Thursday, November 18, 2010

November 18 - Romanus of Caesarea, Martyr, Encourager, Proclaimer

Romanus was a deacon at the church in Caesarea. He was also a thorn in the side of the Roman rulers and leaders. He had encouraged the Christians in Caesarea to constantly remember their first allegiance was to God and not to Rome. This attracted the kind of Imperial attention that was generally avoided by the Roman populace. Romanus was not afraid of whatever the Empire might threaten or do but was still sent to another congregation--this one in Antioch--when persecutions increased in Caesarea. As he arrived in Antioch, he met a congregation that was gripped by dread of the Emperor's legions and power. They knew all too well what happened to people like Romanus and the people that Romanus led.

The governor of Antioch--Asklepiades--had made it known that he was considering the destruction of the Christian house of worship. Romanus spoke tenderly to the people of his congregation and called them to stand in support of one another and their common bond in brotherhood and sisterhood as the Body of Christ. "If we deter the governor from this evil, then the Church everywhere will join with us in celebration," he said, "and if we fail and he slaughters us in our defense of the Church, then the heavenly Church will welcome us in as sons and daughters of God baptized again in blood." The people joined Romanus in protesting the governor's plans and prepared for the expected retaliation. Instead, the governor was deterred by their unwavering solidarity and commitment.

A little while later, Romanus was shocked to see that there was yet another festival being held in the streets of Antioch. Idols lined the streets and enthused worshipers were prostrate before many of them. The festival was in high gear when Romanus took up a position on a corner to preach the Gospel. Along with the Gospel, he denounced the idols as sinful distractions from the one true God. The crowds railed against him and threatened him yet he did not cease his preaching. Eventually, he was arrested to keep the peace. When the governor realized who had had finally seized, he took his opportunity to put an end to this annoyance. He had him bound and tied to a stake in the middle of the city. They whipped and beat him in the sight of the many people there. Finally, they prepared to burn him alive at the stake. As they were setting the fire, a harsh rain storm descended upon the city and the fire was extinguished. Romanus laughed loudly--though bleeding and beaten from the torture--and continued to proclaim the Gospel to the angry crowd. "Could your idols not keep away a single storm?" he asked the crowd. The governor had his tongue ripped out. With wordless utterances he sang hymns and continued to preach as he bled yet more profusely. Finally, he was strangled to death with the words of the Gospel and hope upon his blood-stained lips.

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