Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Saints, See the Cloud of Witnesses

Justin Martyr was an apologist, a defender of the faith, in the early Church.  June 1st on the Church calendar commemorates Justin Martyr as we remember his life and witness.  When Justin was arrested for his faith in Rome, the prefect asked him to denounce his faith by making a sacrifice to the gods. Justin replied, "No one who is rightly minded turns from true belief to false."  He was taken out and beheaded.  Since he gave his life for the "true philosophy," Justin has been surnamed Martyr.

"Justin's conversion to Christianity is thought to have happened at the city of Ephesus, around A.D. 130, when our inquisitive young Samaritan was roughly thirty years of age. And though he was undoubtedly given a warm reception into the Christian congregation there in Asia—that venerable church founded by  John, written to by Ignatius from the house of Polycarp—Justin, to tell the truth, may have raised a few eyebrows by his conduct as a new believer. For the fact is that he continued to frequent his old haunts. He kept all his old friendships and ran with the same unregenerate crowd he had associated with as a heathen. In short, Justin of Neapolis became known, much like his Lord before him, as "the friend of publicans and sinners"—only in Justin's case, the publicans and sinners were not prostitutes or winebibbers, but mystic Pythagorean mathematicians and long-faced logicians studiously following Xenophon and Parmenides. In other words, Justin became an apologist—a defender of the faith, a philosophical evangelist—and from the day of his redemption he seems to have been possessed by one burning desire: to see his own people, his brother philosophers, come to the knowledge of the truth."  Rod Bennett | From "Justin Martyr", in Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words | Ignatius Insight 

1.  Saints, see the cloud of witnesses surround us;
     Their lives of faith encourage and astound us.
          Hear how the Master praised their faith so fervent:
          “Well done, My servant!”

 2.   These saints of old received God’s commendation;
       They lived as pilgrim-heirs of His salvation.
            Through faith they conquered flame and sword and gallows,
            God’s name to hallow.

  3.   They call to us, “Your timid footsteps lengthen;
        Throw off sin’s weight, your halting weakness strengthen.
             We kept the faith, we shed our blood, were martyred;
             Our lives we bartered.”

  4.   Come, let us fix our sight on Christ who suffered,
        He faced the cross, His sinless life He offered;
             He scorned the shame, He died, our death enduring,
             Our hope securing.
  5.   Lord, give us faith to walk where You are sending,
        On paths unmarked, eyes blind as to their ending;
             Not knowing where we go, but that You lead us—
             With grace precede us.

  6.  You, Jesus, You alone deserve all glory!
       Our lives unfold, embraced within Your story;
            Past, present, future—You, the same forever—
            You fail us never!

Almighty and everlasting God, You found Your martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, seeking the true God, and You revealed to him the sublime wisdom of Your eternal Word: Grant that all who seek You, or a deeper knowledge of You, may find and be found by You; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 comment:

Phillip said...

This excellent hymn was paired with our annual school theme this past academic year. So our day school kids learned it quite well. They really belted it out at our closing chapel service his past Friday!

The theme was "Press On Towards the Goal" (Phil. 3:14), for which I thought this hymn an excellent choice.

("Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.")