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My favorite Polycarp story
Posted By Eric Sammons On February 23, 2010 @ 8:34 am In Saints | Comments Disabled
Today is the feast of St. Polycarp, bishop, martyr, and disciple of John the Apostle. Most people are familiar with the story of his martyrdom, how at an advanced age he refused to offer incense to the emperor and instead gave us his life for his Lord Jesus Christ. But perhaps less well-known is the story of his encounter with the arch-heretic Marcion.
Marcion was one of the first great heretics of the Church. He rejected the entirety of the Old Testament, believing that the god of the Jews was a lesser god than the God of Jesus Christ. He also only accepted an edited version of Luke’s Gospel and the writings of Paul in his New Testament canon. At one point he moved to Rome and tried to push his heretical beliefs on the Church, knowing that if Rome fell to his preaching, the whole Church would.
Ireneaus tells the story of Polycarp’s encounter with Marcion:
[Polycarp] it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles, that, namely, which is handed down by the Church. There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me? “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”
(Against Heresies, III.3.4)
Sometimes we need to dialogue with those who disagree with us, but there are also times when we must simply condemn the corruption that anti-Christs bring to the world. Polycarp understood the importance of defending the truth of the Gospel and resisting those who opposed it. Let us pray that we always have the courage to stand up to those who preach a false Gospel.
St. Polycarp, pray for us!
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