By Theodore Shoebat
A major political leader in France, Francois-Xavier Peron, has declared that France is about to enter into a civil war, between French and Muslim. We spoke with Francois-Xavier about this, and also about the subject of a Christian France and how it is the Faith that is the only thing that can save France from evil. He also made a warning to the United States, to not make the mistake France made, in its acceptance of religious freedom for Islam and Freemasonry. Here is the video:
That a civil war will break out in France is in accordance to a Catholic prophecy by the Ecstatic of Tours, a nun from Tours, whose prophecies were published in 1882 in a book titled On the Eve of the Victory of Christ:
Before the war breaks out again, food will be scarce and expensive. There will be little work for the workers, and fathers will hear their children crying for food. There will be earthquakes and signs in the sun. Towards the end, darkness will cover the earth.
When everyone believes that peace is assured, when everyone least expects it, the great happenings will begin. Revolution will break out in Italy almost at the same time as in France. For some time, the Church will be without a Pope. England, too, will have much to suffer.
The revolution will spread to every French town. Wholesale slaughter will take place. This revolution will last only a few months but it will be frightful, blood will flow everywhere because the malice of the wicked will reach its highest pitch. Victims will be innumerable. Paris will look like a slaughter-house. Persecutions against the Church will be even greater but it will not last long…
France is a nation consecrated by the blood of martyrs, and for a long time I have wanted to present you with a writing on these holy saints of France who endured the most horrific of persecutions in the early times of Christianity’s presence in that country. So, here it is, for you to remember what men and women died in the battle for the Faith to be perpetuated in France. It the first part of a three part series that I have been writing on the history of Christendom in France. Here is the first part, entitled The Martyrs’ Blood….
The soul wanders in the deserts of confusion, like a vagabond it goes here and there, searching with desperate eyes for the house that stands without guile nor deceit, snare nor wile, upon the lofty hill on which can be beheld many a witness, adorned with crowns, armed with swords, embellished by that enwrapping light of forgone virtues, singing the song that resounds the cosmos, of martyrs of days bygone, and who arms the weary heart to uphold “patience to the fight proposed to us: looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) Behold the wheat fields, rooted in the rich nourishment of sacrifice— for things die and decompose, they feed the soil and life springs upwards toward heaven—; see how they are free of tares and warmed by the sun, ineffable light that enlivens our bodies and stirs within us the flame of hope that endures death and lives on to eternity. Such a profound sight, yet they desire nothing, and like content souls have they no urgency to travel, but simply put, they just are, and we behold them in the stillness of their being. Behold the fields of wheat, flowing with the winds of consonance upon the ascending mountain of humanity’s redemption.
Through their golden ears the rays of the sun flow as empyrean beams whelmed under a lake, with particles of light appearing as though they are about to fragment and disintegrate, and get lost to the cumulous of filth that runs like a sand storm throughout the dreary space underneath the static and greenish water. As the particles of the sun move and yet remain together, they illuminate the cloud of muck, and reveal what darkness abounds. Such is a people taken by the light of charity and justice, moving and fulfilling their own purposes, yet remaining whole while scattering the unpleasant dust storms that destroy, that confound and tyrannize, all the while they spark within the soul a volition to rise above the gloomy waters and to behold the living sun, and breath the breath of life. Submersed into the dark waters, we drown ourselves in concupiscence, only for the soul to suffocate and cry out for liberation, to behold that sun of truth where there lies only the absolute. By the waters was man corrected, and by the floods that confound humanity, is there but a remnant whose only desire is to respire. As the holy Solomon once wrote, “when water destroyed the earth, wisdom healed it again, directing the course of the just by contemptible wood.” (Wisdom 10:4)
With every ream of thick and cloudy dust, and with every moment wherein the waters become murkier, there the beams of light grow brighter. So is the life of the soul; for when our awareness of the darkness and taint of our souls grows, it only means that the light of Christ is brightened, and is illuminating the greater need to cling onto Truth Himself, and to be one with Love. We emerge from the waters, and like Peter, cry out, “Lord, save me!” From this act of humility, do we rise above the tyranny of ego, and walk upon the waters of the chaotic masses, for the meek shall inherit the earth, as the Hope of Humanity once declared to us.
Look to the pristine hill that lies overlooking the murky waters, where the wheat fields stand basking under the warm sun whose light illumines and warms the rich dark soils that feed the roots of the crop, the crop whose fruit Hope Himself took and offered as a sacrifice before His own triumph, saying, “Take ye. This is my body.” (Mark 14:22) Thus are the words of the warring King, before going into battle against the abysmal one who conspires to destroy the sacrifice and grain offerings (Daniel 9:27), that is, the ineffable Mysteries of which Christendom partakes, proclaiming the Lord’s death till He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26) Look at the beautiful crowns of the wheat, as they stand ebbing with the movements of the Mediterranean breeze, each one wonderfully attired with florets of golden yellow, flowing back and forth with the mild winds, and though they are not unified with everything of nature, their modest presence majestically coalesces with the colors of the sky; the hues and shades of orange and red that glow in the midst of the sun’s descent.
The very sight brings peace to the soul, and stirs one to say with the Serbian mystic, “Jesus Christ, speak to me until my heart burns.” Saints and holy men live in the world, and while not being attached to the world, they bring to us a sense of beauty, an inspiration that conduces within the heart a glimmer of zeal, one that does not combust into flames and destroys, but rather a zeal that stems from stillness, like the dimming shades that appear as a flickering candlelight, and that permeate the whole sky as the sun fades in the sight of those fields of wheat. With stillness, there is hope, a hope that remains irregardless of what chaotic storms transpire; and where there is hope, there will always be unity. In the individual, if there is hope, there is a unity of self, where his internal disposition is whole, and not broken into pieces. The same is with a nation: where there are saints, there the universal truth of God, of His justice and charity, lives in the hearts of the people, there is beauty, there is inspiration, there is hope, there is zeal, and thus, there is unity, and this unity, no matter how few the people are, will illuminate the earth with the light that enlightens, and vanquish the armies of the abysmal spirits.
