Martyrdom part 2

IMG_4913

In honor of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, the sudanese woman who is scheduled to die because of her Christian faith, I began last week a series looking into the lives of early Christian martyrs. This is the second chapter following the martyrdom of Felicity and Perpetua.

Chapter II

  1. “After a few days there prevailed a report that we should be heard. And then my father came to me from the city, worn out with anxiety. He came up to me that he might cast me down, saying, ‘Have pity, my daughter, on my grey hairs. Have pity on your father, if I am worthy to be called a father by you. If with these hands I have brought you up to this flower of your age, if I have preferred you to all your brothers, do not deliver me up to the scorn of men. Have regard to your brothers, have regard to your mother and your aunt, have regard to your son, who will not be able to live after you. Lay aside your courage, and do not bring us all to destruction; for none of us will speak in freedom if you should suffer anything.’ These things said my father in his affection, kissing my hands and throwing himself at my feet; and with tears he called me not Daughter, but Lady. And I grieved over the grey hairs of my father, that he alone of all my family would not rejoice over my passion. And I comforted him, saying, ‘On that scaffold whatever God wills shall happen. For know that we are not placed in our own power, but in that of God.’ And he departed from me in sorrow.

  2. “Another day, while we were at dinner, we were suddenly taken away to be heard, and w arrived at the town hall. At once the rumor spread through the neighborhood of the public place, and an immense number of people were gathered together. We mounted the platform. The rest were interrogated and confessed. Then they came to me, and my father immediately appeared with my boy, and withdrew me from the step, and said in a supplicating tone, ‘Have pity on your babe.’ And Hilarianus the procurator, who had just received the power of life and death in the place of the proconsul Minucius Timinianus, who was deceased, said, ‘Spare the grey hairs of your father, spare the infancy of your boy, offer sacrifice for the wellbeing of the emperors.’ And I replied, ‘I will not do so.’ Hilarianus said, ‘Are you a Christian?’ And I replied, ‘I am a Christian.’ And as my father stood there to cast me down from the faith, he was ordered by Hilarianus to be thrown down, and was beaten with rods. And my father’s misfortune grieved me as if I myself had been beaten, I so grieved for his wretched old age. The procurator then delievers judgment on all of us, and condemns us to the wild beasts, and we wnt down cheerfully to the dungeon. Then, because my child had been used to receive suck from me, and to stay with me in the prison, I send Pomponius the deacon to my father to ask for the infant, but my father would not give it to him. And even as God willed it, the child no longer desired the breast, nor did my breast cause me uneasiness, lest I should be tormented by care for my babe and by the pain of my breasts at once.

  3. “After a few days, while we were all praying, suddenly, in the middle of our prayer, there came to me a word, and I named Dinocrates; and I was amazed that that name had never come into my mind until then, and I was grieved as I remembered his misfortune. And I felt myself immediately to be worthy and to be called on to ask on his behalf. And for him I began earnestly to make supplication, and to cry with groaning to the Lord. Without delay, on that very night, this was shown to me in a vision. I saw Dinocrates going out from a gloomy place, where also there were several others, and he was parched and very thirsty, with a filthy countenance and pallid color, and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age who died miserably with disease—his face being so eaten out with cancer that his death caused repugnance to all men. For him I had made my prayer, and between him and me there was a large interval, so that neither of us could approach to the other. And moreover, in the same place where Dinocrates was, there was a pool full of water, having its brink higher than was the stature of the boy; and Dinocrates raised himself up as if to drink. And I was grieved that, although that pool held water, still, on account of the height to its brink, he could not drink. And I was aroused, and knew that my brother was in suffering. But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp, for we were to fight in the camp show. Then was the birthday of Geta Caesar, and I made my prayer for my brother day and night, groaning and weeping that he might be granted to me.

  4. “Then, on the day on which we remained in fetters, this was shown to me. I saw that that place which I had formerly observed to be in gloom was now bright; and Dinocrates, with a clean body well clad, was finding refreshment. And where there had been a wound, I saw a scar; and that pool which I had before seen, I saw now with its margin lowered even to the boy’s navel. And one drew water from the pool incessantly, and upon its brink was a goblet filled with water; and Dinocrates drew near and began to drink from it, and the goblet did not fail. And when he was satisfied, he went away from the water to play joyously, after the manner of children, and I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from the place of punishment.”

 

Coakley, John W. and Andrea Sterk. Readings in World Christian History Volume I: Earliest Christianity to 1453. New York: Orbis. 2011. Print.

Martyrdom part 1

IMG_4913

“Given until today to recant her faith by a Sudanese court, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim instead declared she remained a Christian at today’s hearing. The judge at the Public Order Court in El Haj Yousif Khartoum then confirmed her sentence of 100 lashes for adultery and death by hanging for apostasy.”

Many Christians in the world today are facing true persecution for the faith. Many die without having caused any ripples in the media worldwide. In light of this woman’s great stand of faith and impending martyrdom, in honor of her I wish to post some testimonies from church history. This is our heritage as Christians and we ought to honor and respect those great brothers and sisters who make the ultimate sacrifice for Christ, paying with their very lives. The word Martyr comes from the greek word “Martureo” which means to “bear witness to,” or “to testify.” May we pray for the health and well being of these great witnesses to Christ.

