April / May 2015 - Vol. 79

early Christian
Martyrdom Throughout the Length of Days 

by Clement of Alexandria (c.150-215 AD) 

Martyrdom means bearing witness to God. Every soul that seeks in pureness of heart to know God and obeys the commandments of God is a martyr, bearing witness by life or by words.

In fact even if it is not a matter of shedding blood, the soul is pouring out its faith because it is by faith that the soul will be separated from the body before a person dies.

That is why, in the Gospel, the Lord praises the person 'who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the Gospel.' That person is blessed because he too is going to meet martyrdom simply by living in a way that is different from the crowd, because he is following the rule of the Gospel for love of his Lord.

The truly righteous are set apart from the world because they produce the fruits of grace in their actions. They do this because they have been able to become a friend of God and to obtain a place at the right hand of the Father, as the Apostles have done.
- Miscellaneous Studies, 4, 4, IS (Stahlin II, p.255)

[Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD) was an early Christian writer, Bible scholar, and theologian who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria.]

painting of Christ and 21 Coptic
A New Ecumenism of Blood

“Today there is an ecumenism of blood. In some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible and before they kill them they do not ask them whether they are Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox1...They are witnesses to Jesus Christ, and they are persecuted and killed because they are Christians. Those who persecute them make no distinction between the religious communities to which they belong. They are Christians and for that they are persecuted. This, brothers and sisters, is the ecumenism of blood.”2
- Pope Francis

“The ecumenism of suffering and of the martyrdom of blood are a powerful summons to walk the long path of reconciliation between the Churches, by courageously and decisively abandoning ourselves to the working of the Holy Spirit.”
- Pope Francis' address to the Armenian Orthodox Patriarch3

“The blood of martyrs is in the church a force for renewal and of unity.”
- Pope John Paul II

“The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving him” (quote from The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer). When the German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was led from his cell to be executed by the Nazis, he told his prison companion: “This is the end – but for me, the beginning of life” (April, 1945).

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose...God, I pray Thee, light these sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.
Jim Elliot, Baptist missionary in Ecuador who was martyred with four companions in 1956

“I ask of you this day the grace to become a servant and to give my life here as a ransom for peace as a ransom for life. Jesus draw me into your joy of crucified love.”
- Journal entry by Father Christophe Lebreton who was martyred in 1996 along
with his six companion monks from the Trappist monastery in Algiers

Tertullian, a second-century Christian writer, expressed a profound and enduring reality when he said, “The blood of Christians is seed.” As he looked beyond the suffering of the early Christian martyrs, he could see that their brutal deaths were not in vain. They would be like the mustard seed spoken of by Jesus (Matthew 13:31). From their sacrifice, the kingdom of God would blossom, strengthening the church and the faith of countless Christian believers.

Related article >  The Blood of Christians Is Seed, by Jeanne Kun

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