When Only Great Courage Will Do

This weekly bulletin insert complements the curriculum published by the Department of Christian Education of the Orthodox Church in America. This and many other Christian Education resources are available at http://dce.oca.org.

The Church remembers two very different people who both showed great courage. One was a young woman, and the other was an old man.

The young woman is Drosida (or Drosis), the daughter of the emperor Trajan. He was a cruel enemy of Christians, and enacted laws forbidding people to assemble secretly. These laws were aimed at Christian gatherings for worship, even though there was nothing subversive in their gatherings. His prisons and methods of punishment were known for their brutality, and many Christians met painful, humiliating deaths during his reign. After death their bodies were further degraded by being left unburied and visible to the public, as a warning to others who might think of following their way of life.

But the emperor's daughter Drosida had become friends with a group of young Christian women who undertook a dangerous and admirable ministry. Under cover of night they gathered the bodies of these martyrs and gave them a proper burial, first anointing them with oils and spices and then wrapping them in the customary shrouds. Drosida joined them in this furtive, courageous work. Though she had not yet been baptized, she lived as a Christian.

Their activity went unnoticed for a time, but finally became known. The young women were apprehended, interrogated, and finally, with the exception of Drosida, executed by being thrown into huge furnaces used for melting copper. She, at the order of the emperor, was held in the imperial chambers. Trajan hoped his child would give up her allegiance to this new faith.

But she did no such thing. The courage of her friends had already convinced her to join them as a martyr for Christ. She baptized herself with oil and water so as to be worthy to meet the Lord. Then she made her escape, and approached the furnaces. She threw herself into one of them, and gave up her life.

The old man is Noah, the builder of the Ark, whose story we read in Genesis. We all know the familiar details of the story: the building of the vessel, the pairs of animals, the days on the water, and the dove bringing an olive leaf as a sign that the waters were finally subsiding.

But we don't think as often, perhaps, of the courage shown by this old man. He followed God's command to build the ark and assemble his family and the animals on it. But that was really the easy part. What must it have been like for Noah, watching as the waters rose up over the whole earth, even the mountains, and every living thing was blotted out? He needed great courage to face such momentous destruction.

Proverbs 10: 25 says that "when the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever." The lives of Drosida and Noah became "tempestuous" in different ways, but their courage ensures that they are established forever.