“Made conformable unto his death”
His zeal for the Eucharist rebukes our lukewarm age.
“Saint Lucian died in prison from many terrible tortures and hunger. Before death, wanting to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ on the feast of Theophany, the priestmartyr — bound by chains to a box, was compelled
to offer the Bloodless Sacrifice upon his chest,
and all the Christians situated there in prison communed”
Today we celebrate Hieromartyr Lucian of Antioch. There are many interesting historical things about his life, and even a little theological controversy, but one event in his life shouts out at us, in our lukewarm age.
A man who was weakened by torture, no doubt in great pain, and soon to die had such a thirst for the Eucharist that he served it with the Holy mysteries on his chest.
He celebrated using his chest as an altar in order to obey, in not literally the letter, but certainly, magnificently in spirit of the law – in the Orthodox Church, we ALWAYS celebrate the Holy mysteries literally upon the relics of the martyrs.
The antimins (antiminsion) is a piece of decorated cloth (usually with the scene from the taking down of the Lord from the Cross, and often with the 4 Evangelists in the corners, in which the relics of a martyrs(s) is sewn in (generally on the back side). In the Russian Church outside of Russia, I believe that all of our antimins have in them the relics of the Grand duchess Elizabeth and Nun Barbara.
Romanian Antimins from Oradea-Mare (Transylvania), 1890.
This cloth always rests on the altar table and is unfolded for the chalice and diskos to be placed upon it.
We literally serve the Eucharist on the relics of the martyrs, a the church is built upon the confession of
the martyrs, the blood of the martyrs.
The Holy Hieromartyr Lucian, having already many times over made his confession and witnessed to the unbelievers his faith in Christ (the word “martyr” manes “witness”), was already a martyr, although most of his blood still coursed through his veins and had not yet been spilled upon the ground.
We should be in awe of Holy Lucian’s zeal and love. We should be ashamed if we partake of the Eucharist infrequently, with very little preparation or the fear of God.
Here in Lucian’s life we see how important the Eucharist should be.
We have all heard about the hypothetical question: “What would you do if you know you were going to die today?”
For Lucian, this was not hypothetical, and his answer was to partake of the Eucharist, fulfilling the liturgical canon by using his own bloody body as an antimins, and feed and encourage all the Christians in the prison so they would have the strength to make their martyrdom – their witness.
Every priest wants his people to partake of the Eucharist often, and with good preparation. Most of us are very disappointed, and in pain of soul beg the Lord to enkindle in our flocks the burning desire to partake of the “medicine of immortality”. Only God can change us from complacent to attentive, and this only happens with our positive reaction to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Perhaps part of this change will occur as you read the exploits of the Hieromartyr Lucian, and compare them to the way you live your life, and the things you think are important.
Today’s epistle fits perfectly the life of St Lucian, who fulfilled it to the letter:
8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ … 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings,
being made conformable unto his death. (Philippians 3:8-19)
Do we live our lives in such a way to be “conformable to His death”? Do we even know what this means? The Scripture is quite clear – if we do not die, we will not live. Measure yourself today, and decide if you are in any way being made conformable to His death, or as the Apostle Paul also has said “dying daily”, or as the Lord said: taking up (your) cross, and losing your life, so that you might save it.
We read the lives of the saints for instruction, exhortation, consolation, and even rebuke. The life of St Lucian should cause all of you to be lined up at the door of the church at 4 pm on Saturday for confession (or stay till after vigil or call me for an appointment!), with the intense desire to change your life and in taking the Eucharist and living “in Christ” though its grace, becoming conformable to the death of Christ, and learning to fulfill the words of Paul also said in today’s epistle:
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom
I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung
The Hieromartyr Lucian, Presbyter of Antioch, was born in the Syrian city of Samosata. At 12 years of age he was left orphaned. Lucian distributed his possessions to the poor, and went to the city of Edessa to the confessor Makarios, under the guidance of whom he diligently read Holy Scripture and learned the ascetic life. For his pious and zealous spreading of Christianity amongst the Jews and pagans, Lucian was made presbyter. At Antioch Saint Lucian opened a school, where there gathered many students whom he instructed in book wisdom. Saint Lucian occupied himself with teaching work, and he corrected the text of Holy Scripture, having been corrupted by copyists and heretics. (The entire Greek text of the Bible corrected by him was hidden away in a wall during the time of his confessor's deed, and it was found during the time of Saint Constantine the Great). During the persecution of Diocletian, Saint Lucian was arrested, having been informed on by heretics, and he was dispatched to prison in Nicomedia, where over the course of 9 years he encouraged Christians together with him in the confessor's deed, urging them not to fear tortures and death.
Saint Lucian died in prison from many terrible tortures and hunger. Before death, wanting to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ on the feast of Theophany, the priestmartyr — bound by chains to a box, was compelled to offer the Bloodless Sacrifice upon his chest, and all the Christians situated there in prison communed. The body of the holy martyr was thrown into the sea, but after 30 days dolphins brought it to shore. Believers with reverence buried the body of the much-suffering Saint Lucian.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2011 St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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