Friday, 22 January 2010

Saint Anastasius, martyr January 22

Liturgy of Today according to Catholic News Agency:

Saint Vincent: ,

First Reading: 1 Samuel 24:3-21:


Psalm: Psalms 57:2, 3-4, 6 and 11

Gospel: Mark 3:13-19


(Journey in a Broken World)

Article by Marc Aupiais

Saint Anastasius, martyr January 22 (historic events rendered based on facts given in Butler’s Lives of the Saints, which noted him on this day, commentary and rendering of this article is however done by Marc Aupiais, who only took the book as a source, but wrote his own version of these events, excluding some information, and adding some. I have written this from a catholic perspective, and terms hold their Catholic theological and their Catholic moral meanings.)

Prophesying the removal of the king of Persia, and his own martyrdom, Saint Anastasius is referred to by his Christian name.

One may well be given to assume that a saint would be known by the name his or her parents gave them. One may assume their name of honour to be the name they were known by from birth, but this is not always the case, and certainly not with the Persian soldier Magundat, who is now known by a much more beautiful name, that of his baptism- Anastasius, meaning to rise and walk, meaning resurrection. Persia itself, is testimony to the transient nature of man, for it was once a great empire, and is now Iran, which must hide behind threats of death, and fear the wrath of its own people, who we constantly see dying, as one group opposes the other. Should a woman be named Anastasia, as the Eastern Orthodox daughter of the last Russian Tsar was, then they are named by what became the female version of his adopted name. It has since been shortened in these days where names are shortened and often mean less to Stacy/Stacey. The male version of this name, seems unpreserved in the popular culture which besets our modern era.

As a young man he became learned in the ways of the Magian sect, a superstitious and seemingly commonly practiced system on the Persian streets at the time. Yet, when the Persian King robbed the Godly, of the divine trophy of the Cross of Christ, Magundat became curious, and investigated this foreign faith. The Persian soldier, was so affected by the sublime truth of the divine faith, that on a return to his homeland, Persia, from the Roman empire, he and his brother left the Persian forces, and lived in a place called Hierapolis.

It is important, that while staying with a silversmith of the holy Ancient Faith, that he was greatly affected by religious imagery, by pictures which inspired him all the more to investigate faith. Like the divine trophy of the cross of Christ, images also had such an effect on this saint. He prayed daily with the Christian silversmith, but later left Hierapolis which was under the Persians, heading instead for the great city of Christ, Jerusalem. In this Holy City, he was baptized not by the Patriarch Zachery, but by Modestus, who governed in his absence.

In Baptism, he took the Christian name Anastasius, which, in the Greek of the time, had significance for him, once again taking a sign of Christ for what it was. The Sacrament comes from the Roman military pledge- loyalty from the soldier, for protection and caretaking by the commander. The Apostle peter, says as recorded in the Sacred Bible, that baptism saves, not through the water, but the obedience of the sacrament of applying the water, just as the obedience of the Arc saved. Sin is to choose one’s own way in pride, virtue is to abandon the self for Christ, to die in baptism and in daily martyrdom, and thus to have Christ reconstruct one as one was designed to be. Baptism, Anastatius, by his very adopted name, surely realized, saved- and replaced original sin, and the human sin, with divine grace, that through the pledge of obedience, one may be saved through adopting God’s prepared path beyond one’s own.

Anastatius paid wonderful devotion to the sacrament during his necessary preparation, and no less after it, when he continued to be constructed in faith, and to pray, wearing white as was customary.

It was not vanity nor solitude or esteem among men which move Anastatius to take the monk’s vestments, when in 621, but rather what must have been a realization of the ever present distractions and falsehoods of the world at large, which the layman must face with humility should he desire to easily thwart their poison. Rather, the monk Anastatius became so, of the realization that in his case, he could much better fulfill the obligations which come with every baptism, no matter how early or young, or old- through the monastery. Perhaps in imitation of the cross which had saved him, Anastatius took to the monastery in Jerusalem under the abbot Justin, who had him learn the Greek language of the time, and the psalter, so important to many of the saints. Justin also cut off the saint’s hair.

