Before the Tribunal, 185 AD: St. Apollonius’s Defense of Christianity

I love the early church and reading about what the life and times of those so close in space and time to the Lord. Their witness glitters on the page, their whole selves entirely orientated to Our Lord in sharp juxtaposition to the Roman way of life.

St. Apollonius, whose feast day is today, is another one of those shining examples of fearless Christianity in the face of frightening persecution. In Butler’s Lives of the Saints we read that St. Apollonius  was a senator who was exposed as being a Christian by his servant. St. Apollonius was ordered to give a defense of himself before the tribunal, and this is what he said:

I serve my God, not idols made with human hands. I will never worship gold, silver, bronze, iron or supposed deities of wood and stone, which are blind and deaf, the works of craftsmen, jewellers, and sculptors, fashioned by carnal hands and with no life of their own. It is the God of heaven whom I serve, and him alone do I worship.

The simplicity and strength of his words and crystal-clear vision of his purpose in life seem typical of the lives of the early church saints.

Butler continues, explaining how St. Apollonius argued that Christianity, with its emphasis on the life of the soul and teaching that death was nothing to be feared, along with Jesus’s mission, the revelation of the Word of God, far surpassed what paganism could offer, a common tactic of the early apologists. St. Apollonius said:

This Word is our savior Jesus Christ. He was made man in Judea. He was just in everything and filled with divine wisdom. For love of men he has shown us who is the God of the universe and what rule of life our soul must adopt…By his passion he has ruined the empire of sin. (p. 153-154)

This Easter Monday St. Apollonius reminds us again what our mission is as children of God and what it is that we were not made for: this world. A glance to him can help us reject the idols of our day or right our priorities when we’ve let them slip. We can follow his lead in reminding our world that this is not our final destination and that only the passion of Christ can get us there.

St. Apollonius, pray for us, that our witness to God’s love might shine as yours did. Pray for us that our Christian example might show others the way past what this world has to offer to our real home in heaven. Amen.

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