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Born: ~69
Died: 155
FEast: Feb. 23rd
Patron of:  
ear problems, fire, the elderly


St. Polycarp



Polycarp was said to have begun life as a disciple of St. John, and a close friend of St. Ignatius of Antioch. As bishop of Smyrna, he was seen as a moral authority, and he worked to help different groups of early Christian thinkers understand and interpret the new Christian faith, debating, writing, and teaching to do so. He worked with the Western Church in their debate over when to celebrate Easter, which was a very important, divisive topic to the early Church. He approached this discussion with mercy and respect.

   When St. Ignatius was imprisoned and on his journey to the place of his martyrdom, he stopped to visit with his good friend, Polycarp, and even wrote him a personal letter later.
   In a letter to the Church of Philippi, Polycarp also helped to support the writings and ideas of St. Paul as those of authority. Paul’s ideas were still widely controversial at the time, and many Christian offshoot groups were trying to claim his ideas for their faith instead. Polycarp helped situate Paul’s ideas in Church Tradition, and may have even written some of the letters that are now attributed to Paul. This letter to Philippi was one of the first to quote Gospel passages, also, instead of merely relying on oral tradition.

   Though Polycarp avoided martyrdom as well as he could (instead of actively seeking it out as some did), when he was 86 years old (or perhaps slightly older), a demand for his arrest was put out. He went to hide and pray for a short time, during which he had a dream that his pillow turned to flames, which he interpreted to mean that he would be burned alive

   When two boys who worked on the farm on which Polycarp was hiding were tortured, they gave his position away. Polycarp fed and prayed with the soldiers who were arresting him, causing them to wonder why they were bothering arresting such a holy old man. They and the proconsul begged him to say “away with the atheists (the Roman name for Christians)”, but when Polycarp faced the crowd in the arena and said this, they knew he was not referring to the Christians. They continued to beg him, and so he was tied to be burned at the stake.

    As the fire was lit, Polycarp prayed aloud, and witnesses soon saw the fire burn in an arch around him instead of burning him. He seemed to glow gold instead. Angered and frightened, they instead began to stab him, and his blood completely put out the fire.
   His body was burned and his bones taken and buried by other Christians.




As a leader of the early church, it was up to you to decide the right way to do things and who should be listened to. You had to do this for the whole church to create a strong foundation. So many years later, help us as we must make the same sorts of decisions every day when it comes to our faith and other ideas in life. Guide us in your fearlessness. Amen.

Art Reflection


The color scheme for this icon is clearly based off of Polycarp's attempted martyrdom by fire. The shape of crossed matches is also cut into his hair, and his halo is unfinished at the top to be reminiscent of the arch of fire that burned up around him. The strap of his bag stands in for the traditional stole he wears in ancient icons, and the pattern on his jacket is also referenced from these. 


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