This week the book is Prayers of the Martyrs, compiled by Duane Arnold, Zondervan, 1991.
Here we are confronted by the sufferings and strong faith of those saints through history who have held onto their faith even as they face death because of it. The New Testament greek word for witness — “you shall be my witnesses” — is “Martureo” – Martyr.
Encountering Ignatius of Antioch (35-107), We contemplate courage. Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch, in modern day Syria. Arrested there by the Romans, he was taken to Rome for execution. On the journey he wrote a number of letters to churches in Asia Minor in which he reflected on the nature of the Church and his impending Martyrdom. As he stood in the Roman Colosseum and the lions moved in on him, he prayed:
My desires are crucified, the warmth of my body is gone. A stream flows whispering inside me; deep within me it says: Come to the Father.
Oh, to live with such a faith, such a hope!
Another prayer, this one anonymous, helps me to consider the radical power of forgiveness. Found in the clothing of a dead child at the Ravensbruck concentration camp:
O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But, do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering– our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble.
When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.
And thinking of the saints in light, this anonymous prayer of thanks:
We thank you, O God, for the saints of all ages; For those who in times of darkness kept the lamp of faith burning; For the great souls who saw visions of larger truth and dared to declare it; For the multitude of quiet and gracious souls whose presence has purified and sanctified the world; And for those known and loved by us, Who have passed from this earthly fellowship into the fuller light of life with you.
(This blog is dedicated to the memory of Tom Wright, Craig Anderson, and Ray Wallgren, faithful saints who having lived, have died. Well done, good and faithful servants.)