Ah, but what is this? The wheat fields are fed by the flowing river, pure and pristine, that journeys from the high mountain that cries to mighty heaven, for justice, for vengeance, for innocent blood spilt in the midst of deception, of sophism and guile. The water flows, in coalescence with blood, sacred and innocent, shed by cruel hands; it runs down the very same mountain, and we behold its merging with the river from the bottom of the peak. What lies on the top of this mountain?
We look up, we raise our gazes, our eyes touched by the soft auburn arms of the sun as it falls to slumber, and in the luster of the twilight sky, we behold the death of Hope, with arms outstretched, nailed to the sacred wood, blood and water flows from the base of the holy gibbet, watering the fields of wheat, and from this death, redemption abounds, from this death, hope is found, in that Resurrection of Humanity’s Savior.
Hope manifests in the hearts and lives of the warriors and sages of Christendom, those who died and those who are still alive; they live as wheat, nourished by water and sacrifice, cut asunder they endure, their seeds of hope sail upon the winds, bringing our minds to that sight, when the day became night. The seeds were taken up by the chaotic storms of persecution, and on they roved, to a land sanguinary and cruel. The eyes now saw sun scorched dirt, a cry of sorrow is heard and suddenly the ground is bespattered with bright scarlet red blood. The savage roars of multitudes, the cries of insatiable beings; harrowing laughter fills the air, terrifying cries of helpless victims, voices that sound possessed by the ravenous spirits of the abyss. This entire cacophony of horror invades our hearing, as though a war between harmony and chaos erupted in the earth and penetrated are very souls.
The clamor of demons, the cries of agony, the laughs and calls of sadism, they began to dissipate to a still wind; a bell was heard, it sounded like that of a church. The sounds of death were struck by the breathing of the winds, that fans the flames of an ailing fire and brings us to life. Whelmed by the dismal noise of hell, the soul was now taken up though the meadows of harmony, beautiful hills glistened by the rays of the awakening dawn, with tall grass and wheat ebbing and wavering to the early morning breeze. From a distance, what appeared to be a small cottage, was seen, lying in the midst of the hills; a majestic sight to bear as it stood in the midst of the dawning light, of the wind as it whistled, of the soul as it rested. The closer one got to this modest home, the more conspicuous it became as to what it was: a small monastery, made of bricks and with a strong foundation.
Only a flickering candle upon a wooden table, and the light that emanated from outside through a nearby window, illuminated the dimmed room and its rustic walls. The light of the candle’s flame gleamed and merged with the murky shadows of the remaining darkness.
The glow shed its light upon a bearded man, sitting on a chair behind a rustic desk upon which the candle burned, upon which the hot wax melted and streamed down, and exuded the pleasant smell of honey, as though to say that with death, the soul enjoys the ascending beauty of eternal hope. The man stood, with a still and silent soul, contemplatively looking beyond the window, into the shades of rose colored light that pervaded the air, and illuminated the fields caressed by the mellow morning winds.
He sat still, with peace, but in his gaze could be seen the memories of recent horrors; his eyes were deep, as though one could see his soul, with all of its anguish, and yet with all of its hope, as if a battle was occurring between the two. Before him was a piece of parchment, he looked to it, focused his mind, and wrote:
“The servants of Christ dwelling at Lyons and Vienna, in Gaul, to brethren in Asia and Phrygia, having the same faith and hope with us, peace and grace and glory from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. The greatness, indeed, of the tribulation, and the extent of the madness exhibited by the heathen against the saints, and the sufferings which the martyrs endured in this country, we are not able fully to declare, nor is it, indeed, possible to describe them.” (1)
Into the memory of his mind, do we enter, to behold what horrors were witnessed; what inhumanities were done, to know of the depths of evil that have no end, to see the fall into which the soul plunges when enslaved to evil. When the soul plunges into the realm of the sinister, there is no circumference to its sinister desires. Such was the state of France, before it had knowledge of that light, before it knew of that God but darkly known. There were but few Christians in France in that epoch of confusion, like small lighthouses in the midst of oceans of murky shadows, and the hatred that came forth from the darkness was of an insatiable rage, an unquenchable thirst of the soul roaring for death, enslaved by demons hungry for that very blood spilt by Cain, wanting to repeat that murder a million times over. For the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:5)
Mobs of the heathen seized the believers of the Cross, and stoned them to death as was done to the holy Stephen. Life did not end jejunely, but with love that flows into eternity, that does not end at death, but begins at martyrdom. Given the choice between death or martyrdom, they chose martyrdom and forsook death. The fists of mobs struck the innocent; savage beatings became frequent pleasures; people were ambushed and robbed; the bearers of light were forced to be in cages, as the devil strived to keep the light cut off from flowing into the souls of the people. In the presence of mobs and tribunals, they were sentenced to prison, they were slaughtered and made members of the choirs of martyrs, singing in the harmony of love, reminding us of the words of the Apostle: “And others had trial of mockeries and stripes, moreover also of bands and prisons. They were stoned, they were cut asunder, they were tempted, they were put to death by the sword” (Hebrews 11:36).
In the midst of the carnage and in the sea of cruelty, one man stood up to fight for the cause of order against disorder. He defied the heathen, strengthened by his Spirit with might unto the inward man (Ephesians 3:16) and called for justice to be observed. His name was Vettius Epagathus, a man of high status in the pagan society. He used his influence to gain a hearing, and when he entered the tribunal, he called for equity to be maintained, mercy to be observed, and for lawfulness to prevail over the bloodthirsty desires of the mob.
The governor who was superintending the mock trial gave a deaf ear to his exhortations, and asked simply one question to him: ‘Are you a Christian?’ Emphatically and without shame did Vettius proclaim his faith, declaring clearly that he was indeed of the order of the Carpenter of Nazareth. Immediately they seized him, and amongst the martyrs was he made, with sacred blood spilt to be a member of those sought by God to accompany the return of His Son to wage war against infidel and heathen, to avenge the blood of all martyrs from Abel onward.
