Today, 17 Feb 2012, is the day the Church honours one of the Saints in the banner picture at the top of the blog : St Julian (or Julianus) of Caesarea, catechumen and martyr. He is the one standing second to the right of Our Lady (between St Lawrence and St Anthony of Egypt), the one with a white garment over his left shoulder. This is his story….
But before we get to that. It is rather encouraging when the good Lord reminds us that He arranges everything. For the past week or so I have been wondering more than usual when the feast day of St Julian of Caesarea would come up. It surprised me that the Lord’s direction was to write about Saints Elias, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Samuel and Daniel yesterday. It doesn’t anymore. As I learned tonight, the story of St Julian comes from exactly the same chapter in St Eusebius’ writings as yesterday. Only one day separated their martyrdoms. To read the whole account go to www.tertullian.org/fathers/eusebius_martyrs.htm , and look for the passage that begins ‘The confession of Pamphilus, and Vales…’
Eusebius tells us that Julian came from Cappadocia, who was in ‘full vigour of mind and body’. By deduction, Julian was a catechumen ; someone who believed in Jesus but had not yet received baptism. Eusebius after naming some of the martyrs then says, ‘the remainder of the others … were hearers and receivers ( how the ancients referred to catechumens).’ The other thing Eusebius tells us is that Julian almost didn’t receive the grace of martyrdom. He wasn’t arrested with the others of the group, and only because he was in the right place at the right time did he join them.
The Egyptians had been killed the day before. When Julian arrived back from a journey and entered people told him about the death of the martyrs. Most of us if we had heard such news would have fled into hiding – not Julian. He wished to see and to venerate the bodies of these holy martyrs. Already that day the rest of the group of martyrs had given their witness and had passed into a happy eternity. As soon as Julian arrived at the place where the bodies still lay, he went and embraced each one and honoured them with a kiss of peace. The non-Egyptians he must have known very well in the local Christian community, and it is probable that he had received instruction from St Pamphilus the priest and St Vales the deacon. Julian rejoiced at their victorious combat and yet was saddened because he was not one of their number.
Such a display of Christian fervour attracted the attention of the officials, and Julian was duly arrested and taken before the judge. Did Julian kick, scream and squirm? No! He praised God wholeheartedly for having counted him worthy of suffering for the sake of Jesus. Over a slow fire Julian was roasted until death and his eternal reward came.
Following the account of Julian’s death, Eusebius makes a point of saying that Julian’s actions were entirely consistent with his life. Julian was a ‘quiet and religious man’, someone who took God seriously in his life and who worked steadily and constantly at living in a manner pleasing to Him – full of virtue and the saltiness of the Holy Spirit (Matt 5:13).
The story didn’t end there. Having left the bodies of the martyrs out in the open, the judge-governor and everyone else fully expected that the wild animals would have a feast on the remains. After four days, no animal had touched the bodies at all. Seeing this as a great sign from God, the Christians took the bodies – without permission – and buried them with honour inside the local churches.
May the Lord God be praised for reminding us of the great Christian witness of these martyrs of 310 A.D. and of the story of St Julian in particular.
St Julian of Caesarea, pray for us.