Holy is the True Light,
and passing wonderful,
lending radiance to them that endured
in the heat of the conflict.
From Christ they inherit
a home of unfading splendor,
wherein they rejoice with gladness evermore.
A choir will sing this text, in a setting by William Harris, during the service this coming Sunday, which is a celebration of our patron saint, Alban, who was the First Martyr of Britain (his feast day is June 22). Music about martyrs is not that easy to find, and honestly, do we want to celebrate martyrdom? But he’s our martyr and celebrate him we will. Alban endured the heat of conflict, giving up his own life, up to then a pagan life, for a Christian priest, and dying at the hands of his fellow Roman soldiers. We are assured by our faith that he did inherit a home of unfading splendor, and we do rejoice evermore. Alleluia!
Tomorrow is my 16th wedding anniversary, and that significant event in my own life reminds me that all relationships have their own heat of conflict, their own unfading splendor, and their own reasons for rejoicing. While a healthy relationship is never about martyrdom, it is often about sacrifice. To be in that kind of relationship, a relationship of true (and truthful) light – with a spouse, a parent, a friend, a church or a community – is something to very much celebrate. Alleluia!
But Sonya, forgive me, martyrdom has a significant place in Christian life, historically. It was demonstration and the torture and death that people suffered was to show that in this world of suffering and often unjust death (which we do sermonize about) there is the Spirit that rises up, which bows the the Lord alone. These saints did not just get tortured and killed. They responded, they converted. They looked with their own eyes into the Eye of God, unashamed. Once, a Russian woman was martyred by being thrown into a well and having straw and fire put down as well. Well in the midst of her dying, the Bolsheviks expected pleas for help. But what they heard was SINGING; SINGING and then a beautiful living stillness. This is resurrection, too.
Yes it is Sonya. My warmest congratulations to you and Eugene, Jan
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you Jan. I know that you celebrated many anniversaries with your beloved Gene, and hope there is comfort in the memories of the holy light in that relationship.
All love and joy to you and Gene, and may there be many, many returns of the day for you. Peace, js and Ron
Amen, sister! Congratulations – your wedding seems like just a short while ago.
Oh, and about martyrdom – Highly recommend Karen Armstrong’s take on the early Christian martyrs (and on violence associated with religion throughout history) in Fields of Blood. She shows that martyrdom was much rarer than we are usually taught. It was often an aggressive action and that the bishops had condemned “voluntary martyrs” who essentially pushed the generally religiously accommodating Roman Empire’s buttons. In part she says: “Martyrdom would always be the protest of a minority, yet the violent deaths of the martyrs became a graphic demonstration of the structural violence and cruelty of the state. Martyrdom was and would always be a political as well as a religious choice”.
Armstrong, Karen (2014-10-28). Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence (p. 152). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.