MAGNUS THE MARTYR
I have mentioned before how an article in The Ringing World will sometimes spark in my mind a ‘Thought for the Week’. This time it was the story about a tower-grab in Orkney (p.845). I have only visited Orkney once, when our cruise ship called at Kirkwall. I took the opportunity to look round St Magnus Cathedral, including a visit to the tower and bells, although unlike young Fraser, I was not permitted to do any chiming.
Although I had heard of Magnus, I knew nothing about him. He was Earl of Orkney and was ordered to be put to death in 1118 by his cousin Hakon. As a Christian, Magnus prayed for those who murdered him, and humbly submitted to his fate without bitterness or complaint.
As well as the Cathedral in Kirkwall, St. Magnus the Martyr now has a number of churches dedicated to his memory, including the host tower for the recent London 12-bell competition.
The story of Magnus reminded me of Stephen, the first Christian to die for his faith. (Acts 7:54-60) Stephen also prayed for those who stoned him and died trusting in the risen Christ.
Over the course of history there have been many who have died for Christ rather than deny their faith. Nor is martyrdom a thing of the past. It is still happening today. ‘Open Doors’ is an organisation that has provided a list of the top ten countries in the world where Christians risk everything for Christ. I quote from their 2023 World Watch List. “In recent years, more Christians have been killed for their faith in Nigeria than in the rest of the world combined.”
As we remember with gratitude the faithful testimony of past saints and martyrs, let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world who face the possibility of martyrdom every day of their lives.
Minister of the Church of Scotland (Retired)