From the editor: July 25, 2014
One Faith, One Battle
Very few living today experienced the reality of Omaha Beach on D-Day, but many know of it. We acknowledge the cost in human life and suffering, but we also frame it within the larger narrative of World War II, including the rest of the D-Day invasion and the costly, triumph leading to the liberation of Paris more than two months later.
So with the Age of the Martyrs. We know "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." Our knowledge of the martyrs may be aided with first-hand accounts or even with some of the better hagiography, but still we stand afar off from that bloody confrontation between faith in Jesus and a hostile empire. We look back through the lens of history and tradition, formed by corporate memory that knows a larger story of the Church Militant, with previews of the Church Triumphant.
But the suffering we associate with Church history is recurring today. The witness of Christians in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, is not simply part of today's news cycle (if we even hear much about it). If we believe that "when one member suffers we all suffer," then what is taking place around the world today should move us to deep prayer for both the persecuted and their persecutors.
Consider this story from Mosul in Iraq. And the story of Meriam Ibrahim from Sudan, who sat chained in a prison, pregnant, given a death sentence for being a Christian. The Age of the Martyrs is now. Let us not forget them.
They carry the Cross of Jesus, which is also ours. The Cross is the instrument by which we may relate to them. Their sufferings are extraordinary, but what animates their witness is both devotion to Jesus and the consequent rejection of sin.
John Chrysostom, suffering in exile, wrote to Olympias the Deaconess, also suffering in exile because of her support for John:
There is only one thing, Olympias, which is really terrible, only one real trial, that is sin; and I have never ceased continually harping on this theme. But as for all other things, plots, enmities, frauds, calumnies, insults, accusations, confiscation, exile, the keen sword of the enemy, the peril of the deep, warfare of the whole world, or anything else you like to name, they are but idle tales. For whatever the nature of these things may be, they are transitory and perishable, and operate in the mortal body without doing any injury to the vigilant soul.
Olympias died from illness suffered in exile, on July 25, 408, less than a year after John. In the icon, she carries the Cross.
Jesus conquered sin by his Cross. All Christians are called to follow Christ in the war against sin. If we are engaged in this war, we stand on the same battlefield with the martyrs, our comrades-in-arms. As on Omaha Beach, some are killed, some are wounded, and some live for the next day of battle, but all share in the glory and the victory. The day of battle is every day. "Put on the whole armor of God."
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
—James M. Kushiner