Sunset - Larnaca

Sunset - Larnaca

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

God the Holy Spirit - Pneumatology in the Early Church

St Gregory the Theologian ( of Nazianzus )

'The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The new manifested the Son, and suggested the Deity in the Spirit. Now the Spirit Himself dwells among us, and supplies is with a clearer demonstration of Himself.'
 - Oratio 31.26

Saint Gregory writes that over time, there is a clear progressive revelation of God, and His nature. Within the Church, the Holy Spirit is best known and seen in His fullness. He writes that the Holy Spirit works through the visible Church in a profound way - it is only within the Eucharistic community that we truly experience and witness the third person of the Godhead. Early pneumatology is focused on the Church' ministry, apostolic tradition and Liturgy. Perhaps most importantly, the Holy Spirit mystically consecrates the bread and wine, in order for faithful Christians to partake of 'the bread of life' (John 6:35) - Christ. 

The Spirit's Divinity
After the Council of Nicea, addressing the Arian controversy and focusing primarily on Christ's divinity, a group known as the Pneumatomachians, deny the divinity of the Holy Spirit. St Basil the Great ( in Letters 159.2 ) makes the Orthodox position very clear : 

'We glorify the Holy Spirit together with the Father and Son, from the conviction that He is not separated from the Divine Nature.' 

He highlights that we baptise in the name of the Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 'The Spirit must be reckoned with, rather than below, the same glory reckoned to the Father and the Son.'  Therefore, he tells us that the Holy Spirit is indeed divine, and through the incarnation of the Word, we can experience and see the full work of the Holy and Life-Giving Spirit, Who enables us to reach theosis - being one with God in full communion and love.

Saint Gregory backs up these holy teachings of Basil by writing:

'Is the Spirit God? Yes indeed' as we read in the Gospel that 'God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.' ( John 4:24 ) 

'Then is He consubstantial? Of course, since He is God' ( Oratio 31.10 )

Saint Gregory the Theologian clarifies that the Spirit proceeds from the Father - as we read that 'the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father..' ( John 15:26 ) 

Saint Gregory of Nyssa, develops the triadology and pneumatology of St Basil and St Gregory the theologian, telling us that 'while we confess three Persons we say that there is one goodness, and one power and one Godhead.' In addition he states that the Spirit does indeed proceed from the Father, but he also writes 'through the Son.' This idea is taken out of proportion, and incorrectly expanded by Augustine - which will be the basis of my next post : The Filioque. 

'The one (the Son) is directly from the First and the other (i.e., the Spirit) is through the one who is directly from the First (τὸ δὲ ἐκ τοῦ προσεχῶς ἐκ τοῦ πρώτου) with the result that the Only-begotten remains the Son and does not negate the Spirit's being from the Father since the middle position of the Son both protects His distinction as Only-begotten and does not exclude the Spirit from His natural relation to the Father.'

The Church fathers clarify the Orthodox pneumatology, with the inclusion of an additional verse in the Creed..'in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with Father and Son is worshipped..'

My forthcoming post will be centred around the Filioque, with references to the writings of Irenaeus, Augustine and other Church fathers - highlighting how this problem arose, and why Augustines view disregards the Personhood of the Holy Spirit and the equality and consubstantiality of the Triune God. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

God the Holy Spirit

 - This short introductory piece on the Holy Spirit will be the start to a series of posts on pneumatology - the study of God the Holy Spirit, Who gives us life and comfort.

Βασιλεύ ΟυράνιεΠαράκλητε, το Πνεύμα της αληθείας...
Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth...

The Holy Spirit, is the third person of the Holy Trinity, of the same essence and equal rank as the Father and the Son. Quite often, we see the Holy Spirit as being rather mysterious and somewhat ambiguous as there are several terminologies, and metaphors that are used to describe Who the Holy and Life-Giving Spirit is, and what this third Person of the Godhead does.

