Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 3 - Hyacinthus of Caesarea, Martyr, Servant of the Emperor, Uncompromising

Hyacinthus knew that Trajan hated the Christians when he heard that Trajan wanted to make him a cubicularius or chamberlain. This was a surprising honor for a twelve-year-old boy like Hyacinthus but apparently Trajan felt that Hyacinthus would be a capable steward and house servant. Trajan, however, didn't know that Hyacinthus was a Christian and the son of Christians. Though Trajan seemed entirely oblivious to Hyacinthus' greater allegiances, Hyacinthus knew well that Trajan would not tolerate his faith if he ever found out about it. Each Sunday when he met with his congregation in secret he must have wondered if this would be the last time he would break bread and share the cup with them before Trajan found out and punished him for treason against Rome. The congregation must have looked upon Hyacinthus as a vapor since they knew how unlikely it was that his secret would remain hidden for long in the presence of the treachery common among the emperor's power-grabbing servants. Each week, they must have rejoiced that he had made it back to another service of worship before their common Lord and Savior. Then, one day, Trajan decided to go with all his servants to make sacrifice to the Roman gods and values.

Perhaps Trajan did it to test their loyalty or perhaps he did it because of some great desire to make sacrifice before yet another idol while also receiving his own adoration and adulation. The servants--including Hyacinthus--were commanded to go from the home of Trajan to a certain temple to make a certain sacrifice and nearly all of them went. Hyacinthus was unwilling to make sacrifice and so he returned to his small room and prayed to the Lord he loved and served. With each passing moment he knew that Trajan and many of the servants were making sacrifice even as he was laying his anonymity before Trajan on the altar before God. Hyacinthus was willing to make sacrifice to the Lord who loved him first and foremost but he wondered if Trajan would even notice with the many servants that were in attendance. Indeed, as Hyacinthus prayed in his room Trajan was busy trying to locate him in the crowd of servants eager to demonstrate their loyalty to him. He didn't see him but he couldn't prove he wasn't there, either. One of the servants, however, who was jealous that Trajan's favor rested upon Hyacinthus went ahead of the group as they returned to the palace. He walked directly to Hyacinthus' room and overheard him praying. He crept back to Trajan and spilled his guts to him in hope that his willingness to betray another would endear him to Trajan.

Trajan had Hyacinthus dragged before him. He questioned the boy directly and asked if the accusations about his prayers--and consequently his allegiances--were true. Hyacinthus admitted that he had not only failed to offer sacrifice as Trajan had commanded but, also, that he had spent the time in prayer to Jesus. Trajan was furious and felt betrayed that his own cubicularius would commit such an audacious act of treason. He offered Hyacinthus an opportunity to make a sacrifice at that moment and in doing so to clear his name. Hyacinthus refused and was whipped for his insolence before the emperor. Though only a child, he was further beaten and abused before being thrown into prison. Each day they brought him food that had been sacrificed to idols and made it clear that he could eat whenever he was willing to honor the idols by eating. Day after day passed and more and more food was brought to him but he refused to eat. Each day he refused he was beaten and whipped. After thirty-eight days they came into his cell to punish him for once again refusing both the emperor's offerings and sacrifice to idols but they found him dead from starvation on the floor of the cell. Though relief from his hunger was only feet from him and open to him he was unwilling to compromise his faith to end his suffering.

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