All through his life, Origens thoughts ran on Martyrdom. He was a martyr by race; yearned in his youth to be martyred with his father Leonides. The exaltation of martyrdom was the core of Origen's training in the Christian life, and cornerstone of his teaching.
When he received the School of Alexandria, Origen courageously assisted many of his students who were martyred, and he assisted them in their last moments. He considered himself that he was called to the task of preparing Christians for martyrdom. He prepared not only the hearts of believers but also those of the catechumens to receive martyrdom joyfully. He breathed his own spirit into them. He visited them in prison, acted as their advocate, and gave them the brotherly kiss in open court.
Every person who came to him for instruction in the faith was liable to the penalties of the law. Liable also were his more advanced pupils who had submitted to baptism in spite of the imperial edict against it. But in the eyes of the law the born Christian who lived by his faith was not as much a criminal as the Christian who made converts of others, and it is probable that Origen owed his immunity to the tolerance of the local administration at Alexandria. It is probable that the edict of Severus, which was directed against converts only, did not touch him, and that so long as he abstained from formal defiance he was personally safe."
While he was old, he recorded his feelings concerning a persecution occurred at Alexandria from about forty years. In his Homilies on Jeremiah he describes the glorious persecuted Church of Alexandria.
This happened when man (a Christian) was a true believer. In courage he used to go to the church to be martyred.
We usually returned from the cemetery, in companion with the bodies of the saints, to our meetings, where the church in steadfast assembles.
The catechumens heard sermons amongst martyrdom. They overcame suffering, and confessed the Living God without fear.
Truly we behold marvelous and heroic deeds!
The believers were little in number, but they are believers in truth, they had progress in the straight and narrow way which leads to life.
EXHORTATION TO MARTYRDOM (Exhortatio ad Martyrium)
During the persecution of Maximinus, he wrote the Exhortation to Martyrdom, has the same message of his letter to his father while he was a child, with the amplifications that seemed necessary to the mature man. He wrote it in Caesarea of Palestine in 235 A.D, to Ambrose and Protocotius the priest of Caesarea, who were cast in prison. He declares martyrdom as his sweet desire that his soul demanded.
Origen stands with St. Ignatius of Antioch by reason of his desire for martyrdom, and with St. Clement of Alexandria because he taught that martyrdom was the perfection of love. He regarded it as one of the proofs of the truth of Christianity, not merely because it showed that Christians were capable of dying for their faith - other people die too, for their country or their ideas - but because in the Christian martyrs contempt for death was a sign that they had already defeated the powers of evil that use death as their instrument of torture (I Cor. 15:55). Martyrdom brought the resurrection, in a way, into the present as a living reality; the martyrs charismata, impassability in particular, were a sort of foretaste of the resurrection. Martyrdom was thus a continuation of the work of redemption.
Apart from the fact that this treatise is of great historical value as a first-class source for the persecution of Maximinus, it remains an important document of Origens own conviction and courage, his faith and his religious loyalty. It reveals the hopes and fears of the Egyptian Christians in the first half of the third century.
This work shows that he had lost nothing of his enthusiasm. However, in chapters 45 and 46, he mentions, not without purpose, that this desire for martyrdom was not shared by all. There were some who regarded it as a matter of indifference if a Christian sacrificed to the demons or directed his invocation to God under another name than the correct one. There were others who thought it no crime to agree to the sacrifice which the pagan authorities demanded, since it would be enough "to believe in your heart." It was for such circles that Origen wrote his treatise.
This work may be divided into five parts:
a. Exhortation to martyrdom:
It is a short work of great vigor and immense assurance. He is like someone standing at the elbow of Ambrosius, saying: "The time has come. Put away all other thoughts. There is need for martyrdom." Origen regards martyrdom as the most holy profession of the Christian. By martyrdom the Christian shows with his whole soul the desire to be united with God. It is best to die righteously, best to depart from life with the single purpose of entering the kingdom of Heaven: all other purposes are meaningless in comparison with this. He believes the martyrs received a special and greater fullness of beatitude than any holy men, they were the elect of God, sitting by Gods side on the Throne of Judgment, and therefore themselves beyond judgment; and their blood has the power to obtain remission of sins for others. All through the book there breathes the quiet assurance in the supreme validity of the martyr.