The Holy Spirit as our Comforter, a Dove, Wind and Fire.
These metaphors are used in the Holy Scriptures, in order to assist us in understanding the Holy Trinity. For example, if we look at the Holy Spirit as wind - we do not physically see it, however we do see its presence in the way that it works ( through the Church and its people )

Old Testament
Even though we do not see the Holy Trinity in its fullness in the Old Testament Scriptures, we do certainly see glimpses of the Holy Spirit working through the texts and its holy people. In Genesis, when we read the Creation of the Cosmos, God gives Life to humanity through His Holy Spirit (Gen 1:2) which is a recurring theme throughout both the Old and New Testaments. In Genesis 2:7, as well as Ezekiel 37:9-10 the Life-Giving power of the Spirit is emphasised. Furthermore, we read in Psalm 104:29-30 that the Holy Spirit sustains life..'when you take away the breath, they die and return to their dust.' The Spirit empowers people of the Old Testament, such as in Judges 6:34, and 1 Samuel 16:13. In addition, we read from the Prophets vision in Ezekiel 3:12.. Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of Jehovah from his place.' Eschatological signs are given by the Holy Spirit, such as in Isaiah 11:1-8, and 42:1-4, when the Messiah is anointed with the Spirit's power. The restoration of God's people, in Ezekiel 18:31 and the pouring out of the Spirit of God in Joel 2:28-29.. 'I will pour out all my Spirit on all flesh.'

New Testament
- Through the incarnation of the Word, the nature of God becomes clear to us; that God is indeed Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Throughout the Gospels we see the acts and work of the Holy Spirit, in fullness and clarity - with the Birth of Christ, in Matthew 1:18-25.. 'the Child of the Holy Spirit,' the Lords Baptism in Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, and Luke 3:22, as well as throughout various miracles such as in Matthew 12:28 and Luke 4:18.. 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.' ‘It is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons.’

In John's Gospel, we see the promise of the Holy Spirit, as our παράκλητος (comforter) - in John 14:15-17, 15:26 and 16:15.
‘..give you another helper… forever, even the Spirit of truth , whom the world cannot receive..’

‘But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.’

Again, in a clearer and fuller way, we see in the New Testament that the Spirit is the source of Life ( John 3:5-7) , it empowers people ( 1 Corinthians 12:1-13), and provides eschatological significance ( 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:13-14)

Anthropology : Irenaeus & Moltmann

Irenaeus of Lyon, and Jurgen Moltmann on Anthropology
(Against Heresies’ , Book IV, Chapter 38 & ’What is man’ )

Irenaeus of Lyon argues that what is created, is not perfect as God is the only perfect and uncreated One. Because of our innate immaturity, we cannot attain God’s perfection on our own. It is only through the partaking of God’s glory, that we share in this perfection and incorruption. ‘Humanity slowly progresses, approaches perfection and draws near to the uncreated God.’ Human beings who ignore this opportunity of gradual and constant spiritual growth are according to Irenaeus, ‘completely unreasonable.’ They do not understand God, nor themselves - and go against His divine will, and their very own purpose of holiness. Knowing God and being in communion with Him ‘preserves life’ , and by trusting in Him we share in His goodness - as opposed to when we run away from His eternal light, and darkness begins to take over; as we are constrained to mortal matters of the flesh ( Galatians 5 ) 

Jurgen Moltmann emphasises the hiddenness of man, alongside the hiddenness of His Creator God. The writer links this lack of understanding, the fallen and somewhat confused human being, with the crucified fulfiller Christ. Not only does Jesus Christ bring a clearer understanding of God, but also of man. For this reason, there is much emphasis on the ‘Crucified Christ’ in this piece, as opposed to the Risen Christ. He wants to highlight the idea of an abandoned, rejected God - connecting with the puzzled, limited creatures ( human beings ). Even though I am aware of the writer discussing the implications of the resurrection after this piece, I feel this concentration on the Crucified Lord is deceiving and perhaps diverts the reader away from the goal of Christian life; which is the joyful resurrection. Of course the crucifixion should be used as an explanation and a reminder to us all that without pain, humility and struggle the goal cannot be reached. However, at the same time it should also remind us of the glorious resurrection and joy that is to come. Furthermore Moltmann discusses biological anthropology in the first section of the piece - and even though there should be no contradiction between the fields of theology and biology, they do have different goals. Perhaps for this reason, his argument seems somewhat incoherent - as he begins discussing this instinctive, habitual creature, followed by  the discussion of the Crucified Lord. For many, this sudden change from a biological discussion to a theological argument may not make sense. 