Numerous Christians were seized, they were people of simple mind, hearts like children not tainted with the hypocrisy that corrupts men in adulthood. Taken they were, under the hands of callous souls and minds apathetic to human compassion; they were slaughtered, all made martyrs, and losing their citizenships of earth, they became citizens of heaven. Officers of the degenerate Roman State went from home to home, seizing the relatives of Christians who still remained heathen. These, having no faith in Christ, began to declare all sorts of slander against their Christian relations: that they were cannibals and incestious.
Such rumors spread throughout all of the peoples, and from lies came rage, for to live in deception is to live outside of reality, and to live outside of reality is to reside without truth, and to do so is to sever oneself from all virtue and morality, and to become a despot and a tyrant. For truth emanates order, and virtue can only be observed on the path of harmony, and thus on the brittle foundation of the lie, disorder occurs; all of a sudden the thirst for water turns to the thirst for blood, a desire for compassion to an insatiable sadism, orderliness to perversity; a laugh for joy turns to laughing at the suffering of the innocent; mocking the tribulations of the oppressed becomes proper humor; affirming the truth becomes intolerable, and living in the bondage of deception is esteemed as freedom. Such is what happened and such is what was witnessed, in those terrible days of France.
Roman officers and judges sought out for the Christians, but they were merely acquiescing to the demand of the mobs, for it was they who wanted to annihilate the Christians, they who desired to see their torment and their despair, their anguish and their extermination. The very spirit of those who gathered in the valley of Shinar, calling for the conquest of heaven and the take over of the eternal throne, now possessed these men of dark desires, and all the rages of the sinister reverberated throughout the abyss that resided within their souls. They arrested many of the saints, to cast them into the circuses for the people to see them being put through the most sadistic ways of death.
They seized the holy deacon of Vienna, they arrested Maturus, a recent convert from paganism to Christianity; Atallus, a Christian from Pergamum; and Blandina, a slave who was deemed as an insignificant inferior. Men who were trained in the ways of cruelty, torturers by trade, took Blandina and began to slowly slice her body with sharp tools; they pierced her skin and lacerated her flesh, and as the sun descended and its arms folded to the repose of the night, all that one could hear from this selfless woman, as she bore her afflictions, were the words, “I am a Christian, no wickedness is carried on by us,” and such a declaration was to the refreshment of her soul.
There was another Christian who was under the same cruel torture as Blandina; his name was Sanctus, he was a native of Vienna and a deacon in the city of Lyons. Knives and sharp blades pierced his flesh, blood splattered and spilled out, and flowed as the crimson river poured out from the side of the One Who now suffered in holy Sanctus. Of his name, he did not say; of his nation, of his race, nor of the city from whence he came, he did not utter a word, but all that could be heard from his mouth was: “I am a Christian.”
In him, all prejudice dissipated, all national identity, all sense of self, vanished, and the only One in him was Christ, for united was he with the Holy One, united with Love he endured all anguish. So exasperated were the torturers from this, that they took burning hot irons and placed them on the most sensitive parts of Sanctus’ body, but still did he remain firm in his faith, neither wavering nor capitulating to the blasphemous desires of the heathen. Surely are we reminded, from these tribulations, of the words of the Apostle when he wrote: “But call to mind the former days, wherein, being illuminated, you endured a great fight of afflictions.” (Hebrews 10:32) The life of Christ was exhibited in their hearts, and not only this, but rather, Christ Himself lived in them, and through them showed the world the indomitable spirit of sacrifice and martyrdom, against tyranny and oppression, against the enemies of the Faith and of the Cross. “But rejoice,” declares St. Peter, “inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:13).
The ones who take pleasure in torture, those whose eyes delight in cruelty, those whose minds are set enslaved to inhumanities, their faces are set low to the ground, to indulge in the sufferings of the oppressed, to smile at their screams, to laugh at their trepidations, to make themselves feel that they are above human, given the justification to destroy, to ruin, that they are worthy to bring death. The disorder of tyranny is found in the heart of man, from which evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies and blasphemies (Matthew 15:9) abound. From the pompous tyrant who enslaves nations, to the child who knows cruelty at so young an age, the despotism of man is manifested. With hubris and superciliousness reigning over the soul from the throne of the ego, man’s eyes look downward, and never does his being ever bother to gaze heavenward.
The suffering of martyrs, forgotten and consigned to oblivion, in the the land where cities have arisen, edifices have been constructed, the land drunk by success and luxury, the land whose memories no longer recollect on what sacred blood was spilt, on what tribulations men suffered to be worthy of the title of saint, the masses no longer care on the blood that consecrated the ground on which they walk. Indifference meets the past glories of martyrs, and the scoffer and the sadist become the new icons for the reverence of the masses.
Ah, if one could just see the sky on that dark day, when holy Sanctus and Blandina were lacerated and forced into the dolor of tribulation; the torturer looked down to see the work of his cruelty, the tortured looked upward, to behold the liberty of their souls. There the dark clouds of the night began to dissipate under the prevailing armies of the sun, the light filled heaven, and so the radiance of hope permeated the cosmos that lied within their beings and stirred them to fixate their eyes upward, as mighty Samson had done while he stood with arms outstretched, tied to two pillars, with eyes blinded and his soul beautifully witnessing the sublime reality of eternity. Here the demarcation between light and darkness was made: the torturers stared down like wild beasts, and the oppressed were ever focused on heaven, illustrating the purpose of human life: to see life abound in the tribulations and anguish of saints, royalty in a crown of thorns; to find peace in noble struggle and war in false peace, to see victory in persecution and slavery in despotism. As the holy Basil wrote:
“You were born that you might see God, not that your life might be dragged down on the earth, not that you might have the pleasure of beasts, but that you might achieve heavenly citizenship.” (2)
In the realization of beauty in suffering, and of purpose in anguish, man rises above animalistic impulses and egoism, for in being created in the likeness of God, and seeing that God Himself suffered, he becomes aware that the purest life is that of sacrifice. For as St. Peter wrote, “it is better doing well (if such be the will of God) to suffer, than doing ill. Because Christ also died once for our sins” (1 Peter 3:17-18). God became Man in the sublime Hypostatic Union, and deigning Himself to the humiliation of suffering, He illustrated how in that very anguish and tribulation, is found freedom from the slavery of the animal urges for comforts.
