The Saints and Martyrs of Asia October 6
Asia is the largest of the earth’s continents, stretching from Asia Minor in the west to Japan in the east, from the Siberian Arctic in the north to Sri Lanka in the south. Asia is the home of the very first Christians, but also of many peoples yet to be evangelised.
At Mount Sinai, St Catherine’s is the best known of a number of desert monasteries, where for some fifteen hundred years people have sought a life of perfection regarded as unattainable in the outside world. Turkey was at one time the heartland of Christianity, where scholars produced the creeds of Nicea and Chalcedon, before being over-run by Islam. In other Moslem countries of western Asia, such as Iran, small churches have remained faithful, often through great hardship. In many of these countries, the various Orthodox Churches form a significant strand of the Christian tradition, reaching back to the beginnings of the Christian church.
On the Indian sub-continent the faith is traced back at least to the fourth century. This Syrian tradition survives today in South India. More recently the churches in India have led the world church in the quest for Christian unity. Since the Second World War, united churches have been formed in South India, North India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, providing some of the great leaders in the ecumenical movement.
In China, Christianity has both prospered and temporarily disappeared according to the attitude of the authorities. Successive Nestorian, Roman and Jesuit missions were followed by the return of missionaries in the nineteenth century, but again there was persecution at the time of the communist takeover and the “cultural revolution”. In the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989, Christians suffered along with other Chinese. The church is now independent of outside support, and has developed its own distinctive style of witness and leadership.
In Japan the pattern of conversion and suppression has been followed by toleration. Korea has produced many martyrs and also one of the fastest growing churches in the world. The Philippine church has had a long struggle for freedom from foreign domination. The same is true in Indonesia, where the largest church anywhere in the Moslem world has been established.
One third of Asia lies in the states that once formed part of the Soviet Union. After the invasion of 1941, German speaking people were deported from the Volga and the Black Sea to Siberia, most of them Lutherans. Many Christians, including Orthodox, suffered in the camps of the Gulag Archipelago. More recently the church has regained toleration and freedom. The Russian Orthodox Church has a proud history stretching back to the ninth century, and there have been numerous saints and martyrs.
For Liturgical Use
Asia is the birthplace of Christianity, and many of its finest seeds have flowered in that continent. Evangelism, the creeds, monasticism, the ecumenical movement, martyrdom, and patient witness are all to be found in the stories of the churches of that large and diverse continent. From the churches of Asia Minor and the Middle East, dating back to New Testament times, to missionaries in India, China, and Japan and the indigenous churches now there and throughout the whole region, there have come many faithful witnesses.
Thus says the Lord: Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst. Zechariah 2:11
God of all nations,
through the lives and witness of the saints and martyrs of Asia,
your name is honoured today
from Siberia to Sri Lanka and from Turkey to Japan;
from the seed of faith sown,
let your church grow and prosper
to the glory of your name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus, Lord of Asia, light of the east,
may the offering of those
who have given or spent their lives
in your own continent
be the first-fruits
of a great and precious harvest.
Psalms 22:22-31 87
Zephaniah 3:8-13 All will call on the Lord
Acts 19:1,8-10 Paul in Asia
Matthew 2:1-11 The wisdom of the east
Post Communion Sentence
Let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.
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