From the editor: September 20, 2013
Witnesses to the King
This is the 7th day of the Feast of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14), and also Friday, a day given to remembering the Cross each week. In 2013, also, the Feast of the Holy Cross coincided with Yom Kippur, the Old Testament Day of Atonement!
Today we also note in our calendar that the Catholic Church commemorates Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions, martyrs of Korea in the 19th Century.
Some of the descriptions of the deaths of martyrs in the early church make for fairly gruesome reading, that is, when they give details about treatment and torture of the condemned, including their manner of death. This brief description of the Korean martyrdoms—from modern times, mind you—reminds me of such early accounts.
These accounts, like those of Our Lord's sufferings before his death, are certainly not easy to read. Yet at the same time the church, wisely I believe (since the Gospels do the same with the sufferings of Christ), presents us with the examples of the martyrs—sometimes in somewhat graphic detail. Still, we might be forgiven if we prefer to look away.
Our devout attention to such suffering points to a mystery, much like the mystery of the Cross itself. In the Synoptic Gospels the suffering is straightforwardly described. Yet in John the cross is painted in the hues of glorification, even triumph. Jesus draws all men to himself, King of all. As I wrote last week, in the Cross, we see the triumphant love of God, who so loved the world!
A hymn of the Orthodox Church even goes so far as to say of the martyrs: "Adorned in the blood of thy martyrs, as with purple and fine linen, thy Church doth cry out to thee, O Christ God..." Really? Adorned is the word to use for bearing the blood of the martyrs? Yes, the natural eye sees only the flesh, but spiritual eye sees in the martyr the beauty of Christ, in whose steps they walk and to whom they bear witness.
The Cross overshadows the whole world—Korea, China, Africa, the Americas, Europe—even Georgia—where, at least according to this report—a mass conversion of Muslims has taken place over time.(We hope this is true! ) Among the Georgians, there were martyrs for the faith in ancient times. Is that "seed of the church" now bearing fruit, once again?
Rooted in and bearing the Cross of Jesus, whether in Korea, Georgia or elsewhere, the martyrs have overcome the world. Let us be of good cheer!
—James M. Kushiner