Friday, June 1, 2012

"No right-minded person forsakes truth for falsehood."

I suppose I have been devoted to St. Justin Martyr ever since writing a large icon of him (with scenes from his life) back about 15 years ago.   I spent over six months living with him (or at least seriously meditating on his life) while first drawing the central standing figure of the saint and each of the cartoons for the various episodes in the life and then painting the entire icon.   
The  icon(above) was commissioned by St. Justin Martyr parish in Anaheim, California.  The original  isn't anywhere near as green as the photograph -- the colors aren't even close, actually.  However, the detail is pretty good.

I really came to appreciate St. Justin (and companions).  Justin was a pagan who came from Neopolis (Nablus) in Palestine.  He set out to search for the truth.  At the top of the icon he is shown encountering three teachers of different schools of Greek philosophy, all of which Justin found unsatisfactory.  He finally settled on a Platonist teacher who he studied with for a number years until he met an old man at the edge of the Mediterranean, who introduced him to Christ and the gospel.  Justin had discovered what he was searching for in the person of Christ and was converted and baptized.  In Rome, where he served as a catechist Justin wore the white philosopher's robe, to symbolize that in Christ he had discovered the Truth that all philosophers were seeking. 

He wrote a variety of 'apologies' -- to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, to the Roman Senate and to the Greeks, to explain and defend the faith of Christians.  He also wrote a dialogue with a Jewish scholar named Trypho in which he sought to answer contemporary Jewish objections to various Christian teachings about Jesus.

Inevitably, while in Rome he and his companions were denounced as Christians to the Roman magistrate Rufinus.  Threatening them with torture and execution, he sought to compel Justin and companions to worship the Emperor and the pagan gods, which they refused to do.  There is a contemporary account of their interrogation by the magistrate in which Justin, ordered to sacrifice to the gods, replied, "No right-minded person forsakes truth for falsehood."  His companions replied in a similar fashion and said: "Do with us as you will.  We are Christians and we cannot sacrifice to idols."

St. Justin Martyr was first scourged and then beheaded, along with his companions.


  1. Hi Charles, I love your icon of Justin Martyr. Hope all is going well with you. Please pray for our deacon, Kevin, whose wife, in early 50s, has Alzheimers.

    Just returned from Florida. Sr. Christine is leaving the Center and returning to her mother house in St. Augustine, so the North Florida Iconography Institute is on haiatus (SP?).

    Getting ready to teach at Mt. Angel. Hello to Paula.

    Blessings, ks

  2. Hi KS!
    Thanks for the kind words about the icon of Justin Martyr. I'm pretty fond of it too.

    Your deacon and his wife will be in my prayers -- they are at the beginning of a difficult and challenging journey, both as a couple and as individuals.

    I'm going to be on retreat at Mt.Angel from June 25-June 30. If you are in the vicinity, maybe we can get together and catch up.

    Please give my best to Mary, Michael and Claudia when you see them.