Both the writers certainly agree that the only way of coming to a full understanding of ourselves and our purpose, is to be in relationship with God, who’s image and likeness we are created in. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Early Church : Christology

The Holy Scriptures ( The Old Testament, leading to the New Testament ) are a progressive revelation of Christ (Luke 24:27). The Old Testament Scriptures are part of the story of Salvation, and profoundly foretell the incarnation of the Logos. A prime example is the Proto-evangelium. (Genesis 3:15 ) The narratives and characters of the Old Testament point to the coming of Christ, and His ‘new and eternal covenant.’ All manifestations of God in the Old Testament, are of the Word, according to Orthodox exegesis. The main source for Orthodox Christology, is of course the New Testament, where both the Divine and Human natures of Christ are emphasised. We see Christ ‘after fasting for forty days and forty nights..was hungry ( Matthew 4:2 ) and at the same time we read Christ saying ‘Father, the hour has come ; glorify your Son that the Son may We are one.’  ( John 17 ) 

The Early Church was faced with various heresies, and it had to deal with them by affirming the Orthodox Christological position. Arianism was one of the main Christological heresies, ( named after Arius, 256-336 AD ) claiming that the Son of God is created, and separate to God the Father ( Arius claimed that ‘there was a time when the Son was not’ ). Furthermore, Arianism promoted the ideas of Christ’s existence being dependent on God’s will, and that His ‘sonship’ was purely metaphorical. Scripturally, these views were clearly incorrect, therefore the Church had to react to this, and make the holy Orthodox position clear. In the year 325 AD, the First Ecumenical Council ( Council of Nicea ) took place - primarily addressing the problem and rise of Arianism.The Council was summoned by the Emperor Constantine, calling the Church’s Bishops, together in unity - in order to settle the issue at hand. Alexander Schmemann writes that this holy Council was the ‘symbol and crown’ of victory, bringing these heretical ideas (against the Divinity of our Lord and Saviour Christ ) to an end. The Emperor Constantine, in his opening address to the Council emphatically stated that the ‘disputes within the Church are more dangerous than war.. they bring me more grief than anything else.’ The Council of Nicea therefore clarified the holy teachings of the Church: that Jesus Christ is God of very God, begotten before all worlds and not created, and of one essence with the Father ( consubstantial ). 

Following this period, several other heresies began to form, questioning Christ’s humanity ( as opposed to Arianism, which questioned the Divinity ). These were Docetism, ( deriving from δοκέω which means to seem ), claiming that the Lord’s humanity was simply an illusion; Nestorianism which was the idea that humanity and divinity could not possibly form unity, and therefore there must have been two separate persons working together; Eutychianism, which put a far greater emphasis on His divinity rather than humanity; and Apollinarianism, claiming that Christ was divine, without a human mind.

For this reason, the Council of Chalcedon ( Fourth Ecumenical Council )in 451 AD, took place. Its purpose was to clarify Christ’s nature ( being fully Divine and fully Human ) rather than the heretical monophysitic views of Jesus having one nature. 

Proclamation of the Council :

‘...while Christ is a single, undivided person, He is not only from two natures but in two natures. The bishops acclaimed..the distinction between the two natures is clearly stated, although the unity of Christ's person is also emphasised. In their proclamation of faith they stated their belief in one and the same son, perfect in Godhead and perfect in humanity, truly God and truly human... acknowledged in two natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference between the natures is in no way removed because of the union, but rather the peculiar property of each nature is preserved, and both combine in one person and in one hypostasis.’

The council of Chalcedon proclaimed that Christ is indeed perfect in Godhead and manhood, truly God and truly man with a rational body and soul, consubstantial with the Father, without sin. It confirmed the hypostatic union - the two distinct nature, united in One person. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Septuagint

The Septuagint ( from the Latin Septuaginta ) meaning seventy, is the Greek version of the Old Testament Scriptures. According to tradition, it was put together by seventy Jewish scholars, from all twelve Jewish tribes - making the translation from Hebrew, into Greek. It soon became the universally accepted version of the Old Testament, from the time of its appearance, some centuries before the birth of Christ. Christ Himself, along with Paul and all His apostles and evangelists, used this version when quoting the Old Testament Scriptures. It consists of a collection of forty-nine Old Testament books and is traditionally subdivided into four main sections: the five books of the law, the books of history, the books of wisdom, and the books of prophecy.

