever said about the Lord are untruths. …It is by the Cross, that through his passion he calls you, who are parts of his own body, to himself. A Head cannot come into being alone, without any limbs; for the promise that we have from God is the promise of unity, which is the essence of himself” (Letter to Trallians, 11).
  26. Letter to Romans, 4. St. Ignatius writes to the Romans, in which he fears the intervention of the Roman community to prevent him from martyrdom: “This favour only I beg of you: suffer me to be a libation poured out to God (Cf. Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6) while there is still an altar ready for me. Then you must form a loving choir around it, and sing hymns of praise in Jesus Christ for Syria’s Bishop, summoned from the realms of the morning, to have reached the land of the setting sun. How good it is to be sinking down below the world’s horizon towards God, to rise again later into the dawn of His presence!” (Letter to Romans, 2).
  27. Letter to Romans, 6.
  28. Letter to Romans, 7.
  29. The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp, 6.
  30. Robert Donaldson translation,
  31. The letter begins like this; “The Servants of Christ residing at Vienne and Lyons, in Gaul, to the brethren throughout Asia and Phrygia, who hold the same faith and hope of redemption, peace and grace and glory from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  32. Cf. Bruno, Chenu, et al., The Book of Christian Martyrs (London: SCM Press, 1990) 44.
  33. Martyrdom of Polycarp, 15.2.
  34. Cf. R.Cacitti, Grande Sabato. Il Contesto pasquale quartodecimano nella formazione della teologia del martirio (Studia Patristica Mediolanensia 19; Milan: Vita e Pensiero, 1994).
  35. Passion of Perpetua and Felicita, 15, 6.
  36. Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14, 2.
  37. Martyrdom of Polycarp, 16, 1.
  38. Cyprian, Letter 57, 2.
  39. De Dominica Oratione, 24.
  40. Cf. S. Delani, Christum sequi. Etude d’un theme dans l’ouevre de Saint Cyprien (Paris: Etudes Augustiniennes, 1979) 89.
  41. The Institution Narrative has a crucial and essential role in the Eucharistic prayer. It’s a little amazing the narrative was almost certainly absent from the Eucharistic prayers used in the first three centuries of the life of the Church. Maxwell Johnson (professor of liturgical studies at Notre Dame) tries to identify one possible reason for the inclusion of the institution narrative in the Eucharistic prayer. He suggests that what brought this development about might well have been the end of the period of severe persecutions of the early Church – the end of the age of martyrdom. During the early centuries, Johnson explains, the Church’s Eucharistic prayers focused a great deal on the nourishment, life, and even immortality that the Eucharist provides to Christians. When martyrdom was common, Christians did not need to be reminded that their faith meant sacrifice. But by the mid-third century, as the persecutions stopped and Christianity became widely accepted in society, to be a Christian was not so dangerous or demanding. Johnson suggests that this factor may have played an important role in adding the institution narrative to the Eucharistic Prayer. He writes: “the adding the narrative of institution to the Eucharistic prayer may well be directly related also to the cessation of martyrdom.” (Maxwell Johnson, “Martyrs and the Mass: The Interpolation of the Narrative of Institution into the Anaphora,” Worship 87, 1 (2013): 2-22.) Johnson’s comment regarding the addition of ‘Institution Narrative’ cannot be accepted. Saint Paul in 1 Cor. 11: 23-26, very clearly emphasizes that through the Eucharistic meal the Christians are supposed to commemorate Christ’s death till his second coming (I Cor. 11:26). Cessation of martyrdom cannot be taken as a reason for adding the Institution Narrative.
  42. See P. Camelot, “Introduction,” in Ignace d’Antioche et Polycarpe de Smyrne, Lettres; Martyre de Polycarpe (SCh 10), Paris 1969, 207. For the most recent discussion, see G. Buschmann, Das Martyrium des Polycarp, Göttingen, 1998, 226-257.
  43. Martyrdom, XVI, 2; cited by Mazza, Origins, 154. Greek in SCh 10, 229.
  44. It is not difficult to recall here Ignatius of Antioch’s understanding of his own martyrdom in similar terms. Letter to the Romans, IV, 1: “i(/na kaqaro\j a)/rtoj eu)reqw= tou= Xristou=… i(/na dia\ tw=n o)rga/nwn tou /twn Qew= qusi/a eu)reqw=.” SCh.10, 98.
  45. J. Payne Smith, Compendious Syriac Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979) 216.
  46. Cf. The Order of the Holy Qurbono of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church (Trivandrum: Major Archiepiscopal Curia, 2015) 14.
  47. The Canonical prayer book mentioned here is Awsâr Slâwoto (the treasury of prayers) – The Book of Common Prayer used in Syro-Antiochian Churches.
  48. Awsâr Slâwoto, The Book of Common Prayer (Kottayam: SEERI Publications, 2006) 241.
  49. Awsâr Slâwoto, The Book of Common Prayer, 381, 383.
  50. Awsâr Slâwoto, The Book of Common Prayer, 507.
  51. Awsâr Slâwoto, The Book of Common Prayer, 741.
  52. Awsâr Slâwoto, The Book of Common Prayer, 281.
  53. Cf. The Order of the Holy Qurbono of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, 315.
  54. Awsâr Slâwoto, The Book of Common Prayer, 805.
  55. John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, No. 37, (1994).
  56. Communism caused the death of millions of Christians in the last century. In China, estimates run as high as 50 million total lives lost, while the Soviet Union claimed another 25 million. The world’s 2.1 billion Christians are a religious minority in eighty-seven countries. According to the report of Aid for Church in Need Asia and the Middle East are the most dangerous places in the world for Christians. The situation of Christians in countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Libya, and Egypt is very alarming. Massive numbers of Christians in the Middle East are being subjected to horrific violence, displacement, sexual slavery, and even death, explicitly because of their faith. It is reported by Catholic News Agency that around 90000 Christians were killed in 2016!
  57. A fifty-eight-year-old Australian-born Christian missionary who was sleeping in his car with his two sons when a large group of extremists doused the car with gasoline and set it on fire. Staines, his ten-year-old son Philip, and seven-year-old son Timothy were found curled up on a back seat, their bodies burned beyond recognition.
  58. Cf. Nik Ripken& Kurt Nelson, “Biblical Lessons from the persecuted churches” (Paper presented during MIS 9451 doctoral studies class at Columbia International University, Columbia, SC, January 2006.)
Bishop Abraham Mar Julios About Bishop Abraham Mar Julios

Bishop Abraham Mar Julios is the Bishop of Muvattupuzha, India. He studied Theology at Urbaniana University Rome and completed his Licentiate at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He also completed a Diploma Course in Biblical & Oriental Sciences in Jerusalem, and has a Doctorate in Biblical Theology from the Urbaniana University. He was also the Rector of St. Mary’s Malankara Major Seminary, Trivandrum, India, and taught biblical theology; he was ordained Bishop of the Syro-Malankara Diocese of Muvattupuzha in India, on February 9, 2008. Since then, he is actively involved in the Reunion of separated Christians and Evangelization among Non-Christians in Tamil Nadu in India.