In the midst of this hell made by the hands of the diabolically possessed, a certain Biblias was brought to the torture center. Forced into torment, her frail and timid disposition was unable to withstand the afflictions, and she began to affirm the calumny against the Christians. They released her, but soon they brought her back to resume the torture, but she, like Peter, realizing the internal struggle of the soul to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, to purge the self’s fear in emulation of the God-Man, in His suffering, in His travails, in His zeal and in His death, at the expense of our own comforts, wept bitterly (Luke 22:62), and she refused to confirm the slanders made against the Christians by the mobs. “How,” said she, “could such as these devour children, who considered it unlawful even to taste the blood of irrational animals.”
She declared herself a Christian, and like Peter, proved her repentance through the baptism of her blood; and with a deep cerise that brought the mind to fear and awe, it flowed from her body and touched the earth, making the land a land of martyrs, a nation of redemption wherein selfless men shined forth in days long forgotten, that the path of heaven may be open to posterity, (3) so that they, with memories carrying their selfless actions, may be stirred to remember the sacrifices of their ancestors, being stirred to action themselves, to confront and struggle against the hordes of demons and their acolytes who bring a people to spit upon the virtuous feats of their predecessors and to favor everything contrary to beauty, to love, to truth and to valiancy.
The wicked will say, “Let us crown ourselves with roses, before they be withered: let no meadow escape our riot.” (Wisdom 2:8) Evildoers embellish themselves with an ugliness that is feigned as delightful, they will take a small semblance of ornamentation and bespatter it with grotesque images in their revolt against order; and to them no man of good should escape their wrath, for to them, they are rebels against their own rebellion. The fields of order should be brought to an aggregate of orderless disarray, to the eyes of the mob, with their unquenchable flames that knows neither temperance nor moral bonds. They will see the Godhead, the innumerable armies of angels, the heavenly multitudes of saints, and gather together as a vicious mob to overthrow the sublime Mount Zion and replace it with the pantheon of every evil spirit.
Their creed will be that which says, “I have no creed,” only to absorb every foul and dark idea that has ever emanated from the diabolical souls of perverse minds. All of their actions will be guided by the layers of the demonic, taking one heresy and extolling it in a temple of some abysmal era of heathendom. The sultan will exalt Muhammad, and in the same moment will rebuild the temple of Zeus from the ruins of antiquity. Heathendom can only revive from a past vanquished by the good; but Christendom always arises from those who, like the holy Abraham, “looked for a city that hath foundations; whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)
Heathendom can only revive from the decayed remains of despotic empire, and pools of the spilt blood of the aspiring men of simplicity, men of eyes like children, men of no guile, souls with hearts innocent like doves. Christendom will always ascend from the graves of martyrs, from the sacrifice of holy men who defied the tyranny of delusion, who gaze upon death as a gate to eternal springs, who put on the Cross and fight the enemies of life.
The heathen will rush to to the meadows of order, and will dance and spit upon the graves of the saints, with superficial laughter, comedy and scoffing; but Christendom will arise and vanquish with the sword of the sublime, of harmony, of beauty, of majesty. Heathendom is founded by scoffers, Christendom arises from greatness. Not the greatness of pomp, but the momentous strength that arises from humble awareness on the things of heaven, from which comes Christendom’s valor, its volition and innovation. For true civilization can only arise from humility; pride dies like a withered leaf in the fall season, for it leads to disorder and confusion — confusion of oneself, love for those bent on your destruction, and hatred for those who build us up — but humility leads to selfless action, and thus does it perpetuate to eternity. It was pride that riled up the demons, but it was by humility that the angels were victorious.
Memory recounts the sacrifices done in the past, of martyrs and heroes, of sages and mystics; the mind contemplates on their actions and on their indefatigable spirit, they kindle love’s light in the heart, and the night is sparked by the ray beaming through the teardrops of zeal that tinge the faces of the people. United through zeal, Christendom awakens, ever ready for sacrifice, invigorated by divine Love that sacrificed Himself on the holy Cross, upon which time “the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose” (Matthew 27:52). Through the sacrifice of Love, saints arose, and by the deaths of holy men — united with Love — Christendom will arise. Christendom, the holy flower nourished by death, blood and resurrection; Christendom, whose foundation is founded upon martyrdom.
There behind the prison did the Christians stand, absent of help, confided within the dismal state of dereliction, devoid of human comfort, deprived of any relief. Those who were new to the Faith, who had just converted and were absent of any conditioning to persecution, died from there grief in those dark cages, trapped like animals in a moribund and dark plight.
Ceaselessly perpetuated was the night, and it seemed that day never awakened, that the sun never arose from its slumber; it was as though death had already come, and they were kept in the murky dungeons of a never ending nightmare, where hope is but a wavering shadow ever ready to shatter, in the midst of dreary misery that appears to reoccur, like a river that encircles around a mountain of skulls and death, upon which the sun never mounts nor rests. But, this sad view, filled with despair, withdrew and surrendered in the face of that glimmer of hope that shined within the hearts of those who remained imprisoned.