The Septuagint, the New Testament and the early Church
Interestingly, in the Gospel writers’ accounts, they generally use the Greek Jewish Scriptures. Matthew for example, would probably have derived from a Jewish group such as the Pharisees, however he still appears to be using the Septuagint on many occasions when referring to the holy scriptures. This stresses the importance of the text, and its strong link with the early Church. The consensus is that when Paul quotes from the Jewish scriptures, he also uses the Greek Septuagint. For Paul, these scriptures are central to his theological expression. The connection between Romans 2:24, and Isaiah 52:5 (LXX)  is a significantly important example. Paul ‘shaped Christian theology more than any other New Testament writer’ and so the fact that he clearly uses the Septuagint highlights that in the early Church it is seen as the valid, and accurate version which emphasises how these divinely inspired books prepare the world for, and unfold, the incarnation and resurrection of the fulfiller, Christ. ‘Through the words of the prophets too the mystery of the Lord is being proclaimed.’

According to Justin Martyr’s Apologia I:67:3, the scriptures of the Prophets ( referring to the Septuagint ) were read during worship , along with a homily. The Orthodox Church upholds this practice to this very day, with frequent passages from the Septuagint being read throughout services. 

Primary Witnesses
Fragments from the Septuagint were found at Qumran - with the texts dating back to the second century B.C.E, and several papyri containing parts of the scriptures were excavated - dating from the second century B.C.E to the first century C.E. We therefore know that the text was put together and revised ( revisions of the translation took place, with the intension to correct mistranslations ) by the 2nd century B.C.E at the latest.

The Septuagint, as the text used by Paul in his epistles, the other apostles and evangelists, and Christ Himself, is of great historical importance and value. It connects Judaism with early Christianity and Hellenism. It is the foundation of the Christian Bible, and theologically speaking is the prophetic process leading to the renewal and fulfilment of life itself, with the incarnation and resurrection of Christ.
Hengel, M 2002, The Septuagint as Christian Scripture, Grand Rapids : BakerAcademic, p.61.
Law, T 2013, When God spoke Greek, Oxford : OUP, p.111.
The Orthodox Study Bible ( Overview of the Books of the Bible ) 2008, St Athanasius Academy : Thomas Nelson, p.15.
The Anchor Bible Dictionary Vol.5 O-Sh 1992, New York : Doubleday, p. 1095-1096.

- This piece was written for the course 'Paul and his letters' 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Doctrine of The Trinity : Aquinas & Zizioulas

Aquinas and Zizioulas on the Doctrine of the Trinity
(‘Treatise on the Most Holy Trinity’ & ‘The Significance of the Cappadocian Contribution’ )

For Aquinas, the doctrine is very much relation based. There are two processions in his view ( ‘the Catholic Church understands procession as existing in God’ ) ; the procession of the Word, and the procession of Love as Spirit. ‘No other procession is possible in God but the procession of the Word, and of Love.’  The procession of the Logos is generation as He proceeds, due to intelligible action and intellectual likeness. Aquinas argues that when something ‘proceeds of the same nature’, they agree in the same order, and they therefore have real relations with each other. Aquinas claims that relation is the same as essence. ‘In God relation and essence do not differ.’ The central idea of relation seems to be distinction in God - as in each of the processions ( the Word and Love) there is distinction, and therefore two opposite relations occur. The term ‘individual substance’ simply means person (singular and rational), as opposed to the greek definition of substance which is ουσία. Aquinas writes that person signifies a relational ‘subsistent individual of a rational nature.’ 