The Butler’s Lives of Saints, seems certain that Anastatius took his name, in honour of his death and new life, yet it was a name in a language he himself did not understand, it would seem he would have had to have asked of the name, or else investigated what he should and would be called in his new life after baptismal rebirth, his life as a slave- more free than the world itself.

This servant of Christ, aspiring to ever greater perfection, after seven years, was granted his prayers to be martyred in more than the daily mortification, which Christ asks of all Christians. Thinking not of his monastic brothers, who would surely be grieved, and would lose out on the company of a saint, nor of the trivialness of what God had granted, he still knew God had taken from his treasure trove the great gift of Martyrdom.

It was private revelation, and not the pride of the Donatists, who evilly sought out death, disguised as martyrdom, which inspired this great saint, before he died, to visit the Holy Sites in what was once known as the Palestinian area, but which is now Palestine and Israel. He visited Diospolis’, Garizim’s sites and the church of our Lady (Mary, Mother of Christ), in Caesara, where he decided to stay for two days.

The Persians, who he had once served as a soldier, occupied Caesara, and Magian Soothsayers, from the Persian Garrison practiced their superstition in the streets. Suspecting he was a spy, for he had boldly confronted the Persian Soothsayers on the streets, the Persian civil servants apprehended the holy saint, who had been promised the honour of obedience until death should he choose it, in a revelation from heaven.

He informed the civil servants, of his prior condition, his learning of the Magian sciences, he humbly informed them of his conversion, his change, that he had chosen to follow the Divine Son of God, Christ.

For three days, his body was denied food and water, as he lay in the dungeon the Persians threw our saint into, not as a spy, but for his confession of Christ, as they awaited the Persian Governor Marzabanes. Marzabanes, as was common with many interrogators of the early saints, offered him great riches, and then great torments, all to gain a denial of Christ, for whom the humble saint was under his grasp. He was even threatened with the great honour of Crucifixion.

The saint was not to yield, having been promised the obedience until death which is martyrdom, should he stand firm. The city governor had him chained to an ordinary criminal, by the foot, and had his neck and foot chained together also. The chain between his neck and foot were heavy, the saint surely would have followed his prior practice, and given his pain and suffering as a gift to Christ, our great heavenly spouse. Further, he was sentenced to “carry stones”. He said that they did not need to chain him for this punishment, he would lie on the ground without moving gladly, for the sake of Christ to whom he was promised in baptism. His humility is clear, as he realizes the honour of the monastic habit he had worn, and that it did not deserve the contempt which his executioners would pay him. He asked that he put it aside first, and did so respectfully. He understood that his body deserved the contempt which he was paid, but that that which represented obedience to Christ did not deserve it. He moved not at all, under the weight of the cruel punishment known as carrying stoned, but remained unmoved prostrate on the floor, as humankind tormented him, as they did Christ his redemption.

Seeing his own power useless, the governor threatened a second time, to acquaint the King of Persia with the saint’s stubbornness. The saint was unaffected, and said that as man was made of nothing by God, that God was the greater, and it is God, whom we as man should most fear, and not man, who was made of nothing by God. He was pressured by the judge to sacrifice to elements of the nature which God created, to sacrifice to the sun, which God made to light the heavens, to the moon, which reflects the light God created, and to fire, which God allows to light man’s way, but the saint refused to honopur that which God made and gave as gifts to man, over the giver of the gifts, whose greatest gift is love itself.

The saint was sent to prison, for refusing to Adore that which is less not only than God, but than man, that made for man’s use. It seems that the abbot of the monastery, Justin then sent two monks to comfort the saint, and visit him in prison. His former abbot ordered prayers for the sake of the saint.

While in prison, the saint impressed a Jew, who at night as the Christian Martyr prayed, saw ‘shining brightness and glory” in the saint, and angels accompanying him in his prayers. The saint “carried stones” all day, and prayed into the night. Even though he was chained to a common criminal, the saint kept his head bowed, least he disturb the criminal’s sleep, knowing the respect and love due every man from conception until death.

