Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 26 - Abbot Iscu, Martyr, Model of Forgiveness

Iscu was going to die in a cold and dark prison in Romania. His prison, Tirgul-Ocna, had been designed for those who resisted the Communist party's will and wishes. Iscu had refused to concede to the Party's statements concerning the Christian faith and had, consequently, been arrested and imprisoned. The State had exercised its power over Iscu's body by confining him and slowly working to convert him to the Party's desires. They need not convince him rationally, they suspected, if they could simply make him want to believe with all the gruesome torments they could devise. So, they tortured Iscu repeatedly. They blocked out the day from him and left him to fester in a dark and dank hole they called a prison. When they weren't torturing him, he was comforting his fellow prisoners but there were relatively few times they weren't torturing him.

Iscu still refused to deny his faith. They left him in the cell for a while expecting that death was right around the corner. They could see the life draining from him as they dropped him to the floor under the staring eyes of other captives. In his every breath they could hear the beginning of a death rattle. As the guards turned to leave the cell, they noticed that one of the sets of eyes watching them were the eyes of their former comrade. They looked away for fear of being associated with this one who had been sacrificed on the altar of state loyalty. For some reason he had been cast down from his position as interrogator and torturer. He had been disloyal to the Party in some way and so they had turned the tables on him and viciously tortured him to the brink of death before throwing him into the cell with his former victims. Now, he lay dying near Iscu whom he had tortured.

The former guard wept and despaired at his situation. Most of the prisoners there were Christians that he had been unable to convert away from the Faith and so he begged for their prayer. "I have done awful things and deserve what I am getting" he yelled. The prisoners watched in surprise as he loudly apologized for his sins but found no relief. He didn't see himself worthy of the forgiveness he so desperately needed and desired. So, he wept and despaired.

Iscu called with a soft and fading voice to nearby friends. They came to him and he whispered instructions to them. The men lifted Iscu and placed him beside the former guard on the floor. The two men--Iscu and the former guard--breathed heavily as they prepared to die. Iscu weakly raised one hand to stroke the hair of the former guard and said, "You were young and did not know what you were doing. I forgive you and love you, as do all the other Christians you mistreated." The former guard was captivated by Iscu's forgiveness and did not doubt it. Iscu continued, "If we sinners who have been saved by Jesus can love like this, how much more is He himself ready to erase all the evil you have done, to cleanse you fully. Only repent." The former guard offered repentance and converted to the Faith he had forced others to deny. Iscu had pardoned his torturer and murderer. The guard had converted to the faith of his victims. They embraced before slipping into death.

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