Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August 12 - Cassian of Imola, Martyr and Faithful Teacher


Cassian was a bishop at Brescia near Milan. With the rise and power of the emperor Julian the Apostate, Cassian was forced from his position as bishop and caused to flee before the encroachment of the Empire into the Church. In a very real way, the Empire had set itself against the Kingdom and hoped to wage a war that would result in the surrender of lives and souls at the defeat of the Kingdom. Oblivious to the nature of the Kingdom of God, the Empire thought (as empires still think) that power is about control and territory is about domination. Cassian fled but became nowise less powerful since the Empire was unable to uproot the Kingdom from the world much like a gardener is unable to keep out weeds.

Cassian fled to Imola where he soon took on another position of service and guidance. He became a teacher of young people so that he might have an impact upon their lives. He taught themthe subjects that they were expected to learn but he, also, taught them about life through his own life well-lived. Though it was not one of the assigned areas of study, Cassian could not help but give testimony to the Christian life through his every action and thought. That's the thing about the Gospel: it transforms and renews in a radical way. Cassian could no more turn it off than he could stop breathing.

Cassian taught his pupils many things but of particular note was a type of shorthand that allowed them to write as quickly as they could speak. For Cassian, it was important that his students be well-equipped for life. This speaks volumes about Cassian's character: he was not simply using his position as teacher to try to proselyte youth but, rather, he was teaching them out of an enduring love for them and a desire to see them prepared for life and well-educated. This kind of commitment is laudable--especially in consideration of Cassian's eventual demise.

Eventually, a local official found out about Cassian's past and seized the opportunity to increase his own standing with Julian. The official realized that he would be commended if he punished Cassian and, consequently, was willing to buy a little more status and influence with the blood of another person. After all, this is the way of the Empire--crush or be crushed and always look out for yourself. Cassian was arrested and brought before the judge. He was offered a chance to sacrifice to the idols and deny his faith in Jesus--to purchase his freedom with his integrity and soul--but he denied the offer and, instead, remained steadfast in the Faith he confessed. Cassian was ordered to be executed for sacrilege against the Roman gods and rebellion against the empire.

As a means of execution, Cassian was stripped of his clothing and tied to a post with his arms behind his back. His students--non-Christians compelled by Imperial powers--were commanded to punish him. They started by breaking their slates over his head and continued by stabbing him repeatedly with their iron styli. Each stylus from each student drew a little blood and inflicted untold emotional damage upon Cassian as his former students whom he loved drew his blood and extinguished his life. Having been whipped into an ecstatic frenzy, the students and the crowd slowly bled Cassian to death. Cassian died having confessed his faith in word and deed and the Empire stamped out yet another life oblivious to the nature of the Gospel upon the lips of their victims.

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