Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

pionius_the_presbyter

Later the proconsul came to Smyrna. Pionius was brought before him on the twelfth of March (c. AD 250, during the persecution of the emperor Decius), and gave testimony with the minutes being taken down by secretaries. Seated before the tribunal the proconsul Quintillian put the question. "What is your name?" "Pionius," was the answer. "Will you offer sacrifice?" the proconsul asked. "No," he answered. The proconsul asked, "What is the cult or the sect to which you belong?" "The catholic," he answered. "What do you mean, the catholic?" asked the proconsul. "I am a presbyter," said Pionius, "of the Catholic Church." "Are you one of their teachers?" asked the proconsul. "Yes," answered Pionius, "I was a teacher." "You were a teacher of foolishness?" he asked. "Of piety," was the answer. "What sort of piety?" he asked. "He answered, "Piety towards God the Father who has made all things." The proconsul said, "Offer sacrifice." "No," he answered. "My prayers must be offered to God." But he said, "We reverence all the gods, we reverence the heavens and all the gods that are in heaven. What then, do you attend to the air? Then sacrifice to the air." "I do not attend to the air," answered Pionius, "but to Him who made the air, the heavens, and all that is in them." The proconsul said, "Tell me, who did make them?" Pionius answered, "I cannot tell you." The proconsul said, "Surely it was the god, that is Zeus, who is in heaven; for he is the ruler of all the gods."

Later, as Pionius was silent, hanging in torture, he was asked, "Will you sacrifice?" "No," he answered. Once more he was tortured by his fingernails and the question was put, "Change you mind. Why have you lost your senses?" "I have not lost my senses," he answered, "rather I fear the living God." The proconsul said, "Many others have offered sacrifice, and they are now alive and of sound mind." "I will not sacrifice," was the answer. The proconsul said, "Under questioning reflect within yourself and change your mind." "No," he answered. "Why then do you rush towards death?" he was asked. "I am not rushing towards death," he answered, "but towards life." Quintillian the proconsul said, "You accomplish very little hastening towards your death. For those who enlist to fight the beasts for a trifling bit of money despise death. You are merely one of those. Seeing you are eager for death, you shall be burnt alive." The sentence was then read in Latin from a tablet: "Whereas Pionius has admitted that he is a Christian, we hereby sentence him to be burnt alive."

Hastily he went to the amphitheater because of the zeal of his faith, and he gladly removed his clothes as the prison-keeper stood nearby. Then realizing the holiness and dignity of his own body, he was filled with great joy; and looking up to heaven he gave thanks to God who had preserved him so; then he stretched himself out on the gibbet and allowed the soldier to hammer in the nails. When Pionius had been nailed down, the public executioner said to him once again, "Change your mind and the nails will be taken out." But he answered, "They are in to stay." Then after a moment's reflection he said, "I am hurrying that I may awake all the more quickly, manifesting the resurrection from the dead." And so they raised him up on the gibbet, and then afterwards a man named Metrodorus from the Marcionite sect. It happened that Pionius was on the right and Metrodorus was on the left, though both faced the east. After they brought the firewood and piled up the logs in a circle, Pionius shut his eyes so that the crowd thought that he was dead. But he was praying in secret, and when he came to the end of his prayer he opened his eyes. The flames were just beginning to rise as he pronounced his last "Amen" with a joyful countenance and said, "Lord, receive my soul." Then peacefully and painlessly, as though belching, he breathed his last and gave his soul in trust to the Father, who has promised to protect all blood and every spirit that has been unjustly condemned.

Such was the innocent, blameless, and incorruptible life which blessed Pionius brought to an end, with his mind ever fixed on almighty God and on Jesus Christ our Lord, the mediator between God and man; of such an end was he deemed worthy. After his victory in the great combat he passed through the narrow gate into the broad, great light. Indeed his crown was made manifest through his body. For after the fire had been extinguished, those of us who were present saw his body like that of an athlete in full array at the height of his powers. He ears were not distorted; his hair lay in order on the surface of his head; and his beard was full as though with the first blossom of hair. His face shone once again -- wondrous grace! -- so that the Christians were all the more confirmed in the faith, and those who had lost the faith returned dismayed and with fearful consciences. The Martyrdom of Pionius the Presbyter and His Companions, 19-22







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