Icon of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”
Today is the feast of All Saints. Today we should also remember the martyrs of the Church. On 23 November, on #RedWednesday, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral, as well as other places of faith and worship, will light their facades red – as par of a campaign initiated by Aid to the Church in Need, to publicise the plight of those persecuted for their Christian faith and to promote peace and tolerance.
When I was young, the martyrs of the church were old, dead, long-buried under Diocletian, the Tudors, French Republicans, strange, foreign emperors and potentates. Today, we understand that martyrs are being tortured and, literally, crucified, for their faith across the world. In the West, despite the rigours and mysteries of modernity, we enjoy religious freedom and the ease of democracy, for all its faults. We can ‘live our faith’; others die for theirs.
18th Century Icon of All Saints, from Kolomenskoe
The golden evening brightens in the west;
soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest;
sweet is the calm of Paradise the blessed.
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of glory passes on his way.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
and singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost: