Martydom Part 3

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In the United States it is easy to be caught up in the bubble of what I am calling Affluent Anesthesia. We live in such abundance compared to the rest of the world (throughout all of history for that matter) that it is easy to be detached from reality. I realized this when I went to Iraq and was torn out of my protective American bubble. I realized that people in those places often live in a constant state of threat and danger. Talking to an Iraqi man, it hit me that he doesn’t know when his children leave the door if they are going to be shot, run over, blown up, or any number of terrible things. This made me realize how sectioned off from reality we really are. Events like the case of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag bring me back to reality. She is a Christian who is being held on sentence of death in Sudan for being Christian. Her brother charged her with the crime of being Christian, and it is a crime if you are the child of a Muslim. You are born a muslim and it would be apostasy to convert which is punishable by death. She has recently given birth to a child while in prison, and the latest news is that her chains have been removed to give birth and care for her child. (More found here: http://news.yahoo.com/sudans-death-row-apostate-mother-unchained-171505242.html )

In her honor I have been posting sections from the story of Felicity and Perpetua which I will continue.

Chapter III

  1. “Again, after a few days, Pudens, a soldier, an assistant overseer of the prison, who began to regard us in great esteem, perceiving that the great power of God was in us, admitted many brethren to see us, that both we and they might be mutually refreshed. And when the day of the exhibition drew near, my father, worn with suffering, came in to me, and began to tear out his beard, and to throw himself on the earth, and to cast himself down on his face, and to reproach his years, and to utter such words as might move all creation. I grieved for his unhappy old age.
  2. “the day before that on which we were to fight, I saw in a vision that Pomponius the deacon came hither to the gate of the prison and knocked vehemently. I went out to him and opened the gate for him; and he was clothed in a richly ornamented white robe, and he had on manifold calliculae. And he said to me, ‘Perpetua, we are waiting for you; come!’ And he held his hand to me, and we began to go through rough and winding places. Scarcely at length had we arrived breathless at the amphitheatre, when he led me into the middle of the arena, and said to me, ‘Do not fear, I am here with you, and I am laboring with you,’ and he departed. And I gazed upon an immense assembly in astonishment. And because I knew that I was given to the wild beasts, I marveled that the wild beasts were not let loose upon me. Then there came forth against me a certain Egyptian, horrible in appearance, with his backers, to fight we me. And there came to me, as my helpers and encouragers, handsome youths; and I was stripped, and became aa man. Then my helpers began to rub me with oil, as is the custom for contest; and I beheld that Egyptian on the other hand rolling in the dust. And a certain man came froth, of wondrous height, so that he even overtopped the top of the amphitheatre; and he wore a loose tunic and a purple robe between two bands over the middle of the breast; and he had on calliculae of varied form, made of gold. And he called for silence, and said, ‘This Egyptian, if he should overcome this woman, shall kill her with the sword; and if she shall conquer him, she shall receive this branch.’ Then he departed. And we drew near to one another, and began to deal out blows. He sought to lay hold of my feet, while I struck at his face with my heels; and I was lifted up in the air, and began thus to thrust at him as if spurning the earth. But when I saw that there was some delay I joined my hands so as to twine my fingers with one another; and I took hold upon his head, and he fell on his face, and I trod upon his head. And the people began to shout, and my backers to exult. And I drew near to the trainer and took the branch; and he kissed me, and said to me, ‘Daughter, peace be with you’: and I began to go gloriously to the Sanavivarian gate. Then I awoke, and perceived that I was not to fight with beasts, but against the devil. Still I knew that the victory was awaiting me. This, so far, I have completed several days before the exhibition; but what passed at the exhibition itself let who will write.”

Chapter IV

  1. Moreover, also, the blessed Saturus related this his vision, which he himself committed to writing:–“We had suffered,” says he, “and we were gone forth from the flesh, and we were beginning to be borne by four angels into the east; and their hands touched us not. And we floated not supine, looking upwards, but as if ascending a gentle slope. And being set free, we at length saw the first boundless light; and I said, ‘Perpetual’ (for she was at my side), ‘this is what the Lord promised to us; we have received the promise.’ And while we are borne by those same four angels, there appears to us a vast space which was like a pleasure garden, having rose trees and every kind of flower. And the height of the trees was after the measure of a cypress, and their leaves were falling incessantly. Moreover, there in the pleasure garden four other angels appeared, brighter than the previous ones, who, when they saw us, gave us honor, and said to the rest of the angels, ‘Here they are! Here they are!’ with admiration. And those four angels who bore us, being greatly afraid, put us down; and we passed over on foot the space of a furlong in a broad path. There we found Jocundus and Saturninus and Artaxius, who having suffered the same persecution were burnt alive; and Quintus, who also himself a martyr had departed in the prison. And we asked of them where the rest where. And the angels said to us, ‘Come first, enter and greet your Lord.’

  2. “And we came near to place, the walls of which were such as if they were built of light; and before the gate of that place stood four angels, who clothed those who entered with white robes. And being clothed, we entered and saw the boundless light, and heard the united voice of some who said without ceasing, ‘Holy! Holy! Holy!’ And in the midst of that place we saw as it were a hoary man sitting, having snow-white hair and with a youthful countenance; and his feet we saw not. And on his right hand and on his left were four-and-twenty elders, and behind them a great many others were standing. We entered with great wonder, and stood before the throne; and the four angels raised us up, and we kissed Him, and He passed His hand over our face. And the rest of the elders said to us, ‘Let us stand’; and we stood and made peace. And the elders said to us, ‘Go and enjoy.’ And I said, ‘Perpetua, you have what you wish.’ And she said to me, ‘Thanks be to God, that joyous as I was in the flesh, I am now more joyous here.’

  3. ‘And we went forth, and saw before the entrance Optatus the bishop at the right hand, and Aspasius the presbyter, a teacher, at the left hand, separate and sad; and they cast themselves at our feet, and said to us, ‘Restore peace between us, because you have gone forth and have left us thus.’ And we said to them, ‘Are you not our father, and you our presbyter, that you should cast yourselves at our feet?’ And we prostrated ourselves, and we embraced them; and Perpetua began to speak with them, and we drew them apart in the pleasure garden under a rose tree. And while we were speaking with them, the angels said unto them, ‘Let them alone, that they may refresh themselves; and if you have any dissensions between you, forgive one another.’ And they drove them away. And they said to Optatus, ‘Rebuke your people, because they assemble to you as if returning form the circus, and contending about factious matters.’ And then it seemed to us as if they would shut the doors. And in that place we began to recognize many brethren, and moreover martyrs. We were all nourished with an indescribable odor, which satisfied us. Then, I joyously awoke.”

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

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