Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Marcellus the Centurion

The best known of the saints called Marcellus was a centurion in the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. Christians were soldiers in the Roman legions; but, during the feasting and merrymaking at Tangier that accompanied the celebration of the emperor's birthday, Marcellus found he could be one no longer. He dropped his soldier's belt, the sign of his allegiance, by the standards of the legion, and threw down his cane--his symbol of authority as an officer--and his arms. 'I serve Jesus Christ, the eternal king,' he said, 'from now on I serve your emperors no more.' The soldiers seized him and reported the matter to their commander, who ordered Marcellus to be imprisoned.

When the festivities were over Marcellus was brought before the commander, who interrogated him carefully and not without fairness. Marcellus stated plainly that on the day in question he had said in public that as a Christian his only allegiance was to the Son of God the Father almighty. The commander said, 'I can't overlook your rash behavior. I must report this to Caesar.' And he referred the case to Aurelius Agricolan, the deputy for the prefects of the guard. Marcellus was brought before Agricolan in court and the charge was read: he had thrown off his belt of allegiance, and, saying that he was a Christian, pronounced public blasphemies against the gods and against Caesar. Agricolan questioned Marcellus about his mad actions, and Marcellus boldly affirmed that he had indeed done those things which had been reported of him. 'I did throw down my arms,' he said, 'for it is not right for a Christian who serves the Lord Christ to serve also the demands of the world.' It would seem that Marcellus, in the midst of pagan merrymaking and no doubt the customary paying of divine worship to the Emperor, had seen clearly the entanglements in which his post as an officer of the Roman army was gradually ensnaring his soul. His call was not unlike that which takes men from positions of importance and authority to monastery or hermitage: the acute sense of being increasingly smothered by the affairs of the world, and the essential need to get back to the heart of life. But with Marcellus it was sudden and overwhelming. Agricolan took strong disciplinary action, and Marcellus was condemned to death. 'God bless you,' said Marcellus. And he was taken out of the court and beheaded.

Propers for Marcellus the Centurion - Martyr

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who didst strengthen thy blessed martyr Marcellus with the virtue of constancy in faith and truth: Grant us in like manner for love of thee to despise the prosperity of this world, and to fear none of its adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lesson - 2 Esdras 2:42-48.

I ESDRAS saw upon the mount Sion a great people, whom I could not number, and they all praised the Lord with songs. And in the midst of them there was a young man of a high stature, taller than all the rest, and upon every one of their heads he set crowns, and was more exalted; which I marvelled at greatly. So I asked the angel, and said, Sir, what are these? He answered and said unto me, These be they that have put off the mortal clothing, and put on the immortal, and have confessed the name of God: now are they crowned, and receive palms. Then said I unto the angel. What young person is it that crowneth them, and giveth them palms in their hands? So he answered and said unto me, It is the Son of God, whom they have confessed in the world. Then began I greatly to commend them that stood so stiffly for the name of the Lord. Then the angel said unto me, Go thy way, and tell my people what manner of things, and how great wonders of the Lord thy God, thou hast seen.

The Holy Gospel - St. Matthew 10:16-22.

BEHOLD, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall he brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, be not anxious how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.


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