Origen asks: What greater joy there can be than the act of martyrdom? A great multitude is assembled to watch the last hours of the martyr. And let each of us remember how many times we have been in danger of an ordinary death, and then let us ask ourselves whether we have not been preserved for something better, for the baptism in blood which washes away our sins and allows us to take our place at the heavenly altar together with all the companions of our warfare.
Have faith, have courage, above all prepare yourselves for the blessedness of martyrdom. "We are the sons of a patient God, the brothers of a patient Christ, let us show ourselves patient in all that befalls us." And the best that can befall us is a martyrs death.
* Remaining steadfast in tribulation, because after a short time of suffering our reward will be eternal (Chs. 1-2).
* Martyrdom is a duty of every true Christian because all who love God wish to be united with Him (Chs. 3-4).
* Only those can enter eternal happiness who courageously confess the faith (ch. 5).
b. Warning against apostasy and idolatry:
* To deny the true God and to venerate false gods is the greatest sin (ch. 6), because it is senseless to adore creatures instead of the Creator (ch. 7). God intends to save souls from idolatry (Chs. 8-9).
* Those who commit this crime enter into a union with the idols and will be punished severely after death (ch. 10).
c. Carrying ones cross with Christ in perseverance:
* The real exhortation to martyrdom (ch. 11).
* Only those will be saved who take the cross upon themselves with Christ (Chs. I2-I3).
* The reward will be greater in proportion to the earthly possessions left behind (ch. 14-I6).
* Since we renounced the pagan deities when we were catechumens, we are not permitted to break our promise (ch. I7).
* The conduct of the martyrs will be judged by the whole world (ch. I8).
* We must take every kind of martyrdom upon ourselves in order not to be numbered with the fallen angels (Chs. I9-2I).
d. Scriptural examples of perseverance and endurance:
* Eleazar (ch. 22) and the seven sons with their heroic mother of which the second Book of the Maccabees reports (ch. 23-27).
e. The necessity, the essence and the kinds of martyrdom:
* The Christians are obliged to suffer such a death in order to repay God for all the benefits He bestowed upon them (Chs. 28-29).
* Serious sins committed after the reception of the baptism of water can only be forgiven by the baptism of blood (ch. 30).
* The souls of those who withstand all temptations of the evil one (ch. 32) and give their lives for God as a pure oblation, not only enter eternal bliss (ch. 3I) but can procure forgiveness for all whom they pray (ch. 30).
* As God extended His help to the three youths in the fiery furnace and to Daniel in the lions den, so His support will not be lacking to the martyrs (ch. 33).
* Not only God the Father, Christ, too, demands this sacrifice. If we deny Him, He will deny us in heaven (Chs. 34-35).
* He will lead the confessors of the faith to Paradise (ch. 36) because only those who hate the world shall be heirs of the kingdom of heaven (Chs. 37, 39).
* They will bestow blessing on their children, whom they have left behind here on earth (ch. 38).
* Whosoever denies the Son, denies God the Father also (ch. 40); but if we follow the example of Christ and offer our lifefor the kingdom of God, His consolation will be with us (ch 3. 41-42). For this reason the Christians are urged to be ready for martyrdom (ch. 43-44).
* Chapters 45 and 46 deal with a side issue, the veneration of the demons and the question with what name to invoke God. The last part of the essay summarizes the exhortations and admonitions for courage perseverance, emphasizing the duty of every Christian to stand the test in times of persecution (Chs. 47-49).
MARTYRDOM ACCORDING TO ORIGEN AND ST. CLEMENT
St. Clement attacks those who rashly incite the rulers, statesmen and soldiers to persecute them. He clarifies that the true Christian does not fear death, but he must not be in a rush asking for his death. It is not a martyrdom but committing a kind of suicide, against God. He looks like the Indian ascetics who throw themselves in fire. For St. Clement, martyrdom is a daily experience, a good witness to Christ by words and work and by all mans life.
Origen, on the contrary to St. Clement, asks believers to seek for martyrdom as a precious chance for the soul to attain freedom and for the church to be glorified. Origen always desired martyrdom and constantly made clear, in his Exhortation to Martyrdom as well as in his homilies, the esteem in which he held this crowning testimony to our belonging to Christ. However, he is far from being a fanatic about it.
MARTYRDOM ACCORDING TO ORIGEN AND TERTULLIAN
Tertullian, when a Montanist, refuses in his De Fuga any kind of flight from persecution, but the Alexandrian in his Commentary on John not only condemns any courting of martyrdom but also makes it a Christian duty to escape confrontation with the authorities, if this can be done without recantation: and he enjoins this in the name of the charity a Christian ought to show to the enemies of his faith, for it saves them from committing a crime.
