Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Met. Ephrem on Martyrdom

This sermon was given on the Feast of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, October 6, 2011 in Kousba. The Arabic original can be found here.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

Beloved, today is the martyrs' day, the feast of the martyrs Sergius and Bacchus, and your feast as well, because it is expected that you will also be witnesses for Christ.

The Gospel and the Epistle talk about bearing witness to the faith. The passage from the Gospel which we read is from Chapter 11 of Luke and it comes after a passage in which the Lord Jesus talks about the last days. The Church chose this passage from the Gospel to be read on the feasts of martyrs. The martyr bears witness to his faith and the martyrs Sergius and Bacchus were martyred in the fourth century during the period of persecutions that were widespread in the first centuries. Martyrs are those who are killed for their faith, since they look beyond this world, they look to the last days.

What does the word "faith" mean? One of the fathers says, "Faith is looking into the distance." Just like someone who wears glasses isn't a person that looks into the distance, someone who does not have faith doesn't look into the distance because he only sees what is near to himself on this earth and he holds on to it. Someone who has faith looks into the distance, to what is to come. For him this life is transitory, a prelude to eternal life and this is why he does not give up his faith. As for a person who holds on to this world, if he is persecuted for his faith he will deny it and fall into atheism. Those martyrs were martyred for the sake of the name of Christ. One who denies Christ is a person without faith, a person who does not look to the distance.

At the end of the passage, the Lord says, "Through your patience you will gain your souls." That is, one who lives by his faith must have patience and long-suffering. For these saints, patience is awaiting Christ, awaiting the second coming, awaiting the Resurrection. They live on this earth as though they were in the kingdom. They have a foretaste of the Resurrection. Their body is on the earth but their mind has abandoned this earth. This is why they have the power of the kingdom, a super-human power. When they are tortured and killed, they do not feel like they are in pain, but they go to death with joy because they are crossing into the kingdom and eternal life, amen.

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