Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Feast of Fabian, Bishop and Martyr

O God, in your providence you singled out the holy martyr Fabian as worthy to be chief pastor of your people, and guided him so to strengthen your Church that it stood fast in the day of persecution: Grant that those whom you call to any ministry in the Church may be obedient to your call in all humility, and be enabled to carry out their tasks with diligence and faithfulness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

One day around the year 236, the Christians in Rome were getting ready to elect a new bishop (Pope Anterus had died after only being on the Episcopal Throne for a mere month and ten days). While waiting for things to get started, a man was carting dung outside of the chamber, and many saw a dove land on the head of the dung-guy, one Fabian, layman, pop singer and stranger to the city. Those being more simple times, everyone was so amazed at this sight that Mr. Fabian was at once proclaimed bishop by acclamation and wisked-off for a weekend of ordinations.

As Pope, Fabian was very interested in honoring the martyrs, and it is claimed that he did some building in the catacombs and brought the remains of Hippolytus and Pope Pontian back to Rome from Sardinia.

He was also big on organization and organized the church in Rome and also appointed seven deacons to do the administration in that church.

Pope Fabian supposedly baptized emperor Marcus Julius Philippus and his son, but since Eusebius doesn't mention this, yet DOES mention the dove incident, I find the claim to be suspect (of course, Eusebius was more interested in the idea that Constantine was the first Christian emperor, and this business with Philip would complicate that story). Baptizing the emperor ended the persecutions of that time, as one would expect. However, upon the death of the emperor, the new guy, Decius, started up the persecutions again and Fabian was one of the first to be martyred, on January 20, 250. We do not have an account of his martyrdom. According to differing traditions, Fabian was either tied to a cross and beaten with torches until he died (!) or beheaded.

When Cyprian of Carthage heard about Fabian's martyrdom, he sent the following letter to the clergy in Rome: When the report of the departure of the excellent man, my colleague, was still uncertain among us, my beloved brethren, and I was wavering doubtfully in my opinion on the matter, I received a letter sent to me from you by Crementius the sub-deacon, in which I was fully informed of his glorious end; and I rejoiced greatly that the integrity of his administration had been matched by the nobility of his end.

I greatly congratulate you that you honor his memory with so public and illustrious a testimony, through which you have made known to me not only the memory of your bishop, which confers glory upon you, but also an example of faith and strength that I should follow.

For just as the fall of a bishop tends to bring about the ruinous fall of his followers, so it is a useful and helpful thing when, by the firmness of his faith, a bishop becomes manifest to his brethren as an object of imitation.

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