By The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster

Origen was a spiritual guide, debater, preacher, prolific writer, and considered the first systematic theologian. It is presumed that his father was of Roman citizenship and his mother was Egyptian, and he grew up in Alexandria, which was an intellectual and commercial center of the Roman Empire at the time. Christians were still treated with hostility and suspicion and were frequently persecuted. Origen’s father was martyred (executed) for his faith when Origen was just 18, and that key event in his life propelled him into a life of service to Christ. The Roman government requisitioned their family’s property right after his father’s death, spiraling his family—his mother and six brothers—into poverty. He slept on floors, walked without shoes, fasted, abstained from wine and certain foods, and lived an austere life. He grew in fame as he provided assistance to martyrs, visited those in prison, escorted those sentenced to be executed, jeopardizing his own life. Then during a season of intense theological studies, with a rich patron who provided him with stenographers, copyists, and calligraphers who helped disseminate his writings, Origen grew in reputation, such that he was invited to meet the mother of the emperor —Julia Mammaea. Ultimately, however, he could not triumph over the Roman Empire’s desire to suppress Christianity and died in Tyre from injuries sustained during imprisonment and torture during a period called “The Persecutions of Decius.”

All of that history places this prayer in context and gives a picture of the humility with which he served. May we approach Christ with the same humility this morning.

Let us pray:

Come to me,
O servant Lord,
Pour water in your bowl,
And wash my feet.
I am bold to ask this
Because of my longing
For fellowship with you.
Wash my feet then,
And be my companion.
—Based on a prayer of Origen, c. 185–254

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