Without coming in person, the governor informed the martyr, that the king had been informed of his case, and would be satisfied by a mere private denial of Christ, even a public one would not be necessary. Perhaps the king felt merciful. The saint, like the Jewish Martyr in Maccabees, who refused to eat pork, or even privately to eat something other, refused. Rightly so.

One the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, that was September 14, as though in honour of this saint converted by the Cross, a Christian, who gathered taxes for the king, Anastatius’ oppressor, asked leave to have Anastatius assist at the feast. Here, Anastatius had great effect on the zeal of the Christians, himself becoming much as the cross for them, and he drove them to tears. With joy, not contempt, this saint returned to the mortification of his prison, after dining with the tax-collector of his oppressor.

The monk, who recorded the saint’s martyrdom, was one of the two sent, who followed the saint, and two other Christians, who were taken under heavy guard away from Palestine. The monk who accompanied the saint sent letters to his abbot, begging for prayers for Anastatius, having himself been sent to pray.

The saint was taken by force to Assyria, near the Euphrates river, and was thrown into the dungeon, until the king’s desire was known. The king was present in this area. The death of Anastatius, was nearing.

The saint said that the pomp and riches of a king, himself soon to die meant nothing. Symbols being so important to this saint, he referred to his monk’s habit, which he had spared the fate of “carrying stones” and his clothes, to demonstrate his desire to be content with Christ.

The officer assigned him, came back with threats, where promised had had no effect, and the saint credits this to grace, he had been promised martyrdom in a vision, should he accept it. He was then beaten in the manner of the Persians, and was threatened that he would be severely beaten for the rest of his life, for choosing not to accept the wealth of the king.

After three days of punishment in this manner, the judge ordered a heavy beam pressed on his legs by not one but two men so as to crush his flesh to the bone.

When the officer had gone to speak with the king, the jailer, a Christian, allowed the Christians in, along with any who wanted access to the martyr saint Anastatius. The Christians kissed his feet and chains. They kept relics of whatever had been sanctified by the touch of these. And even ‘overlaid his fetters with wax’, to gain their impression. This was all against the will of the saint who pleaded that they stop these actions.
He was beaten again, but endured seemingly without effort, and was then hung by one hand at the order of the king, being stretched below by a heavy weight as this occurred. Once again, perhaps proving by what agency he was oppressed, he was pestered with threats and promised much. Failing to get a response, the judge approached the king, who ordered the execution of the Christians.

The saint took with humility, his death by strangulation on the banks of the Euphrates. He had wanted more suffering for the sake of Christ, but accepted with joy his lesser answer, as with many other Christians, in addition to his two Christian companions from Palestine, he was callously murdered. The many Christians were all killed before his eyes. Anastatius was still being pressed to return to the then Persian system of beliefs, to spare himself.

All of their bodies were exposed, so that the dogs would eat them, but not a hound touched his body, while the others’ were devoured. This was a gift to the Christians, who took his body to a nearby monastery. The monk, assigned to comfort the saint and pray for him, who had followed him to his place of execution, took his tunic back, seemingly to the monastery in Jerusalem, where the saint had spent seven years in the Monastery. His body was later moved to the great seat of Constantinople, and finally to Rome.

It was partly to his image, kept at Rome, that the seventh of the general councils turned to say that images may be venerated. This is fittingly so, as the saint so loved images and was so affected to Christ in them.

To make an image, is not to worship it. Rather, the saint in his answer to the oppressor, was adequate- the sun, the moon, the fire, these are made for man, for his use. In this he knows that we may use created things, for our salvation both physical and eternal. But One is not to treat as God, any created thing. Indeed, one may pray to a saint or angel, and honour and love them. Worship them as theology teaches us of the command to love. Yet, only God is to be treated as that which made all out of nothing, as that which is supreme above all. To him a special worship is due. Martyrdom is obedience even unto death. It is obedience to Christ, which he who desires martyrdom must truly desire. If he is to live, he must take this as a daily martyrdom, always submitting, and thereby being a witness to Christ, which is the role of the martyr. By humility and selflessness, accompanied with the determination to combat every evil, and not to rest the head but to serve, by this- evil may well be thwarted.

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