One of the prison gates was opened, and what few rays of light that were able to peak into the cell, shined upon an infirm and elderly man who had passed his ninetieth year. This was Pothinus, the bishop of Lyons. His breathing was greatly hindered by his weakness of body, but still there remained within him a heart fortified by the flames of faith and hope. The officers seized him and began to take him to where the tribunal was posted. As they walked, the mob surrounded them, with their wicked eyes fixated on the old Pothinus, raging with only blood on their minds, with only violence in their hearts.
Murderous was their spirits, but glad and cheerful was the still beating heart of Plothinus, as old he was, still palpitating to the harmony of hope, to the song of peace. The mob raised its cry against him, an accusation was heard there, a vitriolic cry here, a thousand calls of rage. Countless voices all from the evil and cruel rabble pierced the ears, and would have reminded us of the truly sinister ways of humanity, when it lives without hope, with only malevolent desire, when its mouth is dry and deprived of the waters of life, but parched by malicious thirsts and fed only with the gall of bitter and rancorous wants.
He was brought before the governor, and he founded himself scolded with the question: ‘Who is the God of the Christians?’ “If thou art worthy,” said Pothinus, “thou shalt know.”
What ill heath weakened his heart and limbs, what sickness tormented his frail body, did not impede what hope gleamed within his being, the ever flaming candle that flickered within him, sparked by the Love that emanates from eternity, illuminated from him in such a great manner, that his persecutors saw it. The incarnation of hope stood before them, and flamed the anger of the crowd. The guards immediately seized Pothinus and began to beat him with whips, he endured many stripes, and like Christ, they scourged him. (John 19:1)
The pagans in the crowd, they felt this sudden desire to pick up rocks and stones and cast them upon the old saint. For they thought to themselves that their gods would look favorably upon them if they took part in the death of a blasphemer of their despotic religion. Here a stone struck him, there another; with every blow and with every strike, one could here the crowds cheering for his death, the cacophony of cries seemed like an outpouring wave of demons, in an ocean of wanton cruelty, in the tempest of rage that wars to put an end to the rise of glory, to the manifestation of hope.
One could have seen him, his face tinged with the red stains of blood, his skin battered and bruised, his back and his shoulders lacerated from the sharp and vicious strikes. He bore the wounds of one aspiring above his time, afflicted for envisaging beyond the tyranny of chimeras; he bore the wounds of God, and surrounding him were the enemies of heaven itself, the enemies of beauty and the advancers of ugliness. His eyes were still open, his heart beating, his breath was slow and hindered. The guards took him up and casted him back into his cell.
One could imagine how it must have been, locked in that gloomy cage, with walls of stone, hard and cold like the heats of the mob, knowing full well that your death is but an entertainment for the crowd, to the delight of their unsettled urges for death. The sun had descended, and all of the land was darkened, but light still glimmered in the heart of the persecuted. Gloomy shadows possessed the souls of those who lied in comfort, who slept with ease, reposing on their beds under the starry sky, resting after cruel labors, after toiling in merriment, after tormenting their own souls through their laughter.
But light, ever bright and lustrous, shined within that man who was most unfortunate, the man whose days were shortened by oppression, stricken with grief; and even when the dawn had, passed, and the twilight shined with its full set of rays, the light that gleamed in his soul remained, not being dampened by the cool evening, enflamed and glimmering with a radiance that inspired, and still did it stand brighter than the sun, for the day’s heat nurtures us with warmth, but the shining light of the saint nourishes our souls, so that death loses sting, and the will to vanquish the darkness beautifully kindles. He respired with a few more breaths, and his soul left his body and ascended to its original home. By his death, do we learn of dying; by his hope, do we learn of eternity. For the death of a saint is like fragrance to the soul, a fragrance that awakens it so that it may breath, and smell the crisp air in its realization of the sublime, of that which takes us beyond the physical.
Look to the trees, see how their leaves glimmer under the luminous rays, with shades of emerald and jade; observe how graceful they move to the harmonious winds, and yet stay, with roots well settled in the dark rich loam of the earth. Let your gazes lie upon the mint leaves, see how their green color glows ever more brightly in the night, and their fragrance remains, in the midst of shadows and in the absence of the sun. Such is the saints, such is their hope, with light and fortitude flowing like a river that never ends. Sail the ship of your mind on this river, and journey through the enlightenment that springs from the knowledge of the sacrificers of self, and the emulators of the Crucified One.
There was a corridor, a long and dismal hallway, embellished by arches made of slab, and such little light illuminated the walls of stone. In each ray of light that beamed through, one could see a cumulous of dust, floating slowly, not united but fragmented. The guards were passing through the hall, walking upon the cobble stone floor, taking alongside them a group of persons whose faces were not seen all to clearly, for in that place darkness prevailed over the light. From outside the walls, one could hear the waves of incontinence, uncontrollable cries and screeches, sadistic laughter, guffaw and cheering, resounding simultaneously with horrifying wails and torment, that unbearable sound of desperate lamentation that comes from one under the most harrowing violence and torture. The cacophony of both sadism and anguish came together, and two chaoses became one, they sounded as though they echoed from a watery and dreary abyss, from shadows that could speak, imprisoned in an abode of gloom and ashes, cries heard as if from underneath a murky pool of gore and carnage, where only death resides, beneath sulphureous clouds and a sky glowing with a red blood moon.
It was as if hell had burrowed its way up to the surface of the earth and demons were incarnating themselves as monsters and beasts. But what lied beyond those cold and spiritless walls were no monsters, rather, they were worse than monsters. The prisoners continued to walk down the hall, in the midst of the nightmarish noise, and with each step they could see the rays of light revealing the dust in the air. The billowing specks would have been like the chaos occurring outside the walls, together but separated, with each one going here and there, each one going their own way, each one bent upon their own desire, with no order nor direction. The muddle of dust was everywhere, it had clouded all of the air, but it was the light that revealed the chaos that abounded. The prisoners were few, but the multitude was colossal, and perhaps now this small number would be as the rays of light, dissipating the tempest of dust, and showing them that they were but drops of water in a single ocean of hysteria, a sea that has but one dismal direction, pushed by the rebellion of the many, leading to ugliness, without the euphony that consists of beautiful movements, each one varying from the other, but simultaneously working towards a sublime harmony, like those fields of wheat, who ebb gently with the winds.
