Late I gained first-hand acquaintance with the Church fathers. Their writings breathe Scripture. Their lives shine forth the Spirit. I try to be reading from them or of them constantly. And when I for some reason spend extended times apart from their company, I always return in shame: wondering why I ever left. But, as I said, I am late. Soon enough to profit, but not soon enough to be truly rich. Alas, God knows.
So, like all frustrated parents, I seek to live my life over through my children. At least one of them is a joyful recipient of my endeavors. I recently acquired the first three books in Sinclair Ferguson’s Heroes of the Faith Series. They cover the lives of Ignatius, Polycarp, and Irenaeus. Today I finished reading Polycarp of Smyrna: The Man Whose Faith Lasted. At the end of the book, Ferguson informs the reader of the literal meaning of Polycarp’s name: much fruit. Ferguson writes, “Polycarp was a Christian who had ‘much fruit’. His Christian friends became stronger because of him. They loved Jesus more because of him. And they learned this from Polycarp. . . Jesus is worth living for and he is worth dying for.”
I am grateful that it is true of Polycarp, “though he died, he still speaks.” I am thankful that he is still teaching his friends that Jesus is worth living for and worth dying for. I pray that my daughter Aleyna falls in love with her fathers and is able to mine the treasures I will never be able to. She may be on her way. She is already choosing Ignatius, Polycarp, and Irenaeus over Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter (i.e. The Chronicles of Narnia.)
If you know nothing of Polycarp, here is a portion of the work The Martyrdom of Polycarp:
Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, “Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!” No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice. And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, “Have respect to thy old age,” and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as], “Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.” But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, “Away with the Atheists.” Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, “Swear, and I will set thee at liberty, reproach Christ;” Polycarp declared, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
Now go and read the whole thing here.