Tertullian and Origen exhort believers to martyrdom, but everyone of them has his own view. Fr. Gregory Dix states that Tertullian concentrates on the resurrection of the body and delivering it from the eternal punishments, while Origen concentrates on the freedom of the soul and her progress through her learning by the Logos, so that she may be risen with Him.
While Tertullian looks to martyrdom as a way for the glorification of our risen body, Origen looks to it as a royal way through which Jesus Christ, the Logos, the Educator of the soul enters with her into the bosom of the Father, and there He reveals to her the divine mysteries. For Origen revealing the mysteries or attaining the true knowledge of God is the real eternal glory to the soul who becomes a friend of the Heavenly Father. Origen says,
Then you will know as friends of the Father and Teacher in heaven, since you have never before known face to face (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12). For friends learn not by enigmas, but by a form that is seen or by wisdom bare of words, symbols, and types; this will be possible when they attain to the nature of intelligible things and to the beauty of truth. If, then, you believe that Paul was caught up to the third heaven and was caught up into Paradise and heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter (2 Cor. 12:2,4), you will consequently realize that you will presently know more and greater things than the unspeakable words then revealed to Paul, after which he came down from the third heaven. But you will not come down if you take up the cross and follow Jesus, whom we have as a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens (cf. Heb. 4:14). And if you do not shrink from what following Him means, you will pass through the heavens, climbing above not only earth and earth's mysteries but also above the heavens and their mysteries."
ORIGENS LONGING FOR MARTYRDOM
Martyrdom seemed to Origen to be a means of attaining the perfect purity which even personal holiness was unable to give; it was the final preparation for the right to stand on the heavenly altar. This was the view of martyrdom that he wished every member of the Christian to have. The church without martyrs, he used to say, is as desolate as a Jerusalem without victims for the sacrifice in the temple.
CONCEPTS OF MARTYRDOM
1. Origen believes that Christ Himself, the Lord of the martyrs, is the true Martyr who works in the lives of His believers. He lived in more than one epoch of martyrdom, declaring that Christ allows the martyr to suffer, and He Himself suffers in His martyrs; He grants the martyr the victory and the crown and He accepts this crown in him. He understands that the absolute loyalty of the Christian martyr holds a persuasive power to bring pagans to the vision of the truth.
2. Martyrdom is the work of every true Christian, who desires to be united with God, and to struggle for His righteousness.
I beseech you to remember in all your present contest the great reward laid up in heaven for those who are persecuted and reviled for righteousness' sake, and to be glad and leap for joy on account of the Son of Man (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; Luke 6:23), just as the apostles once rejoiced when they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for His name (cf. Acts 5:41). And if you should ever perceive your soul drawing back, let the mind of Christ, which is in us (cf. Phil. 2:5), say to her, when her wishes to trouble that mind as much as she can, "Why are you sorrowful, my soul, and why do you disquiet me? Hope in God, for I shall yet give Him thanks" (Ps. 42:11). I pray that our souls may never be disquieted, and even more that in the presence of the tribunals and of the naked swords drawn against our necks they may be guarded by the peace of God, which passes all understanding (cf. Phil. 4:7), and may be quieted when they consider that those who are foreigners from the body are at home with the Lord of all (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8).
I think that just as he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her (1 Cor. 6:16), so the one who confesses some god, especially in the time when faith is being tried and tested, is mingled and united with the god he confesses. And when he is denied by his own denial, which like a sword cuts him off from the One he denies, he suffers amputation by being separated from the One he denies.
Martyrs are lovers of God, who express their love by sacrificing every earthly pleasure on behalf of their dwelling with God in His glory, they sacrifice even their temporal life. The opening lines of his Exhortation to Martyrdom give us an echo of the exaltation which lifted up his mind and his heart in those days of martyrdom.
3. Martyrdom is necessary for our salvation. It is a participation with Christ in His crucifixion, and a practice of the evangelic life.
Among our agreements with God was the entire citizenship of the Gospel, which says, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his soul would lose it, and whoever loses his soul for My sake will save it" (Matt. 16:24-25). And we often come more alive when we hear, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what ransom shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay everyone for what he has done" (Matt. 16:26-27)...