They had finally reached the end of the corridor, the doors were opened, and the sun’s brightness uncovered the faces of the prisoners from the shadows of the dreadful prison. It was Sanctus and Blandina, alongside two other Christians, Maturus and Attalus. Their faces were parched and dry, their eyes weary from being kept so long in the dark. They beheld the multitude, and immediately their ears were struck by the roars and the cries of the crowd. They were now in the middle of an amphitheater, surrounded by a mob gleefully waiting for their deaths. We are told by the poet, Prudentius, that “man is a mirror of Godhead.” (4) In all of the soulless members of that decayed body of a mob, one could see a mirror of the demons. Indeed, in that crowd ululating in the face of slaughter and butchery, one could see the demons incarnated, clothed with human flesh and revealing themselves by the glossiness of their crazed eyes; the demons of war and vice, of pride and rage, of rebellion and lasciviousness; the demons of cruelty and indulgence, of discord and antichrist, whose god is Belial, and whose food is mortal flesh and blood, shed through savagery.
Within the soul there is a longing thirst to share the zeal that burns with others; it stands, kindling like the flame of a candle in the darkness, shining, glowing, flickering, waiting, waiting to be immersed in this alliance of brotherhood, with no one from beyond the night approaching the abandoned heart, the derelict soul pierced by desertion. These Christians, surrounded by the darkness of the crowd, were like those candlelights, but they were not alone, for having each other, they could withstand the darkness as armies against invaders, as shields against arrows, as angels against demons.
They lied right in the midst of a nightmare of a circus, on the flat stage of a theatre, their deaths were to be but a mere spectacle to a people who saw slaughter as a show, a presentation done to please their urges to be entertained, to be indulged. They wanted someone to make them laugh; a drop of blood here, a snicker there; a severed limb, and chuckles break out; death comes, screams of agony resound, entrails on the floor, and the whole crowd roars. A thousand souls were tormented as a sacrifice on the altar of idle talk; pools of blood were made to scratch the fleeting and rapacious itch of idle minds.
They stood together, and from a distance they could see the ravenous lions, with salivating mouths, breathing at a savage pace, starved and ever desirous to feed on flesh and blood, to crush with their jaws the bones of those already trapped. The Christians looked on the beasts, with eyes through which one could behold a soul, and be aware that what stood before a merciless multitude, was not just flesh, but spirit, but life, in whose being flamed the flame of love. Through their eyes, one saw that they were not mere bodies, a few blocks to add to the tower of avarice, but sculptures, designed by He Who the world cannot contain, He Whose breath respired within them, for in that moment of terror, it was that very breath that kept them up, that livened them and kindled the fire of hope. In this one sight of their eyes, this witnessing of inexplicable hope, the reality of the soul manifested ever so glowingly, for that which transcended animal impulses prevailed. One could have heard the prophet Job speaking: “Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh: thou hast put me together with bones and sinews” (Job 10:11).
The design of humanity was by Love, and in these suffering saints, Love was seen. The truth of God is not found in abundance, but one can see the beauty of Eternal Love in the endurance of the tyrannized. In the eyes of lions that surrounded them, there was neither emotion nor pity, neither compassion nor love. There was just impulse, solely the disposition of a man who has thrown out a heart of flesh for a heart of stone, and his soul becomes but a lethargic desert manifested through the hallow eyes that see injustice, and think nothing of it, like lakes without water and skies without clouds, hovering above a wasteland of dry bones with the echoes of ignored voices crying for vengeance.
But the eyes of the beasts were nothing like the eyes of the crowd: these were wild, very tense and glossy; they moved from one direction to another, their faces twisted and contorted in diabolical ways. It was no wonder that Augustine described one who would go to such bloody spectacles as “delighted with the wicked contest and drunk with blood lust.” (5) The bloody spectacles were a domain of demons, taking the souls of those who attended to be entertained by cruelty. For Tertullian recounts of how one Christian woman came to a theatre to witness bloodshed, and returned possessed by demons. She saw an exorcist, and during the rite of exorcism, when he asked the demon why he had possessed her, the evil spirit replied, “And in truth I did it most righteously, for I found her in my domain.” (6)
The guards took Maturus and Sanctus before a large body of hunters, all armed with sticks and standing in a long line. They were forced to run pass the hunters, and each one struck at them with their scourges. As each blow was inflicted, more and more was their flesh lacerated and deeply gashed, blood poured out from their wounds, and excruciating pain was all that could be felt. They finally reached the end, with their bodies covered in bruises, lacerations and gashes, with their hearts intensely beating. Their breath was rapid, their strength was weakening, spiraling down as the cries of the crowd filled the air. “To the lions!” would have been something heard uttered by the demonic crowd. (7)
They picked up the two men, and as if the gauntlet they just endured was not enough to please the mob, they cast them before the lions. The beasts slavered as they charged upon them; they clamped down on their limbs, dragged them and shook them violently with their jaws, tearing their flesh apart, ripping sinews and muscles, heaving them viciously, and leaving crimson marks of blood on the ground. Disarray and horrific screams of bloodlust from the multitude soared. The ones who were oppressed had in their minds the ascendance of humanity through He Who became one with Humanity, while the rest were bent on the destruction of humanity.
A large heap of beings, a ream of nothing but evil desires, an ocean of turmoil and confusion, nothing but thirst, with no thinking outside of self, outside of impulse; the whole of the masses were absent of contemplation on the natural order, on the ascension of humanity to the heavenly summit. But those who they scoffed and mocked, who they tortured and laughed at, had in their minds the race of endurance, and being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) they were united to “mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, and to the church of the firstborn, who are written in the heavens, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect,” (Hebrews 12:22-23) ascending up to its heavenly peak, through anguish and love, sorrow and humility, anguish and long suffering.
