St Julian of Cilicia

Posted on 16th March 2021 under The Rectory Bulletin | Church History

“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks”(Hebrews 11:4).

Born in Cilicia (southern Turkey) in the second half of the third century, Julian was a man of rank. His father was a senator, and his mother - crucially - was a Christian. Given his father’s pagan beliefs, Julian was not baptised at his birth but the death of his father meant a move to Tarsus and brought about his baptism. From that time on Julian’s mother brought her young son up in the faith.

When he reached eighteen a great persecution of Christians broke out under Emperor Diocletian who ruled from 284-305. Julian soon found himself in the hands of Marcian, who proved to be a brutal magistrate and wanted to break the young man’s resolve. In essence, Julian then endures a year long martyrdom as he was daily brought before the judge. At times his mouth was forced open and filled with food which had been offered to idols. Other times he was whipped until his bones were visible. He was tortured by fire, sword and scourge but his mother was steadfast in her prayers and encouraged her son to endure. Which he did.

In the end Marcian’s patience ran out. Julian’s mother was punished by having her feet cut off, and her son was sewn into a bag with scorpions and reptiles and hurled into the sea. After a while the sea gave up its dead, and Julian’s remains were taken to Antioch where they were buried with honour by the church.

This is, I know, all gruesome stuff but it serves as a witness to the value of the Christian faith that Julian would endure all this rather than recant. It bears witness to the steadfastness of a mother alongside her son. When we remember that the Greek word for witness is ”martyr” then we realise “though he died, he still speaks”.

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