The Cappadocian doctrine of the Trinity is centred around personhood. As for God’s substance, Zizioulas writes that nothing can be said about it except that ‘it is one, undivided and absolutely simple and uncompounded.’ A person is defined through properties ( rather than nature/substance ). This is where the greatest difference between Aquinas’ view and Zizioulas’ theology unfolds - and that is with regard to substance. For Zizioulas there is a clear distinction between person and the substance/nature of God, and for Aquinas they ‘do not differ.’ Substance refers to created matter in the Cappadocian theology, and so the Triune God cannot be connected to such a phrase. The Three Persons ‘are not faced with a given substance, but exist freely.’ St Gregory of Nazianzus tells us that the cause of divine existence is the Father, which contradicts Aquinas’ view of necessary generation. St Gregory and St Cyril of Alexandria argue that the idea of generation is unnecessary, as there is The ‘Willing One’ - God the Father, Who is the cause of divine being. This is where we see the contrasting views of Eastern Orthodox, and western Theologies ( Creed of Nicaea ). A frequently asked question, is why or how is God Love? (1 John 4:8) Zizioulas’ piece answers this very beautifully - explaining that Love is a relationship, as it is breaking of one’s will, a free submission to the other,  and therefore freedom. God is Love as He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit - a perfectly free, relational unity.  Aquinas on the other hand, does not seem particularly aware of this connection, and concentrates on love being a procession in God, as opposed to God Himself ( by nature ) Zizioulas concludes his piece by highlighting how we can fulfil our personhood by ‘living according to the image of God’, in a full communion with Him, which leads to theosis ( complete unity with God ). This takes place through asceticism and a growing and loving relationship with Christ.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Are we saved through faith alone?

The Gospel passage, consisting of the man asking Christ what good deed we must must do in order to have eternal life, immediately comes to mind. Jesus does not reply by saying 'you are asking the wrong question; you need only to believe in me and you will obtain salvation.' Instead, the Lord says to keep the your neighbour as yourself. This passage shows Christ emphasising the importance of both faith, and works in our spiritual lives.  The Sermon on the Mount contains a vast amount of teaching that the Lord expects His followers to live by and adhere to. Love your enemies...Judge not, that you be not judged.. Christ sets down these teachings, as necessary standards of moral righteousness - or rather the way of love. Love itself is not simply something that we say and think - rather something that we do and act out of. At the end of this passage, Christ clearly states that those who rely solely on faith , risk the loss of eternal salvation. I never knew you; depart from me , you evildoers. (Matthew 7:21-23 ) 

Many argue that as soon as we embrace and accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour, salvation is automatically granted to us - and after this life changing experience, we will begin to make the right moral decisions. This however, contradicts Scripture and the Ancient Church's holy teaching. Apart from anything else it is rather unrealistic. Christians do not suddenly change into saintly and radiant human beings from the moment they accept Christ and believe in Him. Just as the Sermon on the Mount highlights, salvation is not only centred on faith,  but is also connected and united with our attempt and humble struggle to keep the holy commandments of love. Throughout history, the Saints, Martyrs and Elders of the Church show that repentance is key, and through this way of life we begin to experience our very salvation here on earth. Salvation is not a 'once in a lifetime' experience or confession of faith, but a continual struggle - with the goal being a full communion with the source of life and salvation - Christ.

Justification by Faith is a clear and authentic teaching of the New Testament - and therefore central to Orthodox teaching. However, we must not forget the importance of a spiritual life consisting of forgiveness, penitent prayer and continual repentance, as well as our constant invitation and paraclesis to God, for His presence in our wounded hearts. Let us take a look at other passages that tell us about the mystery of salvation:

- Your faith has made you well ( Mark 5:34 ) - Christ emphasising the importance of faith to the bleeding woman. Furthermore, the Lord says the exact same to the blind beggar, who He met on the street in Jericho.

- I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die ( John 11:25-26 )

- Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe ( John 20:29 )

There are several examples from the Holy Gospel, that show the importance of our faith and trust in the Lord. However, it is at the same time interesting that through His compassion, Christ heals people without asking for faith - but rather humility, repentance and submission. The role of faith is of course significant, but secondary to divine grace. It is not the faith of an individual that saves - rather Christ's divine power. Power had gone forth from Him ( Mark 5:30 )

To conclude, it would be wrong to discuss the mystery of salvation without highlighting that God's grace and love is at hand here - however it is for us as humble Christians to attain a full and loving communion with our Lord, in order to live eternally with Him.  Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me ( Matthew 25:40 ) All our fellow human beings are created in the image and likeness of our Heavenly Father, and so by loving them, helping them and forgiving them, we grow closer to the full image of Christ and gradually unite with Him in communion. Fr Theodore Stylianopoulos beautifully writes that 'the most pleasing work to God is the continuous exercise of faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord throughout our lives.' Notice the unbreakable connection between faith, and our practice of this faith ( known as works ) They both go hand in hand, on our road and struggle to the mystery of salvation with our Lord and God Jesus Christ.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Martyrdom in the Early Church

