Christ is Risen!

Fr Paul has asked me to speak a little after the Great Vespers services on Saturday night, and one of my favorite topics is to speak of the lives of the Saints. So many Saturday nights I most likely will do that, some of the lives will be well known to us, and others less so.

This evening we remember a Saint that many of us have never heard of – the Holy Martyr Asclas of Egypt. St Asclas was born in middle Egypt, and suffered under the great Christian persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian (284-305). He was brought before the governor  of his area, Arrian, and told that he must renounce Christ and offer sacrifices to the pagan gods. The Saint said he would not, and he promised the governor that some day he too would call on the name of the True God. By Arrian’s order, they began to torture the saint cruelly –  they suspended him and raked him with iron instruments, so that pieces of his flesh fell to the ground.  St Asclas quietly endured the torments.  When one of those present said, “Look, he is already unconscious and near to death,” the holy martyr answered, “I have not lost consciousness, and unceasingly do I glorify my God and Savior.”  As was common, the governor ordered him carried to another city, for the tortures to continue. As the governor was attempting to cross the Nile, the Saint prayed that he would be held back until he confessed Christ as True God before the people. God held back the boat – and as the governor was drawing up the sentence of the Saint, he happened to mention that St Asclas was being tortured for his belief in Christ, the One True God. As soon as he spoke these words, his boat was released. In the new city, the governor ordered the Saint suspended and burned with fire. Finally, he was sentenced to be drowned in the river. He told the Christians who accompanied him that they would find him north of the city, with the stone still tied to him. The stone was then tied to him, and he was drowned in the river. He was found by the town’s Christians three days later, and was buried with the stone used to martyr him.

As we hear tonight, the tortures of the Martyrs are not withheld from us – they are described for us, and not hidden or rushed over. I truly believe that it is desperately important for us to remember and know and venerate the holy martyrs. The days of Christian persecution may not be far away, in many ways there is already an assault by the world of the Christian moral and way of life. The world is always opposed to the way of Christ. And in addition to bodily persecutions that we may one day endure – and that we should be glad to endure for our Christ – daily we face martyrdom as we die to the old man so that we can live in Christ.

A final thought on martyrdom from Metropolitan Hierotheos – “The confession of the Martyrs and the martyrdom that follows is the activation of Holy Chrismation [the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit], by means of which the Martyr beholds God; this is why martyrdom of the Saints is not a simple matter of a rational process, sentimental excitement, or an impetuous action, but it is the fruit of the vision of God and deification.”

May our Lord give us this grace!

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Matthew Jackson