Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 12 - Pancras, Martyr, Adolescent, Determined to Resist


Pancras never knew his mother. As he was coming into this world to begin his life's journey and draw his first few breaths, his mother Cyriada was passing from the same world and drawing her last few breaths. For all of Pancras' life so far he had shared the body of his mother but she soon faded from view (but never from the memory of her family) as she died following his birth. Pancras was raised by his father Cleonius and thanks to his father and mother's roman citizenship he had a fairly comfortable upbringing in Phrygia. He received a little education and as much love as his grieving father could offer but life wasn't done taking from Pancras and when he was only eight years old his father died from causes covered over by the thick fog of history. With both Cyriada and Cleonius dead it was necessary for somebody to take in orphaned Pancras since he was only eight years old and deemed incapable of protecting himself from life's cruel hand. So, he was given over to the care of his uncle Dionysius. Perhaps looking for a change of scenery from Phrygia, Dionysius and Pancras moved to a Roman villa on the Caelian hill.

To live on one of the seven hills of Rome was an honor and was only the right of those with both considerable power and significant wealth. However, to live on the Caelian hill at the time was an even greater honor because of its prominence among those with plenty of social status and sufficient leisure time to determine which hills should be and were the most popular. The Romans might have assumed that such a wealth-infused upbringing would be the perfect curative to Pancras' losses and griefs but, then, those with money and power often succeed themselves into believing that those things are necessary for happiness (and in doing so teach themselves to need the needless). But Pancras' location with his uncle was very beneficial in one particular way. It put him and his uncle in the path of some Christians and soon they became interested in the words the Christians offered and the inextinguishable hope that burned within them. Perhaps it was words of life eternal that resonated within Pancras or perhaps it was some other deep truth but, regardless, Pancras soon found himself converted and baptized. Dionysius joined him in the waters of death-that-leads-to-life. This was a risk on their part but it was one they took willingly.

In the year 303, Pancras was only fourteen years old but he was a devoted follower of his Lord Jesus. He knew that his faith may very well cost him something very dear--perhaps even his own life--but he was undeterred by the threats of an empire only interested in bringing him into worthless submission. He was eventually arrested for being a Christian during the reign of Diocletian. The imperial captors were confident that an adolescent from a wealthy section of Rome would be all too easy to break and convert away from Christianity to worship of what Rome deemed worthy. After all, if he had much wealth to lose and many years to forfeit by remaining Christian then it seemed that a boy would quickly kneel before the imperial demands. When Pancras refused their demands and acknowledge but didn't care about their threats, Diocletian was impressed. Pancras was determined to resist and so this made him appealing to Diocletian who hoped yet to convert him. He was offered the favor of the emperor and much wealth and power but still refused to deny his Lord and make sacrifice to the Roman lords. After an extended period of alternating threats and promises--the two confused arms of imperial coercion--he was labeled a hopeless case and condemned to die. At fourteen years old, Pancras walked to the place where he was to be decapitated and accepted his martyrdom with a calmness that astonished the crowd. Pancras had finally found something worth living for in a God who not only cared about orphans and widows but had entered into the world of pain that Pancras knew all too well so that it could be redeemed. He died a martyr knowing that the battle for the world had already been won and the Kingdom was on the rise.

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