Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 21 - Charalampus, Martyr, Old Man, Evangelist by Peace

Charalampus had been born roughly fifty years after Jesus' death. This means that he was born before any of the Christian Gospels had been written down. Yet, he did not die until the turn of the second century into the third. This means that he was over one hundred years old when he finally died. In this time, he had become a Christian even though it was frowned upon by the Roman Empire he was a part of. He had been a part of a congregation of people who met regularly to worship and practice their devotion to their savior. Over time, he had become a priest and eventually a bishop. His service to the Church stretched on through the years and his face was welcome in many Christian homes in the area--even if at times only because he had been the pastor to some of their grandparents. For his preaching--even at his advanced age--he was arrested and commanded to stop. Clearly not too keen on torturing an old man, the ruler insisted that if Charalampus didn't stop preaching he'd be forced to torture and kill him regardless of his age. The ruler insisted that Charalampus should stop for his own good. To this, Charalampus responded: "You don't know what's good for me. You don't know what makes me well. Nothing is more pleasing to me than to suffer for my Lord. So, don’t hesitate to put my old body to whatever tortures you want and you will learn that the power of my Lord cannot be overcome."

So, soldiers came in and began torturing hm by raking his body with iron combs. His aged skin came off in strips and chunks and his blood flowed easily but he did not cry out or even stop smiling. He patted one of the soldiers on the hand and thanked him for what he was doing by saying, "Thank you, brothers, for scraping off my old body and further preparing my soul for new and eternal life." The sincerity in his voice, his remarkable endurance, and the soldiers' discomfort at torturing an old man combined to effect the conversion of the soldiers. They confessed their faith and trust in Charalampus' Lord because of the sermon he preached with his suffering. The soldiers were immediately beheaded for this treason and others continued the task of his torture. When agonized screams could not be brought out of him, it was decided that he would be transferred to the emperor--Septimus Severus--to be punished and killed more effectively. At this pronouncement, three onlooker women began to loudly praise God and were immediately martyred as well.

Charalampus was brought into the presence of Septimus Severus but already rested within the presence of his God as he devoted himself to prayer on the journey while the soldiers had dragged him along by his beard. When he arrived, he was tortured with a variety of cruelties including fire and being impaled. When he remained alive, the emperor was incredulous and demanded to know by what power he maintained his life. Charalampus responded that it was by the power of Christ. The emperor had a task for Charalampus and brought a man before him who had been possessed by a demon for many years and asked what Charalampus might do about that. With a prayer and one spoken word he cast the demon out of the man and infuriated the emperor.Claiming that he must be a sorcerer, the emperor condemned him to be executed. As the executioner approached with his sword drawn Charalampus yelled: "Lord, you know that all people are only flesh and blood...forgive them for what they do and bless them all." With these words, he died before the executioner had even begun to strike. The daughter of Septimus Severus became part of Charalampus' legacy as well when she converted on the spot and became a devoted follower of Jesus.

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