O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

St. Polyeuctus and Family Arguments about the Faith

Today in the Byzantine Rite, in addition to continuing the Post-feast of the Theophany, we celebrate St. Ployeuctus of Meletine. He was a roman soldier under the emporer Decius (249-251) and was martyred under the emperor Valerian (253-259). He was friends with another soldier named Nearchos, who was a firm Christian. When the persecution of Valerian began, Nearchos said to him, "Friend, we shall soon be separated, for they will take me to torture, and you alas, will renounce your friendship with me." St. Polyeuctus told him of a dream he had where Christ stripped him of his soiled military cloak and dressed him in a radiant garment. He followed Nearchos saying, "Now, I am prepared to serve the Lord Jesus Christ."

In his zeal for the faith he went to the city square and tore up the idol worship mandate. As soon as he did so, a procession of 12 idols happened by and he attacked the procession, smashing the idols underfoot. His father in law, the magistrate responsible for enforcing the mandate and completely unaware that his son in law decided to become a Christian, was shocked at his son in law's behavior. He said that his son in law must die for this and begged St. Polyeuctus with tears in his eyes to abandon Christ and apologize for destroying the idols. Firm in his faith, St. Polyeuctus completely refused. His father in law brought forth his daughter and grandchildren, St. Polyeuctus' wife and children, to reason with him. With tears in their eyes they too begged him to apologize and abandon Christ. Firm in his faith, he resisted the temptations of his wife and his children and remained faithful to Christ. With great joy, he bowed his head to the swordsman and was baptized in his own blood.

After the anti-Christian bigotry subsided under Emperor Constantine the Great, a church was built in his honor at Meletine (in Armenia), which became known for many miracles. One couple fervently prayed for a son, the resulting child granted by St. Polyeuctus was St. Euthymius the Great (January 20). Another great theologian and defender of orthodoxy, St. Acacius, Bishop of Meletine (March 31), had a great devotion to him and was a participant in the Third Ecumenical Council. St. Polyeuctus is venerated as the patron of vows and treaties and many pieces of classical music are named after him. He shows us just how important it is to remain faithful to Christ and His Love for us, regardless of temptations to the contrary, even when those temptations come from our own families. Being a family member doesn't make you infallible. God, however, is always perfect and our loyalties must always be with God above everything else, even above family. Martyrs are the prime example of this love for God. "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)