BISHOP AND MARTYR
The Liturgical Year
Ven. Abbot Dom Guéranger
Amidst the sweetness he is enjoying from the contemplation of the Word made Flesh, John, the Beloved Disciple, beholds coming towards him his dear Polycarp, the Angel of the Church of Smyrna, all resplendent with the glory of martyrdom. This venerable Saint has in his soul the fervent love that made him say in the amphitheatre, when asked by the Proconsul to curse his Divine Master: “Six-and-eighty years have I served Him, and he has never done me any wrong; nay, he has laden me with kindness. How could I blaspheme my king, who has saved me?” After having suffered fire and the sword, he was admitted into the presence of this King his Savior, in reward for the eighty-six years of his faithful service, for the labors he had gone through in order to maintain faith and charity among his flock, and for the cruel death he endured. He was a disciple of St John the Evangelist, whom he imitated by zealously opposing the heretics, who were then striving to corrupt the faith. In obedience to the command of his holy Master, he refused to hold intercourse with Marcion, the heresiarch, whom he called the first-born of Satan. This energetic adversary of the proud sect that denied the mystery of the Incarnation, wrote an admirable Epistle to the Philippians, in which we find these words: Whosoever confesses not that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, is an Antichrist. Polycarp, then, had a right to the honor of standing near the Crib, in which the Son of God shows himself to us in all his loveliness, and clothed in flesh like unto our own. Let us honor this disciple of John, this friend of Ignatius, this Bishop of the Apostolic Age, whose praise was pronounced by Jesus Christ himself in the Revelations of Patmos. Our Savior said to him by the mouth of Saint John: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life. Polycarp was faithful even unto death, and has received his crown; and whilst we are celebrating the coming of his King among us, he is one of the Saints who assist us to profit by the holy season.
The Church gives us a passage from St Jerome’s book, On Ecclesiastical Writers, in which there is contained the following short notice of our holy Martyr.
Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, who ordained him Bishop of Smyrna, was looked up to by all the Churches of Asia, inasmuch as he had not only known some of the Apostles, and those who had seen our Lord, but had been trained by them. He went to Rome, during the reign of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and under the Pontificate of Anicetus, in order to have an answer to certain questions regarding Easter-day. Whilst there, he brought back to the faith several Christians who had been misled by the teaching of Marcion and Valentine. Having, on a certain occasion, casually met Marcion, who said to him: ‘Dost thou know us?’ Polycarp replied: Yes, I know thee as the first born of Satan.’ Some time after, under the reign of Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, in the fourth persecution after that under Nero, he was cited before the Proconsul of Smyrna, who condemned him to be burnt alive; which sentence was carried into effect in the amphitheatre, amidst the clamors of the whole people. He wrote an important Letter to the Philippians, which is still read in the Churches of Asia.
Double Red vestments
INTROIT – Daniel 3: 84, 87, 57
Sacerdotes Dei, benedicite Dominum: sancti et humiles corde, laudate Deum. Ps. Benedicite, omnia opera Domini Domino: laudate et superexaltate eum in sæcula. Gloria Patri.
O ye priests of the Lord, bless the Lord: O ye holy and humble of heart, praise God. Ps. All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord: praise and exalt Him above all for ever. Glory be to the Father.
O God, who dost gladden us by the annual feast of blessed Polycarp, Thy Martyr and Bishop: mercifully grant that we who celebrate his heavenly birthday, may also rejoice in his protection. Through our Lord.
EPISTLE – I John 3: 10-16
Most dearly beloved: Whosoever is not just, is not of God, nor he that loveth not his brother. For this is the declaration, which you have heard from the beginning, that you should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of the wicked one, and killed his brother. And wherefore did he kill him? Because his own works were wicked: and his brother’s just. Wonder not, brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not, abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in himself. In this we have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
GRADUAL – Psalm 8: 6-7
Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour. And hast set him over the works of Thy hands, O Lord.
GOSPEL – Matthew 10: 26-32
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Nothing is covered that shall not be revealed: nor hid, that shall not be known. That which I tell you in the dark, speak ye in the light: and that which you hear in the ear, preach ye upon the housetops. And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: better are you than many sparrows. Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven.
OFFERTORY – Psalm 88: 21-22
I have found David My servant, with My holy oil I have anointed him; for My hand shall help him, and My arm shall strengthen him.
Sanctify, O Lord, the gifts dedicated to Thee, and through them, by the intercession of blessed Polycarp, Thy Martyr and Bishop, graciously regard us. Through our Lord.
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, Dominations worship, Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dóminus Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt cæli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.
COMMUNION – Psalm 20: 4
Thou hast set on his head, O Lord, a crown of precious stones.
Refreshed by the participation in the holy gift, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, that by the intercession of blessed Polycarp Thy Martyr and Bishop, we may experience the effect of that which we celebrate. Through the Lord.