They were rising up to the depths of endless light, it was getting closer, eternity was nigh, the rays of heaven peaked through the darkness that abounded, but still there was breath in their bodies, and their tribulations were not yet over. In the travails of these martyrs, there was humanity, in its original state, pure from the taint of avarice, emptying themselves of self, unified with He Who is the Center of all mortals. But the multitude, their faces were raging, they were all in a frenzy, worse than the animals who had been eating these Christians alive. Brute beasts kill to nourish themselves and their young, but mortals who have seared their consciences, and who have explicitly warred against the inner law of the heart, they butcher and slaughter for mere sport, to feed and quench the thirst that has no end, the urge for domination, the end of which is bloodshed and innumerable corpses.
The crowd had lost their humanity, while those they persecuted had within them all of humanity, for in them was the Crucifixion, in which Humanity endured the spite of the soulless. Devils, when they possess a soul, take over the humanity of the person, and make him act like the serpent, crawling on his belly, that is, serving the god of his belly, filled with frenzy and madness, never content and always pursuing perverse ends, raging against humanity like the incorrigible demons that rule him.
The sharp teeth of the lions tore up their bodies, pulling them here and there, as if they were but lambs. Blood ran down their quivering bodies, as they lied down, with that expression on their face that spoke of impeding death. The rays of the sun looked down upon them, some short and some long, moving in a circle and shifting in size with what clouds remained in the sky. The rays moved in a beautiful symmetry, with one extending out, but then fading away back to the thick clouds, as if they were a consonance against the raucous from the multitudinous voices that, to the mangled Christians, sounded as though they were yelling from underneath the seas, reverberating their ears. They were still alive, and yet death felt so close, as though it were lingering about like a shadow.
The guards had restrained the wild beasts before they could fully devour them. The crowd wanted them to remain alive, so that they could be put through more of their sadism. Their pain was their entertainment. The madness of the mob prevailed over reason. Their diabolism was manifested in their disorderly countenances and vitriolic voices. They screamed and cried, all in a unison of perversion, all united in their satanic possession. There was no order in their speech, but they were all in accord with their desire: they wanted blood. They called for death, and they wanted the Christians to be strapped onto chairs, made of iron, and that had been immersed in fire. This was the iron chair.
Their sanguinary eyes looked with diabolical glee and ecstasy as Sanctus and Maturus were being placed onto the iron chairs. At the very moment their skin touched the blistering metal, it was immediately scorched. Quickly they were forced to sit fully onto the metal seats, the flesh cooked, they were being roasted alive, as the crowd went into a full state of frenzy, screaming in joy, drunk off cruelty. The crowd was inebriated at the sight of the Christians being seared on the red hot metal, their eyes went into an even deeper trance, as though they were no longer humans, but possessed monsters.
Demons were incarnated in their insatiable fury, and yet at the same time, the sufferings of Christ, and the meditations of pensive monks, were incarnational in the anguish of the martyrs. In their tribulations was the whole of prayer, in their sufferings was the evidence of a true change of mind, from a mind fixated on the flesh, to a mind — in the words of Michelangelo — “turned toward that divine love that opened his arms on the cross to take us in.” (8)
Sanctus stood fastened onto the iron hair, his flesh pealing off, with so much of his skin swelled up and enflamed, charred and blistered. It was a horrifying sight, but to the people it was something that intoxicated them. In all of this excruciating anguish, he still managed to cry out, “I am a Christian! I am a Christian! I am a Christian!”
He repeated these words, over and over again. The crowd was furious. They roared and screamed, bellowed and screeched, to try to drown his words with their cacophonies. The demons saw Christ in these martyrs, and what was unholy could not bear the sight of what was divine. But still, in the tempest of their resonant shrieks, could they still hear the cry of the forsaken prophet: “I am a Christian!” The cry of one martyr had prevailed over a multitude of slaves, and even when they had power, did this one small voice prevail, for not even in death was their souls unassailable, never giving in to the crowd, never acquiescing to the demands of the many.
They stood tied to the torturous gibbet, they were now icons of Christ, holy images and emulations of the Crucified One; their wounds were now His wounds; their sufferings, His sufferings. And in their eyes, one could have seen the light of their souls, gleaming as the sublime rays that beamed through the tears of God when He was subjected to the tortures of cruel and evil despots. For in being an imitation of Christ, their passion was intertwined with His, and so the fires of love that were in the Savior, were now in them, burning in compassion even for the very men that tormented them.
The name Sanctus means holy in the Latin tongue, and truly did this man fit his title, for he was like Stephen, beholding God in the midst of anguish and tribulation, saying “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55) And then before death, he exclaimed: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:58)
These holy saints, their sufferings were profound signs that they looked beyond trivial desires, superficial egoisms, agitations, squabbles and lusts, and laid them down with death; they awoke from their slumber, “strengthened by his Spirit with might unto the inward man” (Ephesians 3:16), and from the inner room of the soul, departed by the ship of their minds and set sail to the higher thoughts of heavenly things. Their actions make you wonder, ‘What is the reason to be angry and frustrated? What is the purpose for being sad and in despair? For what, should we run to and be servants for concupiscent appetites?”
The great feats of the martyrs inspire us to be above these things, to transcend them, to go beyond them. From the deaths of saints, our hearts are stirred to zeal and inspiration, we behold them as windows to heaven, as mirrors that reflect the light of Eternal Love. The anguish of the saints inspires us to imagine eternity, like gazing upon the descending sun, as though you are seeing but a shadow of heaven.
The Savior Who, with arms outstretched, embraced humanity, while the world could not even embrace Him, so in exemplifying love, He cherishes those who the masses will not embrace, who they will despise and who they will refuse to comprehend. The small voice of selfless love was despised by the multitude, before them were the wounds of the One Who saved them, but hating the light and enslaved to the dark, they chose bondage over liberation.
