Monday, August 17, 2009

August 17 - Mammes of Caesarea, Martyr, Youth, Steeped in Stories

Mammes of Caesarea served time in prison even before he was arrested and convicted. His mother gave birth to him in prison while she and his father were awaiting punishment for the crime of being Christian. Mammes was, thus, orphaned by his parents shortly after his birth at the will of an Empire that hoped to crush the spread of Christianity through fear of death. Mammes' parents--Theodotus and Rufina--were executed but their message lived on in their martyrdom. Young Mammes was, soon, taken care of a Christian by the name of Ammia.

Ammia was a wealthy older woman who had been widowed by the Empire. She was, also, a member of the underground Christian community. She, indubitably, would have told Mammes about her own life but, also, the lives of his father and mother. He had no memories of them and, yet, the Christian community held their memories with them as if his mother and father were present with them every time they gathered--every time they shared the Lord's Meal. Mammes was raised on a healthy diet of stories that informed his values. He knew well the stories of Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection. He knew well the stories of the lives of countless Christians who had chosen death or torture instead of denying their faith. He, likely, knew the circumstances of his own parents' painful death because of a refusal to bow before the Imperial lords and rulers. Mammes was taken care of and steeped in the stories of his people. He had been raised to know that some things were worth dying for and some things weren't worth doing even if it meant living. Mammes had learned that there was more to life than a heartbeat and more to death than the grave.

Mammes was arrested for the crime of being a Christian by the governor of Caesarea. The governor beat and tortured him but Mammes, like his father and mother before him, refused to deny his faith. In exasperation, the governor sent Mammes to Emperor Aurelian in expectation that such a powerful man could win and claim Mammes' heart and will. Aurelian beat and tortured Mammes, as well. But, like his parents and like his brothers and sisters, Mammes refused to deny his God by bowing before the supposed majesty of the Empire that came enforced by threats and pain. As he languished in jail, he was set free by an angel and fled to Caesarea at God's direction.

In Caesarea he was eventually captured and thrown to the lions. At a word, the lions became docile before Mammes. Mammes made a companion out of the ravaging beast primed for his destruction. In many ways, this is emblematic of Mammes and other martyrs--he redeemed even the weapons of his murderers. Like the sandalwood, he perfumed the axe that laid him low. Mammes, finally, went to Duke Alexander of Caesarea and proclaimed his allegiance to the Kingdom of God--a Kingdom with no end--and his faith in Jesus. Duke Alexander ordered Mammes' death and Mammes was, quickly, stabbed in the stomach with a trident. He offered no words of hatred or condemnation for his executioners but, rather, died peacefully knowing that his death proclaimed a powerful witness to the Kingdom. Mammes followed in the footsteps of the parents he never knew. Though he never knew them, he was formed by the same people, the same experiences, and the same God that had formed them. Like his parents, he was prepared to live into the story written for him and make a bold statement about the reality of the Kingdom and the unreality of the Empire's power.

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