Long ago, therefore, we ought to have denied ourselves and said, "It is no longer I who live" (Gal. 2:20). Now let it be seen whether we have taken up our own crosses and followed Jesus; this happens if Christ lives in us. If we wish to save our soul in order to get it back better than a soul, let us lose it by our martyrdom.
4. True Christians suffer persecution for the sake of Christ as a sign of their sincere love. They respond to His love by their practical love.
We can also learn from this what martyrdom is like and how much confidence toward God it produces. Since a saint is generous and wishes to respond to the benefits that have overtaken him from God, he searches out what he can do for the Lord in return for everything he has obtained from Him. And he finds that nothing else can be given to God from a person of high purpose that will so balance his benefits as perfection in martyrdom.
5. Martyrdom is a precious death, which is granted to those who are elected by our Savior.
Clearly "the cup of salvation" in Psalms is the death of the martyrs. That is why the verse "I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord" is followed by "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" (Ps. 116:13, 15). Therefore, death comes to us as "precious" if we are God's saints and worthy of dying not the common death, if I may call it that, but a special kind of death, Christian, religious, and holy.
6. Through martyrdom we become brothers of the apostles and are numbered with them.
The following exhortation to martyrdom, found in Matthew, was spoken to no others but "twelve." We, too, should hear it, since by hearing it we shall be brothers of the apostles who heard it and shall be numbered with the apostles. This is the passage: "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28)...
And notice that this commandment is given not to Jesus' servants but to His friends (cf. John 15:15), "Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do" (Luke 12:4).
7. Martyrdom is the way of eternal glory.
Who would ponder these considerations and not utter the apostolic cry: "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us!" (Rom. 8:18). For how can the confession before the Father fail to be much greater than the confession before men? And how can the confession made in heaven by the One who had been confessed fail to exceed in the highest degree the confession made by the martyrs on earth of the Son of God?
God once said to Abraham: "Go forth out of your country." Soon perhaps we shall hear it said to us: "Go forth out of every country." It would be well if we were to obey, and come to see in the heavens the place which is known as "the kingdom of the heavens."
8. Martyrdom is a baptism of blood, and a source of forgiveness of sins. He mentions the idea that ones own sins could be washed by Baptism in blood, and the virtue of the martyrs death was still considered to atone not merely for oneself but for many.
Let us each remember how many times he has been in danger of dying an ordinary death, and let us consider that perhaps we have been preserved so that baptized with our own blood and washed of every sin we may pass our existence with our fellow contestants near the altar in heaven (cf. Rev. 6:9).
9. Origen in his work "Exhortation to Martyrdom" explains that by martyrdom, a believer can offer himself as a true priest in sacrifice to God, for "Just as Jesus redeemed us by His precious blood, so by the precious blood of the martyrs others may also be redeemed. Martyrdom is "a golden work," "the cup of salvation." The martyr offers himself to God as a sacrifice, as a priest, in union with the sacrifice of Christ: he offers, with himself, all that he has on earth, fortune, family, children.
10. Early Christians believed that Christ, by triumphing over death on the Cross, broke Satans most effective weapon, the fear of death. According to Origen, the martyr joins Christ in warfare against the devil and his hosts. This idea of imitating Christ in fact dominates Christian literature on martyrdom, and it becomes determinative of the ideas expressed.
A martyr is a wrestler, an athlete, and his martyrdom is a fight, in an arena, at grips with the diabolical powers which want to make him sacrifice to idols in order to recover their strength in his defeat: he is encompassed with heavenly witnesses who await his triumph, for his victory defeats the principalities and powers of the demonic world. This fight is a test, showing whether the Christian has built his house on the rock or on the sand, whether the seed of the word has in him fallen upon good ground or on stony ground where it cannot take root.
The martyr especially is regarded as continuing what Christ achieved when he mastered death and the devil and gave the human race its freedom. He "despoils the principalities and powers with Christ and triumphs with Him, because he shares in His sufferings and in the victories springing from them." That is what crushes the devils power. The evil spirits are well aware of the blessings martyrdom brings to Christians; they dread it so much that they strive to slow down persecution.
For it is likely that the nature of things allows, in a mysterious manner that most people cannot understand. The possibility that the voluntary death of one righteous man for the community will avert by expiation evil demons who cause plagues or famines or tempests at sea etc. .
