…they placed the Deacon Laurence in an iron cage, under which they set an intense fire, and the flames of the fire flicked towards the body of the martyr. Glancing at the governor, he said: “Here now, you burn only but one side of my body, turn over the other and do my whole body”. Dying, he uttered: “I thank Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, that Thou hast accounted me worthy to enter into Thy gates” — and with these words he gave up the spirit…”
So much is written today about the necessity for a “men’s movement” and issuing urgent pleas for “men’s ministry”; otherwise the pundits say, “Men will just never come to church…” And so the hand wringing goes. Apparently men today are not “challenged” enough, neither are they “related” to or “catered” to in the worship of the church. Thus we see many churches today painting and decorating their buildings with “hunter green” and “camo” olive, hanging fishing and golfing prints in the hallways, along with hosting “Wild Game” dinners and Super Bowl parties. Now don’t misunderstand. I love a great party, and I love it when men get together, but this “let’s create a church for men” mantra has gotten a bit out of hand.
Authors today cash in on the perceived need to “reach” men with a Christianity that speaks their language, that is burly, rough and tumble, that “meets their needs” – in short “ya gotta market to them, coerce them – and then they will come”. Great. Now the American church has yet another “target audience” in which to pander and cater to, otherwise, the experts say that great numbers of men will continue to drop out of church, abandon their families, leave their wives, and sleep in on Sunday mornings – simply because it is too “boring.” You wanna know my opinion? Well, here goes… In my opinion, as with many areas of popular culture today, one simply wants to say to the men of America… “grow up”, stand up, and buck up – it’s not about you! Rise up and be the man that called you to be, the man that God made you to be, a redeemed servant, who like his Lord, gives his life for the life of the world, for the sake of others. How many books today teach men to be “wild at heart”, how many conferences where men learn to keep “Promises”, how many “wounds” must constantly be wallowed in, how many weekend trips to forests where men “connect again with nature” – by beating drums, and acting like boys, instead of living like men? It is awesome to be a boy… but the goal of life is to live as a man.
One of the reasons the Orthodox Church appeals to men today is because it calls men to be men, to live like men, and it offers them a journey, a path, a way of life that is heroic, manly, and full of adventure and sacrifice – And if you don’t believe me, at least believe St. Laurence! As Christian men we stand in the lineage of great men – who acted like men; who lived like men; who served Christ like men – men like Laurence, Deacon in the Church of Rome. Do I need a book to learn to be “Wild”? Do I need to go half way around the country to learn how to make “Promises”? Does my “wound” define me? I think not. What a gift we have as men to read the lives of other ordinary men, who with courage, strength and honor looked evil in the face and – spit. Men with valor and integrity – men – who stood for Truth, justice and mercy. Men who protected the weak, the poor, the sick and lame. Men, who did not need to be entertained on Sunday mornings, who did not need their “felt needs” catered to, men who did not need to bang drums in the forest to connect with their inner primal being. In orthodoxy we emulate the actions of manhood by identifying with the Man of all men – Christ. We stand in the same regiment as other soldiers, such as Laurence, Ignatius, Polycarp, Peter and Paul. They model true manhood for us, so that there is no question as to our calling. We stand in a long line of servants, of warriors, who would not bend, who would never yield, but who stood faithful to the Truth until the bitter end.
Enjoy this true story of our brother Laurence. A fellow servant and warrior for Christ. If you are like me, this story will stir you to deep devotion, it will call to your inner man (not child!) to stand firm with unshakble devotion to serve the weak, the needy, the poor, your wife, your children and – in the end Christ Himself. In the spirit of Laurence – “turn me over… for I am done…” there is nothing that you can do to me Satan, for I know who I am in Christ. I know what I am called to be in the Church… and only one thing matters in my life: to become more like Him – who gave His life for me…
St. Laurence was one of seven deacons who were in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. When a persecution broke out, Bishop Sixtus was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, St. Laurence followed him weeping, “Father, where are you going without your deacon?” he said. “I am not leaving you, my son,” answered the Bishop. “in three days you will follow me.” Full of joy, St. Laurence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand and even sold expensive vessels to have more to give away. The Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered St. Laurence to bring the Church’s treasure to him. The Saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church. When he showed them to the Prefect, he said: “This is the Church’s treasure!” In great anger, the Prefect condemned St. Laurence to a slow, cruel death. The Saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but St. Laurence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked.
“Turn me over,” he said to the judge. “I’m done on this side!” And just before he died, he said, “It’s cooked enough now.” Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the true Faith might spread all over the world. After that, he went to receive the martyr’s reward.
Your heart burned with divine fire
as the flames of the passions died within you.
God-bearing martyr Laurence, the pillar of those who struggle,
you cried out in the midst of your contest:
“Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ.”
(Here is an article http://www.antiochian.org/node/17069 that describes the story of why men are drawn to orthodoxy and why they find spiritual homes in the Orthodox Church)
Another from Christianity Today http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/2008/april/27.48.html