Thursday, June 16, 2005

Spiritual voice (11): from "The Exhortation to Martyrdom" by Origen

[Origen (185-254 A.D.) was a priest and one of the Church's major theologians and philosophers. He is also numbered as one of the Fathers of the Church. Origen lived during a turbulent time when heresies were rampant, persecution of believers common, and much of the theology of the Church was still in need of a systematic and thorough articulation. Origen's brilliant mind helped to articulate some of the Church's doctrines and to refute one of the major heresies of his time, Gnosticism. He was a critic of pagan philosophies and was perhaps the first to employ history in his philosophical thinking. He also insisted on personal freedom, which countered the pagan belief on fatalism which was common during his time. Some of his more extreme teachings were later used by some of his followers, and subsequently the Church condemned these teachings as heretical, though Origin himself was not so condemned. Yet he wasn't declared a saint either. However, his exegesis on Scriptures, his meditations, and the vast corpus of his works continue to be regarded by the Church as valuable and rich. Origen is believed to have been martyred: he was tortured, pilloried, and bound hand and foot to the block for days without yielding.]

If passing from unbelief to faith means that we have passed from death to life, we should not be surprised to find that the world hates us. Anyone who has not passed from death to life is incapable of loving those who have departed from death's dark dwelling place to enter a dwelling made of living stones and filled with the light of life. Jesus laid down his life for us; so we too should lay down our lives, I will not say for him, but for ourselves and also, surely, for those who will be helped by the example of our martyrdom.

Now is the time for Christians to rejoice, since Scripture says that we should rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering trains us to endure with patience, patient endurance makes us pleasing to God, and being pleasing to God gives us ground for a hope that will not be disappointed. Only let the love of God be poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

The more we share in the sufferings of Christ, the more we share, through him, in his consolation. We should be extremely eager to share in Christ's sufferings and to let them be multiplied in us if we desire the superabundant consolation that will be given to those who mourn. This consolation will not perhaps be the same for all, for if it were, Scripture would not say: "The more we share in the sufferings of Christ, the more we share in his consolation." Sharing in his consolation will be proportionate to our sharing in his suffering. We learn this from one who could say with all confidence: "We know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the consolation as well."

God says through the prophet: "At an acceptable time I heard you; on the day of salvation I helped you." What time could be more acceptable than when, for our fidelity to God in Christ, we are made a public spectacle and led away under guard, not defeated but triumphant?

In Chist and with Christ the martyrs disarm the principalities and powers and share in his triumph over them, for their share in Christ's sufferings makes them sharers also in the mighty deeds those sufferings accomplished. What could more appropriately be called the day of slavation than the day of such a glorious departure from this world? But I entreat you not to give offense to anyone, so that our ministry may not be blamed. Be very patient and show in every way that you are servants of God. Say: "And now, what do I wait for? Is it not the Lord?"

[Questions to think about:

*Origen says that we should be willing to lay down our lives for the sake of those who will be helped by our example. Whom did he mean by that? Why would they be helped by our example?

*Origen's words helps to contextualize Christian suffering, bringing it meaning and power. Do his words help one endure these sufferings?

*Are there other types of "martyrdoms" short of execution that a believer today could experience? Such as?]

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