We must regard the blood of the holy martyrs as freeing us from harmful powers; their endurance, for example, and their confession even unto death, and their zeal for religion serve to blunt the edge of the plots the powers lay against a man in his sufferings... Such is the kind of service that the death of the most pious martyrs must be understood to do, many people receiving benefits from their death by an efficacy that we cannot explain.
It is worthy to note that Origen in his "Exhortation to Martyrdom" does not mention a single example of the philosophers who received sufferings and death in courage for the sake of their own beliefs, as St. Clement does. He gives examples from the Old and New Testaments. Origen desires to declare the relationship between martyrdom and the sacrifice of the Cross.
11. Martyrdom, for Origen, is the ultimate test of the Christians willingness to prefer spiritual to corporeal realities.
I think that they love God with all their soul who with a great desire to be in union with God, withdraw and separate their souls not only from the earthly body but also from every material thing that can keep them from God. Such men accept the putting away of the body of humiliation without distress or emotion when the time comes for them to put off the body of death by what is commonly regarded as death.
12. According to Origen, the best rational sacrifice is martyrdom, then virginity, then refraining from pride, avarice, lying etc.
13. Commenting on Psalm, he wrote that we must offer a sacrifice of denying our own wisdom. It is a kind of martyrdom.
There is within us a mentality which we must destroy, to the end that thus it may become a sacrifice to God.
MARTYRDOM AND EVANGELISM
In the same way the martyrs bear witness for a testimony to the unbelieving, "and so do all the saints whose deeds shine before men. They spend their lives rejoicing in the Cross of Christ and bearing witness to the true Light.
Martyrs encourage believers and catechumens to witness to Christ without fear.
When the Christians came back from the cemeteries after bearing the bodies of the holy martyrs to their burial and assembled in the church for prayer, we used to see the evidence of their holiness. The whole Christian body was there, and no member of the flock showed fear. The catechumens learned a lesson in those assemblies when they heard the report of what the holy martyrs had said to their judges and of the steadfastness with which they confessed the faith up to the moment of their death. I know Christian men and women who saw strange things happen in such assemblies, and even real miracles.
REWARDS OF MARTYRDOM
1. The martyr carries his cross with Christ renouncing his own life that Christ may live in him. He follows Christ in His sufferings, and then in His glory, seated at the right hand of the Father, for communion in the passion leads to communion in the triumph. His reward is glorification with Christ and eternal union with Him. The reward of martyrdom is, as all Christians believed, unspeakable joy, but for Origen that joy was distinctly intellectual:
Just as each of our members has some ability for which it is naturally fitted, the eyes to see visible things, and the ears to hear sounds, so the mind is for intelligible things and God who transcends them. Why, then, do we hesitate and doubt to put off the corruptible body that hinders of and weighs down the soul?... For then we may enjoy with Christ Jesus the rest which accompanies blessedness and contemplate Him in His wholeness, the living Word. Fed by Him and comprehending the manifold wisdom in Him,... we may have our minds enlightened by the true and unfailing light of knowledge...
We are, therefore, led to believe that the powers of evil do suffer defeat by the death of the holy martyrs; as if their patience, their confession, even unto death, and their zeal for piety blunted the edge of the onset of evil powers against the sufferer, and their might being thus dulled and exhausted, many others of those whom they had conquered raised their heads and were set free from the weight with which the evil powers formerly oppressed and injured them.
In some such way must we suppose the death of the most holy martyrs to operate, many receiving benefit from it by an influence we cannot describe.
2. Origen looks to persecution as the Christian's cheerful lot, saying, "We are only persecuted when God allows the tempter and gives him authority to persecute us... If it is His will that we should again wrestle and strive for our religion... we will say, 'I can do all things through Christ Jesus our Lord who strengthens me'."
3. Origen is repeating that martyrs were not judged by God, but rather sat in judgment with Him.
He calls martyrdom a chalice, as is evident again from the words: "Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me. Nevertheless not as I will but as You will." And again we learn that he who drinks the chalice that Jesus drank will sit, reign, and judge beside the King of Kings.
4. Since the martyrs are victims offered by the Church, we can obtain through their intercession the remission of our sins. These sacrifices of the Church are joined to the unique sacrifice of Christ. They offered their life as a sacrifice of love, which has its effect even on others. "In some such way must we suppose the death of the most holy martyrs to operate, many receiving benefit from it by an influence we cannot describe."
