|Perpetua and Felicity (Photo credit: Nick in exsilio)|
Don’t forget to read the small print!
My church has the Bible reading printed on a separate sheet of paper each week with the bulletin. At the bottom of the final page is a section titled “Preparing for Next Week,” listing the upcoming scripture readings and a commemoration of Christians remembered from our past.
I like this section. Besides preparing my heart for the next week’s Word from God, I discover a stories about people from our collective Christian roots.
This coming Sunday many churches will commemorate Perpetua and Felicity.
Who? That was my reaction. I didn’t know anything about these two women!
No saints were more honored in the early Christian era than Perpetua and Felicity. The two women were arrested and imprisoned Carthage in 203 A.D. Perpetua was 22-year-old noblewoman with a son a few months old; Felicity, a pregnant slave. Their crime was defying Emperor’s prohibition of conversions to Christianity.
They were taken to prison where Felicity gave birth. Fellow Christians adopted her child. At their trial, they bravely announced their belief in Christ – a certain death sentence.
Much of what we know about this story comes from a unique source - The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity - a diary and first hand account of early martyrs. Perpetua herself wrote the middle chapter about her experience in prison and her impending martyrdom. This account represents one of the earliest known pieces of Christian literature written by a woman.
In one section Perpetua tells about her visions that give her hope as she leaves her infant son and his future to God. Imagine this young woman of considerable wealth and education, not allowing these bleak circumstances to defeat her. The prospect of torture and death could not break her spirit. Perpetua refused repeated opportunities to deny she was a Christian and so hand in hand Perpetua and Felicity bravely faced martyrdom together. They were charged by wild animals and then beheaded. Observers noted she went joyfully as though on the way to heaven. The story is told that their faith led prison guards and others watching in the arena to Christ.
I have often wondered if I had the courage to die for my faith. These two women went against the norm, stood together facing death, and left their families including their children, for their belief. They never denied Christ and kept their eyes and hearts on heaven.
When my father in his affection for me was trying to turn me from my purpose by arguments and thus weaken my faith, I said to him, ‘Do you see this vessel—waterpot or whatever it may be? Can it be called by any other name than what it is?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am—a Christian.’”
Wow - ‘So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am—a Christian.’” – Now that is the small print I don’t want to miss!
PS – I appreciate your prayers as today (Thursday) I leave for a four day silent retreat. Will share about my experience next week. I ask for your prayer that I quiet my heart and mind to hear God’s message. Thank you.
What lessons do you hear from the lives of these two women?