Archive for the ‘Vibia Perpetua a Christian Martyr – Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy’ Category

OF WHOM THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY-VIBIA PERPETUA

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Sublime devotion to God describes Vibia Perpetua.

She has been called God’s Darling.

 She was a Christian.

Hebrews 11:1; 37-39 (a); 12:1-3

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,

the evidence of things not seen.

 They were stoned,

they were sawn asunder,

were tempted,

were slain with the sword:

they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins;

being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

 (Of whom the world was not worthy:)

 they wandered in deserts,

and in mountains,

and in dens and caves of the earth.

 And these all,

having obtained a good report through faith…

 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,

let us lay aside every weight,

and the sin which doth so easily beset us,

and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;

who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,

despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself,

lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Ye have not yet resisted unto blood,

striving against sin.

 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

shall tribulation,

or distress,

or persecution,

or famine,

or nakedness,

or peril,

or sword?

 As it is written,

For thy sake we are killed all the day long;

we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded,

that neither death,

nor life,

nor angels,

nor principalities,

nor powers,

nor things present,

nor things to come.

 Nor height,

nor depth,

nor any other creature,

shall be able to separate us from the love of God,

which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


 

 

 

 MOSAIC OF PERPETUA


MOSAIC OF PERPETUA

 

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The testimony of this young woman is so compelling that it speaks to our hearts today.  What

we know about her is from an ancient document which states that Perpetua was a matron of

the illustrious family of the Vibii, and that she suffered martyrdom in the amphitheater of

Carthage, North Africa, on March 7, A.D. 203.

 

 

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The Passion of SS.  Perpetua and Felicitas,” ancient texts tells us that Perpetua was “well

born, liberally educated, honorably married, with an infant son at the breast, and was about

twenty-two years of age.”  We know nothing of her husband.  He is noticeably omitted from her

diary.  We can only wonder and surmise.

 

Perpetua left a diary of her capture and imprisonment for the crime of being a Christian. This

is the only document that survives from antiquity from a Christian woman.

She could have saved her life by sprinkling a little incense to the Emperor.  This, however, she

could not do and compromise her testimony for Christ.

I first read about Perpetua in the late 70’s or early 80’s.  There are times I have thought about

her and her endearing love for Jesus.  In the natural her sublime devotion cannot be

comprehended.

 

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The definition for sublime adj.

               1.  Charaacterized by nobility; majestic.

               2.

                            a.  Of high spiritual, moral, or intellectual  worth.

                            b.  Not to be excelled; supreme.

               3.  Inspiring awe; impressive.

The titan trials she faced about her filial affection for her father and for her suckling infant

testify of the amazing grace of Almighty God and of sublime devotion to a living Savior.

She was arrested along with her servant Felicitas and others.

She had fears and anxieties like anyone else.  Her own words give us this authentic description

of what happened next.  “We were lodged in prison and I was in great fear, because I had never

known such darkness.  What a day of horror!  Terrible heat, thanks to the crowds.  Rough

handling by the soldiers.  And besides all this I was tormented by anxiety for my baby.

“Then Tertius and Pomponius, those blessed deacons who were looking after us, paid money to

the wardens to have us removed for a few hours to a better part of the prison, where we could

refresh ourselves and do what we wanted.  I suckled my child who was now weak with hunger.

I spoke to my mother and strengthened my brother and commended my son to their care.

For several days after that I was upset because, for one thing, I saw that my people were upset

about me.  Then I obtained permission to have my baby remain in prison with me, and much of

my anxiety disappeared.  I recovered my health and the prison became a palace to me, so that I

would rather have there than anywhere else.”

A sister and I were talking some weeks ago about heroism.  We determined that in an

emergency or in  a life or death situation, the person or persons involved would act in the

manner that is consistent with who they are and what is in their heart.  I believe it is the same

in regard to martyrs.  They may not be particularly brave, but they will not deny Christ because

they love Him and He will give them the grace to do whatever is necessary at the appointed

time.

 

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Just before Perpetua was brought before the tribunal, her father came and knelt at her feet

crying,”Have mercy, daughter, on my gray hair.  Have mercy on your father.  Remember that

with these hands I brought you to to the full bloom of womanhood, and favored you over all

your brothers.  Don’t shame me in front of these people.  Look at your brothers, your mother,

your mother’s sister, your son will die without you.  Put away your pride!  Don’t ruin us!  How

could I ever speak openly among people again if anything happened to you?”

Perpetua  later wrote, “But he left me sorrowing.”

On the day of the trial, Perpetua’s father again begged her to offer a sacrifice for the health of

the emperors which was what the Christians were asked to do.  She replied, “I won’t do it.”

The procurator Hilarian then asked Perpetua, “Are you a Christian?” and she answered, “I am

a Christian.”  Her father attempted to intercede but Hilarian ordered him beaten by the guard.

Said Perpetua, “I grieved for my father’s plight as if I had been struck myself.”

Since none of the five Christians would offer the required sacrifices the procurator

condemned all to the  beasts.  Perpetua reported, “In hilarity we went back down to the

dungeon.”

Perpetua’s baby boy had been placed in the keeping of her family.  She asked for him, but her

father refused to give him up.  As it turned out the child no long required milk, and Perpetua

discovered she felt no anxiety in her heart.  God was preparing her for what lay ahead.

On the eve of their ordeal the five prisoners were granted the traditional public meal, all they

wished to eat.  These Christians turned it into a celebration and conducted and agape (a

Christian love feast).

The next morning the five went to their dungeon toward the amphitheater with light hearts

praising God.  The record states that Perpetua followed last, walking meekly as one who

belonged to Christ.  Her appearance was so stunning that she caused many to lower their gaze.

Roman custom called for the victims to be thrown to wild animals for a period of torture, after

which they would be beheaded by a gladiator executioner.  The three men were turned loose

before a leopard, a bear, and a wild boar without much of anything happening.  Meanwhile

Saturus (whose remarks to curiosity seekers at the love feast the night before had won many to

Christ) stopped by a gate and witnessed to the head jailer, Pudens, who later became a believer

and a martyr for Christ.

Perpetua and Felicitas were stripped, forced to put on nets, and sent before a maddened cow

in the arena.  The audience shuddered at the sight; the women were called back and clothed in

loose robes.  The cow attacked Perpetua, gored her and ripped her robe.  Perpetua, more

mindful of modesty than of pain drew the robe to cover her thigh and pinned up her hair, lest

anyone gain the impression that she was in mourning,  Then she stood up, gave a hand to

Felicitas who had also been wounded, and raised her to her feet.

Since they were not killed in the first encounter, the women were recalled to the Gate of Life-

but not to live.  It was a brief respite prior to execution.  Perpetua spoke to her brother and to

another young Christian, Rusticus, saying, “Give out the word to the brothers and sisters:

stand fast in the faith, love one another, and don’t let our suffering become a stumbling block

to you.”

 

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Perpetua was then taken to the place of execution, the others had already been taken to their

heavenly  reward.  The clumsy, untrained young gladiator thrust his sword between two bones.

She shrieked.  When she saw his hand wavering, Perpetua seized it and guided it to her throat.

Great grace is what saw these martyrs through such unimaginable tortures.  It transcends

human understanding or reasoning.  This is the only explanation of how Perpetua could

entrust her infant into the care of the Heavenly Father and Saviour Jesus Christ whom she

loved with all of her heart.

What shall we say to these things?  If God be for us, who can be against us?   Who shall

separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine,

or nakedness, or peril or sword?  Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through

him that loved us.  Romans 8:31; 37

 

 

 

 

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