St Lucian’s Day
It’s about time we honoured another obscure saint. Today it is St. Lucian, surnamed of Antioch, born at Samosata, in Syria. He lost his parents whilst very young; and being come to the possession of his estate, which was very considerable, he distributed all among the poor. He became a great proficient in rhetoric and philosophy, and applied himself to the study of the holy scriptures under one Macarius at Edessa. Convinced of the obligation annexed to the character of priesthood, which was that of devoting himself entirely to the service of God and the good of his neighbour, he did not content himself with inculcating the practice of virtue both by word and example; he also undertook to purge the scriptures, that is, both the Old and New Testament, from the several faults that had crept into them, either by reason of the inaccuracy of transcribers, or the malice of heretics. Some are of opinion, that as to the Old Testament, he only revised it, by comparing different editions of the Septuagint: others contend, that he corrected it upon the Hebrew text, being well versed in that language. Certain, however, it is that St. Lucian’s edition of the scriptures was much esteemed, and was of great use to St. Jerome.
St. Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, says, that Lucian remained some years separated from the Catholic communion at Antioch, under three successive bishops, namely, Domnus, Timeus, and Cyril. If it was for too much favouring Paul of Samosata, condemned at Antioch in the year 269, he must have been deceived, for want of a sufficient penetration into the impiety of that dissembling heretic. It is certain, at least, that he died in the Catholic communion; which also appears from a fragment of a letter written by him to the church of Antioch, and still extant in the Alexandrian Chronicle. Though a priest of Antioch, we find him at Nicomedia, in the year 303, when Dioclesian first published his edicts against the Christians. He there suffered a long imprisonment for a the faith; for the Paschal Chronicle quotes these words from a letter which he wrote out of his dungeon to Antioch: “All the martyrs salute you. I inform you that the pope Anthimus (bishop of Nicomedia) has finished his course of martyrdom.’ This happened in 303. Yet Eusebius informs us, that St. Lucian did not arrive himself at the crown of martyrdom till after the death of St. Peter of Alexandria, in 311, so that he seems to have continued nine years in prison.
At length he was brought before the governor, or, as the acts intimate, the emperor himself, for the words which Eusebius uses, may imply either. On his trial, he presented to the judge an excellent apology for the Christian faith. Being remanded to prison, an order was given that no food should be allowed him; but, when almost dead with hunger, dainty meats that had been offered to idols, were set before him, which he would not touch. It was not in itself unlawful to eat of such meats, as St. Paul teaches, except where it would give scandal to the weak, or when it was exacted as an action of idolatrous superstition, as was the case here. Being brought a second time before the tribunal, he would give no other answer to all the questions put to him, but this: “I am a Christian.” He repeated the same whilst on the rack, and he finished his glorious course in prison, either by famine, or according to St. Chrysostom, by the sword. His acts relate many of his miracles, with other, particulars; as that, when bound and chained down on his back in prison, he consecrated the divine mysteries upon his own breast, and communicated the faithful that were present: this we also read in Philostorgius, the Arian historian. St. Lucian suffered at Nicomedia, where Maximinus II. resided.