Frances M. Young says,
The idea that the martyrs sacrifice is expiatory never entirely disappears, though it is related closely to the far more efficacious death of Christ which atoned for the sins of the whole world. In fact, the Jewish martyr tradition probably provided the earliest means of interpreting the death of Christ. However, once Christ crucified was considered the one and only sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, the persistence of belief in the atoning efficacy of a Christians martyrdom is hard to explain unless the idea had already entered Christian thinking independently. The problem of obtaining forgiveness for post-baptismal sins, admittedly, ensured the continuance of the idea that ones own sins could be washed by the Baptism in blood, but the virtue of the martyrs death was still considered to atone not merely for oneself but for many.
Let us also remember our sins, and that without baptism it is impossible to obtain remission of sins (cf. Acts 2:38), and that according to the precepts of the Gospel one cannot be baptized a second time in water and the Spirit for the remission of sins, but that we are given the baptism of martyrdom... And you must consider if, just as the Saviors baptism of martyrdom cleanses the world from guilt, ours too may work for the healing of many by such cleansing. For as those who served at the altar set up by the Law of Moses were thought to procure through the blood of goats and bulls remission of sins for the people, so the souls of those "who have been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus" (Rev. 20:4) do not serve in vain at the altar in heaven but procure for them that pray remission of sins. We learn too that just as Jesus Christ the High Priest offered Himself as a sacrifice, so the priests, whose High Priest He is, offer themselves as a sacrifice (Heb. 5,7,8,10), for which reason they are seen at their rightful place - the altar. But while some of the priests were without blemish and offered in their divine service sacrifices that were without blemish, others were sullied with such blemishes as Moses listed in "Leviticus" (21:17ff) and were kept away from the altar. Who then is the priest without blemish, if not he who upholds the confession to the last and who fulfills in every detail what we mean by martyrdom? .
THE ARENA OF THE BATTLE
Origen comments on the destruction of Jericho's walls (Jos. 6), saying:
May we go to the war and attack the most dangerous city in the world, i.e., the evil.
May we destroy the proud walls of the sin...
The battle in which you are involved is within you. There is the building of evil which must by destroyed.
May your enemy be kicked out from the depth of your heart!
MORTIFICATION AND MARTYRDOM
Mortification and martyrdom are one and the same thing. If a Christian fails to accustom himself to consider all human life as a testing wherein all his reserves of courage must ultimately be called into play, he is likely to find himself exposed to the danger of apostasy in his hour of trial.
Origen realized that the "burnt offering" in the Old Testament meant the highest offering of praise, not an offering of placation as in Greek religion; so his exposition of the Christian holocaust implies the same thing. The Christians holocaust is himself, and he keeps the sacrifice burning on the altar by renouncing his possessions, taking up his Cross and following Christ; by giving his body to be burned, and following the glory of the martyr, having charity; by loving his brethren, and fighting for justice and truth, even unto world is crucified to him, and he to the world.
MARTYRDOM AS AVERSION SACRIFICE
Frances M. Young says,
The martyrs sacrifice has to be seen then in the context of this same duelist picture, and it would not be surprising to find that, like the death of the greatest martyr, Christ, his sacrifice should be interpreted as a means of averting the evil demons. Clements use of the analogy with the death of patriotic pagan citizens to avert plague etc., suggests that this was the kind of terms in which the sacrifice could be understood. Origens Exhortation to Martyrdom confirms this, which is hardly surprising, since we found he was the chief exponent of the aversion sacrifice as a means of understanding the atoning death of Christ. Origen exhorts his readers to persevere in the war against the demons, insisting that idolatry is the only alternative to martyrdom. He describes as the rewards of martyrdom, the attaining of sinlessness and the bliss of heaven. But he also describes the atoning value of the martyrs sacrifice, and sets before him the joy of imitating and participating in the sufferings of Christ. The work of the martyr in Christ in despoiling with him the principalities and powers and triumphing with him, by partaking in his sufferings and the great deeds accomplished in his sufferings. For "it may be that as we have been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus..., so some will be ransomed by the precious blood of martyrs..." The martyrs sacrifice is exactly analogous to the sacrifice of Christ and therefore to be interpreted as the same kind of sacrifice - that is, in the case of Origen, as a sacrifice offered as a ransom to avert the power of the evil one, as part of the warfare against the devil in which Christ had already won the ultimate victory. Like Christ, the martyr glorified God simply by his willing self-sacrifice to the cause of dealing with the sin and evil of the world.