written by Mary B. Thorpe
Almighty God, who gave to your servant N. boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (BCP, Common of a Martyr I)
Vincent of Saragossa (d.c. 304) is remembered today, the first Spanish martyr, who spoke truth to power, in his case, in a plea to his governor in his trial. We know little about his story other than his ending: because his bishop had a speech impediment, Vincent, a deacon, was his own defender in the case, dying because his words infuriated the governor.
It’s like that sometimes. For those who attend Virginia Theological Seminary, they recall these words which are inscribed at the entrance to its library: “Seek the truth, come whence it may, cost what it will.” Similarly, we are challenged as followers of Christ to SPEAK the truth, come whence it may cost what it will.
And there will often be a cost. Vincent was not the only person who paid a price for speaking the truth boldly. Bonhoeffer. Sebastian. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Perpetua and Felicity. The Maryknoll nuns. Jan Huss. Oscar Romero. William Tyndale. Edith Stein. The list is long, and many who suffered for their faith and died are known only to God.
For most of us, the risk might be a job. It seems so much smaller than death. But perhaps the “little deaths”, of dreams dashed, of possibilities unrealized, of the loss of compensation that feeds and provides a roof over the heads of our families, are not so little. Bonhoeffer said “the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.” Does that mean that we plow ahead and ignore the cost? I think not. It may be about embracing the cost and trusting in grace to get us through. But it’s not about measuring cost against benefit. It’s about acknowledging that we cannot live into speaking boldly for Christ without losing something, and that we trust that God will be with us, not necessarily to save of from the cost but instead to help us walk through it.
The cost of speaking the truth may merely be someone calling us a demeaning name. The cost of speaking the truth may be as great as death. The cost of the truth may not be evident when we begin to speak, but it will be known to us when we’re done. Is it a cost we’re willing to pay? If we do not, the cost may be more than the world can bear.
So perhaps if we’re serious about the One whom we follow, who paid the price for his love, we do not weigh the cost. We live into it. Not easy, not painless, not heartbreaking. But it is how we live, as best we can.
The Rev. Dr. Mary Brennan Thorpe is Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of Virginia, a wife, mother, grandmother, iconographer, writer, knitter, and lover of opportunities to see old things in new ways. Her prior career as a lobbyist has caused some to wonder if she has gone from the profane to the sacred as a form of repentance. She blogs sporadically at Rev Mibi, and is in the midst of writing two books.