(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press.Today's saint, Marcian, comes from Volume 4 of the series.)
"Although the dimensions of the heart and not of the body comprise the true measure of a man, it certainly is no handicap for a man in any walk of life to be endowed with greater than average size. For a man of God, it is a distinct advantage to stand tall and, therefore, to be looked up to, literally as well as figuratively. The great bulk of St. Marcian served him in good stead in his missionary work because he offered such a contrast of brute strength and gentle spirit, enough so that he played an important role in the formation of the Church in the early years of the new faith.
It might very well have been his huge proportion that caught the eye of St. Peter, the foremost apostle, who saw in this gentle giant the capacity for greatness, which was to unite them in friendship and in a common effort for the cause of Christianity. Peter discovered Marcian while on a mission to Antioch, the ancient capital of Syria, where the term “Christian” had been coined to denote the followers of Christ, who had hitherto been referred to as Galileans or Nazarenes. One of the many called to Christ by St. Peter, the massive Marcian felt that inner surge of the Holy Spirit that compelled him to take up an active part in the cause of Christianity.
With the guidance of the apostle Peter, it took little time for Marcian to absorb the teachings of the Savior, and he took to a vigorous campaign for Christ that was in spirit commensurate with his tremendous physical appearance. He needed no box on which to stand when addressing a crowd and he needed not prompting on what to say. His great heart was filled to the brim with the love of Jesus, and he exuded a warmth that captured those who would listen to him in an outpouring of missionary zeal that helped to establish a firm base for the faith that has been the salvation of mankind for twenty centuries.
With his physical strength, he could overpower any man, but he chose to bring men to Christ with the power of his reason and the depth of his faith. Marcian’s work among the multitudes who lived in spiritual darkness was methodical and unspectacular, because he feared that a combination of overemphasis together with his giant frame might serve to drive off more poor souls than he could gather to the light of Christ’s love. He tempered his oratory with a subdued approach to the problems of spirit that troubled a people oppressed for centuries by deprivation and a lack of understanding of the true nature of God. He could have destroyed the pagan idols with his outsized hands, but they virtually disintegrated in the bright light of the Savior, which he brought forth with praise and prayer and with the conviction that regardless of their mortal size all men were equal in the sight of God, a conviction which a man of his insight could bring to bear on the hapless victims of paganism.
It was Peter who elevated Marcian to the rank of bishop as a reward for his unceasing labors for Christ, labors so eminently successful that he was sent to Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, where there was a crying need for a man capable of restoring to that faltering Christian city the strength of spirit that could be found in Antioch. In the course of this undertaking, the task was made less burdensome by the Lord. Marcian discovered that he had attained powers of miraculous healing and manifestation through the power of God. Armed with this won-derful gift, he had no trouble in strengthening the Christian community and in winning converts in great numbers. His only trouble stemmed from the envy of those in power, who considered him a menace to their tight rule on the island and who plotted to discredit him.
When a crippled pagan was brought to him for healing, Marcian told his detractors that the power of God was useless unless the man who sought healing had faith. The pagans scoffed at this reasoning, all but the afflicted wretch, who was instructed by Marcian to come to the cathedral to find the new faith. The pagans went to the cathedral, not with the ailing man, but with armloads of stones with which they pelted to death the praying Marcian. He died for Christ on October 30, 69."
(From Orthodox Saints, Vol. 4, by Fr. George Poulos. Image from Wikipedia.)