Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Primer on Abi's Purple Martyrdom

My mate, Matt Stone, recently suggested that I post a page describing the Purple Martyrdom for newcomers to my blog, since it is referred to so very often. What a great idea, Matt!

For those who want to wander through the 58 posts tagged as concerning the Purple Martyrdom, click on that tag on the left or this link. Otherwise, the remainder of this post will give you the quicker answer as well as a path to understand the process by which this idea developed. Here goes....

Not coming from either a Celtic or Catholic church tradition, this wee abbess was woefully ignorant concerning the fact that there were three kinds of martyrs recognized in the church. This is good to acknowledge because it gives an opportunity to say that the word "martyr" actually means "witness" ... and became associated almost exclusively with those believers whose steadfast and open witness concerning their new life in Jesus Christ lead directly to their death ... usually by the most dispicable means imaginable.

But there are more kinds of witness -- which I came to learn during my time at Seabeck in October of 2007, during which I decided that I was more of an abbess I had previously thought. Each kind was associated with a color, and I wrote the following in that post:
At Seabeck this week I was introduced to concepts of the Red Martyrdom (shedding of blood and death), the Green Martyrdom (deprivation and isolation) and the White Martyrdom (forsaking the comfort of hearth and home).
Then I began to ponder these witnesses ... and wondered whether there might be another one to add to the ranks. there another? A mixture of sorts? Where physical brokenness is evident without actual death … where deprivation and isolation exists in the midst of suburban consumerism … where the call to serve others matches the call to serve one’s own.
...or where forsaking the comfort of hearth and home is a call to live simply and responsibly in a culture dripping in idolatrous excess. I concluded that there was, indeed, room for this kind of witness. A witness that each of us is called to embrace as a type of martyrdom. And since physical brokenness is so often accompanied by brusing, I chose the color purple for this fourth martyrdom.

But purple is more than the color of bruised flesh. It is the color of royalty ... perhaps of a royal priesthood? And while the robe of our sin-stained human nature has been washed pure as snow in the crimson blood of the Lamb of God, we are now to put on Christ as our covering. I see this as the over-coat that covers the linen sheath. But these images are just that ... images. They help me process the metaphor of having a spotless white spiritual linen sheath over which I am to put on the purple cloak as I follow Jesus. That purple cloak speaks of royalty, yes, but not one that rules in strengh ... but, rather, brokenness, submission, suffering and weakness.

Not many of us in the West have been called to the Red Martyrdom (although many brothers and sisters in the East daily bear that color of witness). The history of many of the monastic orders over the centuries tells of those who have been (and are still being) called to variations of the Green Martyrdom of isolation and deprivation. It seems to me that the missionary efforts of the past 100+ years have been under the banner of the White Martyrdom, as they embraced the forsaking of the comfort of hearth and home to take the Gospel to those who have not yet heard.

It also seems to me that, for too many Christ followers, these three paths of witness have not particularly resonated. They are for "others" who have been "called" to serve. But this wee, virtual abbess begs to differ ... offering each and every Christ follower an invitation to join the Purple Martyrdom.

More than anything else, those who follow Christ have been called -- yes, called -- to pick up our crosses and follow the Suffering Servant as he ushers in the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom where the Holy Spirit lives in each of us, empowering our witness in the midst of our weakness. A Kingdom where God gets the glory because we are utterly dependent upon his power to both equip and enable us to do his will. In each conversation. In each relationship. In each activity. In each setback or injury. All day. Every day. Until the day when we move beyond the frail flesh in this mortal vale and are transformed with Eternity's immortal body. On that day, we will not longer have to spiritually "put on" Christ every day. We will have finally put on the imperishable body that will be like Christ's resurrected body.

And I have no idea what colors we will wear on that day ... that will probably be irrelevant.

So, I hope that you will consider yourself officially a member of the Order of the Purple Martyrdom. It is the Everyman's Martyrdom (excuse me sisters, but "Everyperson's" just does not have the same literary connotation), where the simple witness is consciously dying to yourself and living for Jesus. Whatever that means to you in your daily circumstances.

Maybe I see things in a purple-kind-of-way because of those purple glasses I wear, eh? Yes, those are my purple cHesed glasses. I wear them to help me perceive more of what God does. They need regular cleaning ... on the inside ... they are frequently spotted with salt-encrusted tears.

Be blessed in the midst of your brokenness today, friend.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. It sounds very similar to something that some friends and I are exploring called Gospel Poverty. It's not a vow to be poor or anything, but it is a call to initimacy and obedience to Christ, to live simply so that time and resources are available to help the poor, the outcasts, and the hurting.

Here's some information on what we are moving toward

AbiSomeone said... as if everything we have, in fact, belongs to God, eh?

Blessings to you on your journey.

Oak Abbey said...

Truly inspired...I love this!
Count me in...
Deep Peace and Every Blessing!

AbiSomeone said...

Welcome, Oak Abbey! After looking at your web site, I can understand why you might resonate with this wee abbess... ;^)