Holy Hieromartyr Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna

February 23

Polycarp, this great apostolic man, was born a pagan. St. John the Theologian converted him to the Christian Faith and baptized him. In his childhood Polycarp was orphaned. Callista, a noble widow, after a vision in a dream, adopted, raised and educated him. From his childhood Polycarp was devout and compassionate. He strove to emulate the life of St. Bucolus, then the Bishop of Smyrna, as well as of the Holy Apostles John and Paul, whom he knew and had heard. St. Bucolus ordained him a presbyter and before his death designated him as his successor in Smyrna. The apostolic bishops, who gathered at the funeral of Bucolus, consecrated Polycarp as bishop. From the very beginning Polycarp was endowed with the power of working miracles. He expelled an evil spirit from the servant of a prince and through prayer stopped a terrible fire in Smyrna. Upon seeing this, many pagans regarded Polycarp as one of the gods. He brought down rain in times of drought, healed illnesses, had the gifts of discernment and prophecy, and so forth. He suffered during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Three days before his death, St. Polycarp prophesied: “In three days I will be burnt in the flames for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ!” And on the third day, when the soldiers arrested him and brought him to trial, he cried out: “Let this be the will of the Lord my God.” When the judge counselled him to deny Christ and to acknowledge the Roman gods, Polycarp said: “I cannot exchange the better for the worse!” The Jews especially hated Polycarp and endeavoured to have him buried alive. When they bound him at the stake, he prayed to God for a long time. He was very old and gray, and radiant like an angel of God. The people witnessed how the flame encircled him but did not touch him. Frightened by such a phenomenon, the pagan judges ordered the executioner to pierce him with a lance through the fire. When he was pierced, so much blood flowed from him that the fire was completely extinguished, and his body remained whole and unburnt. At the persuasion of the Jews, the judge ordered that Polycarp’s lifeless body be incinerated according to the custom of the Hellenes. So the evil ones burned the dead body of the one whom they could not burn while alive. St. Polycarp suffered on Great and Holy Saturday in the year 167.

Source: St. Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue of Ohrid – Volume One.

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