In the Roman empire, Christianity was treated as a crime. The Romans could see that the early Church was increasing in numbers, and was making a huge impact on society. For this reason they would put Christians on trial, asking them to deny their faith in Christ. Even though illegal anomaly was apparent, Christians were not the only persecuted group. Any individual, or group of people, who went against 'the norm' of society would be put on trial and usually executed, especially if their views were highly influential and shaping the thoughts of others. We often hear of executions, and general unfair treatment, towards Christians around this time, due to their high profile in society, and due to the fact that they were well known as a group to the Roman authorities. 

The term 'martyrdom' was introduced by the 140s, with some of the first recorded accounts such as Polycarp's martyrdom occurring in the mid 150’s. Before the term was introduced, the phrase 'witness' of the Gospel was frequently used to describe these disturbing, yet holy events.

The trial consisted of one question. 'Are you a follower of Christ?' The answer 'no' would mean being set free from the authorities, however 'yes' would mean barbaric torture, humiliation, and eventually a brutal death in an arena. Naturally, there were several devout Christians that would have given in to unbearable pain, and denied their faith in Christ in order to be freed. However most of the accounts describe holy servants of God that fought this physical and psychological battle till the end, and defeated evil by confessing Christ's Holy name, dying, and therefore embracing eternal life and glory. 

The initial view, was that if a Christian were to deny Christ in the arena then they would face eternal damnation - however this view certainly lacks understanding and sympathy for these Christians that would have faced the most intense and fierce psychological battle imaginable. Our human inclination to strive for survival, and the desire for lack of pain would have made this task almost impossible. With just a few words, the suffering servant of God could have been free of pain and suffering - by surrendering and denying Christ. For this reason, a necessary tradition of forgiveness began to develop, for the people who did not succeed. This was probably brought about after comparisons were made with Peter's denial of the Lord. 

God's Presence during Martyrdom:
For when I am weak, then am I strong ( 2 Corinthians 12:10 )

Justin Martyr's Apology emphasises that the Holy Spirit promises boldness ( παρρησία ), and it was certainly given to those on trial - guiding them in what to say under their torture and persecution. The early accounts speak of holy scents rising from the bodies of the holy martyrs, like frankincense. To this day, we find these miraculous signs in the Orthodox Church, from its recent Martyrs, Saints and Icons. Many of the martyrs preached the Word of God beautifully, minutes before their death - proclaiming their love for Christ. In some instances, martyrs were imprisoned for a period of time before their death in the arena, and so we see historical accounts describing many Christians ( particularly those who had already backed out of a trial, living in repentance ) visiting them , providing them with food and water - and in return the holy martyrs would speak to them with reassurance, hear their confessions and bless them. So much so, that local Bishops began to complain about the situation - as they were 'stealing their flock'! The holy martyrs of the early Church were revered - with their prison chains kissed, and the faithful requesting for their intercessions in Heaven.

Due to the fact that the Holy Spirit was very much present throughout these painful, yet glorious events, several people began to bring themselves forward for martyrdom. However it was  soon made clear that the holiness of martyrdom came out of humility, selflessness, complete submission to the will of God - and not egoism. Putting ones self forward in order to achieve a lasting name was quite rightly seen as a contradiction to the meaning and overall holiness of martyrdom. Martyrs were revered due to their true humility and self-sacrifice, rather than their desire to be killed and remembered. 

To conclude, Martyrdom was, and continues to be proof that Christ did indeed rise from the dead and trample down upon death - as these Holy martyrs, through His divine grace, and their faithfulness and humility, were able to trample down upon evil themselves under unbearable pain and oppression. They managed to miraculously win this psychological battle against evil, and through this physical death that was brought upon them - came life and hope. Wild beasts were placed upon them, and they were forced into gladiatorial battle games - however they took every cross that they were forced to carry, as an opportunity to rise up against evil and death (with the strength and guidance of the Holy and Life-Giving Spirit) into eternal life with Christ.