September 2019 Letter
In September, we will celebrate the beginning of the new Coptic year 1736 AM, which is known as the year of Martyrs. It is a good opportunity to learn about “what is martyrdom” from an article by HH Pope Shenouda titled “Martyrdom and Martyrs”:
- Martyrdom is a process of giving one’s self to the Lord, as Christ said: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 13: 15).
No doubt, giving some money (like the tithes) or even giving one’s all property as what St. Anthony did, is great. However giving one’s self life is the greatest deed.
A person can give some of his time to God as done by Sunday School servants, priests and monks, however martyrdom is much greater as one gives all his life.
- Martyrdom is giving in love: the martyr is a person who loves God so he offers his life for His sake. He loves God’s kingdom to the extent that he desires to go to Him, thus martyrdom is a sacrifice of love.
- Not only martyrdom is connected to giving and love, but also connected to asceticism. A martyr is a person who doesn’t care for anything in the world and has no desire of any worldly things, so he is ready to leave it without any regret. If feels in his heart any love for the world, he will not desire to become a martyr.
- Another important point is that martyrdom is linked to faith. The first motive of the martyr is his faith. We mean by faith two things: faith in God and the correct dogma which makes the martyrs confess the name of the Lord and die for His sake. Moreover, they believe in the second life, as death is a temporary stage, after which they live forever with God as said by St. Paul: “having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phi 1: 23).
- Martyrdom is also called baptism of blood. For baptism is dying with Christ, as written in Romans (Rom 6: 3), and Colossians: “buried with Him in baptism” (Col 2: 12). Therefore the death of the right thief on the cross is considered as baptism.
When some of the non-Christians witnessed the strength of martyrs and the miracles that happened to them, they declared their faith in Christ, and this declaration lead them to martyrdom before receiving the baptism of water & Spirit. Thus, their martyrdom is considered baptism of blood, as they have shed their blood for the sake of God.
May the blessing of St. Mary, St. Mercurius and all the martyrs be with us all. Amen.