Because of length I will treat this first one chapter by chapter.

The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity

The noblewoman Vibia Perpetua, her slave Felicity, the presbyter Saturus, and the others were martyred together at Carthage in 203. This Passio presents itself as a collection of documents. The most prominent of these is Perpetua’s literary account of her own experiences, one of the very few surviving first-person narratives by women of the first millennium of Christianity. The preface to the work, with its affirmation of present-day prophecies and visions, sounds themes consistent with the “New Prophecy” that was to be embraced by Tertullian of Carthage, and it is possible that he himself was the editor who brought these materials together.

 

Chapter I

  1. The young catechumens, Revocatus and his fellow servant Felicitas, Saturninus and Secundulus, were apprehended. And among them also was Vivia Perpetua, respectably born, liberally educated, a married matron, having a father and mother and two brothers, one of whom, like herself, was a catechumen, and a son an infant at the breast. She herself was about twenty-two years of age. From this point onward she shall herself narrate the whole course of her martyrdom, as she left it described by her own hand and with her own mind.

  2. “While” says she, “we were still with the persecutors, and my father, for the sake of his affection for me, was persisting in seeking to turn me away, and to cast me down from the faith—‘Father,’ said I, ‘do you see, let us say, this vessel lying here to be a little pitcher, or something else?’ And he said, ‘I see it to be so.’ And I replied to him, ‘Can it be called by any other name than what it is?’ And he said, ‘No.’ Neither can I call myself anything else than what I am, a Christian.’ Then my father, provoked at this saying, threw himself upon me, as if he would tear my eyes out. But he only distressed me, and went away overcome by the devil’s arguments. Then, in a few days after I had been without my father, I gave thanks to the Lord; and his absence became a source of consolation to me. In that same interval of a few days we were baptized, and to me the Spirit prescribed that in the water of baptism nothing else was to be sought for than bodily endurance. After a few days we are taken into the dungeon, and I was very much afraid, because I had never felt such darkness. O terrible day! O the fierce heat of the shock of the soldiery, because of the crowds! I was very unusually distressed by my anxiety for my infant. There were present there Tertius and Pomponius, the blessed deacons who ministered to us, and had arranged by means of a gratuity that we might be refreshed by being sent out for a few hours into a pleasanter part of the prison. Then going out of the dungeon, all attended to their own wants. I suckled my child, which was now enfeebled with hunger. In my anxiety for it, I addressed my mother and comforted my brother, and commended to their care my son. I was languishing because I had seen them languishing on my account. Such solicitude I suffered for many days, and I obtained leave for my infant to remain in the dungeon with me; and forthwith I grew strong and was relieved from distress and anxiety about my infant; and the dungeon became to me as it were a palace, so that I preferred being there to being elsewhere.

  3. “Then my brother said to me, ‘My dear sister, you are already in a position of great dignity, and are such that you may ask for a vision, and that it may be made known to you whether this to result in a passion of an escape.’ And I, who knew that I was privileged to converse with the Lord, whose kindnesses I had found to be so great, boldly promised him, and said, ‘Tomorrow I will tell you.’ And I asked, and this was what was shown me. I saw a golden ladder of marvelous height, reaching up even to heaven, and very narrow, so that persons could only ascend it one by one; and on the sides of the ladder was fixed every kind of iron weapon. There were swords, lances, hooks, daggers; so that if any one went up carelessly, or not looking upwards, he would be torn to pieces and his flesh would cleave to the iron weapons. And under the ladder itself was crouching a dragon of wonderful size, who lay in wait for those who ascended, and frightened them from the ascent. And Saturus went up first, who had subsequently delivered himself up freely on our account, not having been present at the time that we were taken prisoners. And he attained the top of the ladder, and turned towards me, and said to me, ‘Perpetua, I am waiting for you; but be careful that the dragon does not bite you.’ And I said, ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, he shall not hurt me.’ And from under the ladder itself, as if in fear of me, he slowly lifted up his head; and as I trod upon the first step, I trod upon his head. And I went up, and I saw an immense extent of garden, and in the midst of the garden a white-haired man sitting in the dress of a shepherd, of a large stature, milking sheep; and standing around were many thousand white-robed ones. And he raised his head, and looked upon me, and said to me, ‘Thou art welcome, daughter.’ And he called me, and from the cheese as he was milking he gave me as it were a little cake, and I received it with folded hands; and I ate it, and all who stood around said, Amen. And at the sound of their voices I was awakened, still tasting a sweetness which I cannot describe. And I immediately related this to my brother, and we understood that it was to be a passion, and we ceased henceforth to have any hope in this world.”

 

First quotation from an article found on Christianity Today.  http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/may/americans-wife-faces-sudan-death-penalty-after-pregnancy.html?&visit_source=facebook

Coakley, John W. and Andrea Sterk. Readings in World Christian History Volume I: Earliest Christianity to 1453. New York: Orbis. 2011. Print.