JULY 20: ST. APOLLINARIS, Bishop and Martyr.
St. Apollinaris of Ravenna is a Syrian saint. According to tradition, he was a native of Antioch in Roman Province of Syria. As the first Bishop of Ravenna, he faced nearly constant persecution. He and his flock were exiled from Ravenna during the persecutions of Emperor Vespasian (or Nero, depending on the source). On his way out of the city he was identified, arrested as being the leader, tortured and martyred. He was made Bishop of Ravenna by Saint Peter himself.
From the sermons of St Peter Chrysostom
The martyr reigns and lives
Blessed Apollinaris, the first bishop, alone honoured the church in Ravenna with the glory of martyrdom suffered here. Following the mandate of his God, he lost his life in order to find it again for all eternity. Blessed is he who so finished the race, kept the faith, that he was truly found to occupy the first place among believers. May no one think that his title Confessor is less than that of Martyr: by God’s will he returned the battle often each day. St Paul says “I die each day”. To die only once is very little for those who can gloriously conquer the enemy more often for their king. It is not death so much as faith and dedication that make one a martyr; and just as it is a mark of virtue to fall in battle, in conflict, for the love of the king, so it is a mark of perfect virtue to engage in combat for a long time and to bring it to its conclusion. Therefore, the enemy did not make him a martyr, since he did not inflict death, but he proved him to be a martyr, because he did not remove his faith; the crafty enemy hurled the weapons that he could, and he aimed at him everything he had in his arsenal; nevertheless, he was unable to budge this bravest of leaders, nor could he tarnish his constancy. It is the highest honour, brothers, to despise this present life for the Lord’s sake, if that is necessary, but it is also glorious even while living to scorn and trample underfoot the world and its ruler.
And what else, brothers? She has seen to it, Holy Mother Church has seen to it, that she would in no way be separated from her bishop. Behold, he lives as a good shepherd in the midst of his flock, and he who has gone before us in body is never separated from us in spirit. He has gone before us, I tell you, in his external appearance; nevertheless his body rests among us. The devil is vanquished, the persecutor has given up; but he who wanted to die for his King, lives and reigns.
℟. I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith.* Now a crown of justice awaits me, and the Lord, who is a just judge, will give it to me on that day.
℣. For me, life means Christ, death a prize to be won.* Now a crown of justice awaits me, and the Lord, who is a just judge, will give it to me on that day.
Direct your faithful, Lord, in the way of eternal salvation which the Bishop Saint Apollinaris showed by his teaching and martyrdom, and grant, through his intercession, that we may so persevere in keeping your commandments as to merit being crowned with him. Through our Lord.