Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September 7 - Sozon, Martyr, Convert, Opponent of Idolatry

Tarasius was a shepherd in the hills of Cilicia. Although the known world was covered over in the rule and "peace" of Rome, Tarasius was attracted to the persecuted Church and their butchered Lord. Even though he had to risk life and limb, he joined with the underground Church and found a community that offered life more abundant and free to those who would join together in their vows and covenants. Tarasius was baptized and took the name "Sozon" (roughly meaning "saved") to represent the new life created in him through his conversion.

Sozon was tending sheep on a hill when he had a vision of Jesus instructing him to leave behind all his worldly possessions, except his shepherd's crook, and go to Pompeiopolis in preparation for his impending martyrdom. Instead of running away as some might have done when confronted with the reality of the consequences of conversion, Sozon left his sheep and things and went to Pompeiopolis. When he arrived there, he noticed that the city was buzzing with people of all stations and professions. There was a big feast being prepared and much time and money being spent around a large golden idol in the center of town. It didn't take Sozon long to realize that he had arrived in Pompeiopolis around celebration of the idol that would be accompanied by a feast. Further, it didn't take Sozon long to realize that the wealthy and influential would be feasting while the poor and needy would be starving in the presence of the religious rituals of those with power. As he watched some of the people beg for alms and be ignored and others pay an incredible amount of attention to the worship of a golden idol--enough gold to feed the city--and feasts to demonstrate their own importance.

Later that night, Sozon secretly crept into the presence of the idol as the officials slept and rested comfortably. As he gazed upon the mass of gold, he prayed and considered the suffering that went unnoticed throughout the city. Using his shepherd's crook, he struck the hand of the idol and broke it off. He then took the golden hand and broke it into many pieces and distributed the gold into as many of the hands of the poor as he could. Like water poured into a desert, the gold did not go very far to changing the plight of the poor but it did demonstrate the willingness of Christians and the Christians' God to be poured out for others--to take risks for others that many would not take for their closest friends and family members.

There was an uproar when the people noticed the missing hand. The devotees of the idol began gathering people together to torture and interrogate them. So that they would not suffer his punishment, Sozon came forward to confess to breaking the idol and aiding the poor and the outcasts. He was seized by the powerful people and forced to wear boots with nails sticking into his feet and walk to the amphitheater for a trial and interrogation. When he arrived, he was beaten ruthlessly. He confessed to his act and said, "I did it so that you might see the impotence of your god. The god you worship and demands your sacrifice offered me no resistance because it is not a god but, rather, a hunk of metal that you worship. I wanted to smash all of it to pieces so that people might not worship creation instead of creator."

For this, Sozon was executed. The worshipers of the idol thought that they might gain their power back by depriving Sozon of his life but they failed to realize that Sozon was prepared to die for his Lord who also had been murdered so that people might feel like they had some control in their lives. Sozon had laid down his life for his brothers and sisters both within the Church and outside of it. He had made a statement in his actions but also in his confession before the powerful and influential. In their attempt to regain control, they demonstrated that they never had any and that the works of their hands could not and would not save them.

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