Thursday, August 25, 2016

Genesius of Rome

It seems that the art of mocking the Christian faith is nothing new to those in the acting profession, but it is ironic that one of the first actors to mock Christianity was also a martyr for the faith and became a patron saint to faithful thespians.

The biography of Genesius is very unclear with various accounts having him born in different locations within the Roman Empire. What we do know is that he resided at Rome and was the leader of a troupe of actors and comedians, though not a successful one.

Genesius was eager to change his fortunes and try to get his star to rise in the competitive Roman entertainment market. He came-up with a bold new idea for a show that would mock the Christian minority and their rites and practices which was under an intense persecution during the reign of the emperor Diocletian, in an attempt to win an Imperial patronage.

Genesius went undercover to the Christians of Rome and became a catechumen, similar to the immersion into character that actors use today. He knew that he may be captured by the authorities if the Church he attended was raided, and was prepared to deny any faith in the Christian religion and make a quick sacrifice to the pagan gods to prove his loyalty to the emperor.

When it was time to ready his group for the show, Genesius quit attending Church and wrote the script for his play casting himself in the lead role of a catechumen. His theater company rehearsed the play prior to any performance and all of the actors had memorized their lines. Genesius sent an invitation to Emperor Diocletian in the hopes that Cesar would attend.

The night of the opening performance Genesius was thrilled to learn that Diocletian was in the audience and that his plan may just succeed. The show began and the play moved along as scripted until Genesius big scene in which his character was to receive the Sacrament of Baptism with the intention of mocking the Christian rite and practice. When the actor playing the part of the priest poured the water on Genesius head he underwent a conversion as if he was undergoing the Sacrament in earnest at the hand of a real priest.

Genesius seemed to the others of his company to be taking the act to a new level and they tried to improvise when he went off script but Genesius was quiet and fixed his gaze off-stage and was missing all of his ques. To keep the show moving the other actors reverted to the script and two of them that where playing the part of soldiers arrested Genesius character and took him before Diocletian, whom Genesius had included in the script as an added touch in his attempt to win the tyrant's favour. When to be part of the show Diocletian commanded Genesius' character to renounce Christ, Genesius declined, The emperor thought at first this was an attempt to add some realism to the show and again commanded him to renounce his faith, Genesius responded "There's nothing you can do or threaten to remove Jesus Christ from my heart and my mouth. Once I mocked his holy name and now I detest and regret that time. I came so late to the Kingdom and cannot leave it now."

After realizing that something had changed and this was no longer and act, Diocletian became enraged and had Genesius arrested by the Praetorian Guards, who then took Genesius away to be tortured in an attempt to have him renounce the Christian God. After he had been tortured for some time Genesius still would not recant or renounce Christ, Diocletian ordered him beheaded and thereby making him a martyr of the faith he wished to mock.

Propers for Genesius of Rome - 25 August - Martyr

Prayer of St Genesius.

THERE is no King but Him whom I have seen. I adore and worship Him, and for His sake, even though I be slain a thousand times, I will always be His. Torments are not able to take Christ from my mouth, nor from my heart. Bitterly do I regret that I detested His Holy Name in holy men, and came so late, like a haughty soldier, to adoring the true King. Amen.

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who didst strengthen thy blessed martyr Genesius 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 Epistle - 2 Esdras 2:42-48.

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

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