Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Feast of St Lawrence, Martyr

"When the fury of the heathen power was raging against Christ's choicest members, in aiming in especial at such as were in Holy Orders, the wicked persecutor turned fiercely on the Levite Lawrence, who was remarkable, not only as a minister of the Sacraments, but also as distributor of the property of the Church, promising himself a double prey by the taking of this one man, namely, to make him betray the consecrated treasure, and apostátise from the true faith.  The wretch was thus doubly fired by his greed for money and his hatred of the truth. His greed urged him to seize the gold, and his wickedness to rob a believer of his chief treasure, even of Christ himself.  Wherefore he first demanded from this upright steward of the sacred treasury, to bring him the wealth of the Church, for which his rapacity longed.  But the pure-minded Levite shewed him where these riches were laid up.  For he brought forward before him a great multitude of the holy poor, by the feeding and clothing of whom he had laid up all that he had, in such wise, that it could be lost no more, and was now all the safer, as the way of spending it had been the holier.

Being thus frustrated, the robber loudly complained; and burning with indignation against a religion which enjoined such a use of riches, he attempted a still greater theft.  From him in whose possession no gold was to be found, the robber thereupon demanded the dearest of treasures, even that possession which had made the young man rich in holiness.  He commanded Lawrence to deny Christ.  Seeing the immoveable firmness of the Levite's soul, he made ready to assail the same with appalling tortures, of which the failure of any one was to be followed by another more fearful still.  He ordered the Christian's limbs to be torn on the rack.  After this he was scourged to the point of death.  Then he was condemned to be slowly roasted over a fire.  To this end he was laid on a gridiron, underneath which were burning coals, wherefrom the iron bars themselves became hot.  Thus as the torturers with their iron forks, constantly turned and re-arranged his limbs and body, his agony was kept keener, and his sufferings made to last the longer.

O raging cruelty, in nothing wast thou the gainer!  In nothing didst thou profit!  That which can die passeth by degrees beyond thy torments.  And when Lawrence departed to heaven, thou wast brought to nothing.  The love of Christ could not be overcome by thy fires, for the flame which burnt outwardly on his body was colder than the fire which burnt inwardly in his soul.  Wherefore, dearly beloved, let us rejoice with spiritual joy, and make our boast in the Lord, who is wonderful in his Saints!  Them hath he appointed unto us as a protection and an example.  And thus he hath made known his glory through the whole world, that from the rising up of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, wherever those stars of Levitical light do shine, like as Jerusalem is made glorious by Stephen, even so is Rome made resplendent by Lawrence."

-- From the Sermons of St Leo the Great

** Painting by Pellegrino Tibaldi

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