Surrounded by darkness, with bodies scorched and devastated, the two men had but a small measure of life within them, and looking up, for just this one moment, they envisaged eternal victory, the undying light that beams through the soul and yet remains unseen by the indulgent. And in breathing their last breath, they perished despised, yet they left as kings, embellished with crowns that glow ever so brightly, without ceasing, ascending as conquering warriors.
The pagans, they were as Cain was, giving their false sacrifices to the devil. From the feigned offering of fruits, came the shedding of the innocent blood of Abel. So the pagans offered their sacrifices to devils, and not to God (1 Corinthians 10:20), and the denouement was the butchering of Abel’s successors.
So it was in the betrayal of our Lord. Judas dipped the bread and ate it, and then stood up and departed into the dark shades of the night, to turn over the Holy One in exchange for profit. As he went out, inebriated by rapaciousness, he had been imprisoned in that cage of unbelief, rejecting the holy Sacrifice, putting material gain before that which is sublime and transcendent, all the while, “the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread.” (1 Corinthians 11:23)
Christ, in the time of His betrayal, established that beautiful Sacrifice, the Mysteries, of which St. Paul wrote that “whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:27)
So great is this Mystery, so profound and heavenly, so majestic and awe-inspiring, that the eternal bliss of our very souls depends upon our reverence for this great Sacrifice called the Eucharist. Enter into the ineffable Mystery of the Divine, come to union with the Humanity of Christ, and by this, ascend your soul to His Divinity; see the Sacrifice and behold the Crucifixion, and come to the awareness that in sacred suffering there is magnificent union between Man and God. “For as often as you shall eat this bread,” declares the holy Apostle, “and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)
This is the Eucharistic reality, the absolute reality, and the one for which countless saints have fought and died for in the glorious struggle of the Cross. Let our hearts burn at the very thought of the Crucifixion; water sprung like a fountain from the wounded side of Christ, let our inner sanctuaries be enflamed at this divine suffering, and water flow from our eyes in zeal for the holy Sacrifice.
But Judas rejected this Sacrifice, and like Cain, being of the devil, warred against the true Offering, and slew the Fulfillment of Abel. With this are we reminded of the words of Christ to the Scribes and Pharisees:
“That upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar.” (Matthew 23:35)
From Abel to Judas, to this cruel massacre that took place in the land of France, the spirit of Cain and the hoards of demons posses the haters of the holy Sacrifice, and moves them to war, just as they will in the days to come, when they will “go forth unto the kings of the whole earth, to gather them to battle against the great day of the Almighty God.” (Revelation 16:14)
There the successors of Cain were, in the amphitheater, hating the Blood of Christ, they thirsted for the blood of the saints. They were not satisfied with the deaths of Sanctus and Maternus, and now looked to Blandina as an object for their sadistic spectacle. They seized the woman and suspended her on a wooden stake, hanging her like bait on a hook before voracious beasts. She hung from wood, as Christ was suspended from the Holy Wood of the Cross, surrounded by demons, all riling up the evildoers who salivated for her death, possessed by the very abysmal spirits who possessed those who encompassed the Crucified One.
The other Christians watched her, from a distance, witnessing her suffering, her dolor, her passion. They beheld her and contemplated on the Crucifixion, bringing themselves to the sublime rumination that to suffer for Christ was to enter into union with Him. As Daniel stood in the pit surrounded by lions, while never being attacked by them, so neither fang nor claw touched this woman. They removed her from the stake and cast her back into prison, reserving her for another cruel entertainment of the masses.
The crowd, awaiting the sight of torment and being ragefully impatient by the absence of slaughter, demanded that the Christian, Attalus, be brought before them and butchered. Attalus was paraded through the crowd, with a sign in front of him that said: “This is Attalus the Christian.” The people were as berserkers, screaming all sorts of insults against him. But before they could see their show of violence, the governor declared that he was a Roman citizen, and thus needed to be sent back until his punishment would be determined by the emperor, and that he had already wrote to Caesar and was awaiting his decision.
The emperor, Marcus Aurelius, wrote back and ordered that all of the Christians of Roman citizenship be given the choice: renounce Christ or be beheaded. The governor had all of these Christians taken and he personally brought them into the amphitheater and presented them before the crowd, which was very large and prodigious, containing people from all throughout the empire.
He then looked to the Christians and gave them the choice: reject Christ, or face the blade. Some renounced Christ, but others refused, and these were swiftly decapitated. But those who denied Christ, seeing their brothers face and conquer death, gained inspiration and zeal, and being as St. Peter after he denied Christ, confessed their Savior with boldness, and exclaimed to the governor that they were indeed Christians. These too were beheaded.
But, Attalus was reserved, and was not beheaded, even though he still refused to deny Christ. The governor had much of the other Christians, who were not citizens, taken and sent to be eaten alive by the lions, a decision that the crowd praised with drunken bloodlust.
Soon, another Christian was arrested, a very devout man, filled with zeal. His name was Alexander, a doctor by profession and a Phrygian by birth. He was brought before the tribunal, where the mob began to accuse him of encouraging the Christians to never deny Christ, and to not bow down to the idols of the people. The governor asked him, ‘Who are you?’ And he replied that he was a Christian. At these very words, the governor went into a demonic rage and fury, and ordered that Alexander be fed to the beasts, and ordered that Attalus join him in this most painful death, in order to gratify the mob’s lust to see that man dead.
The two Christians, Alexander and Attalus, were brought into the amphitheater, crowded by the resounding cries of the enormous multitude. Alexander was put under every form of torture that they used in the amphitheater, from the scourges of the gantlet, to being torn apart by the wild beasts.
His body was torn apart, his flesh gashed and lacerated, his entire body covered in sweat, as he endured the heavy afflictions, and while all of this occurred, he communed with God in his heart. His heart enflamed, as God spoke to him; for in suffering, in tribulations, in sorrows and in tragedy, God speaks with the heart burning to be one with the Divine. “Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
So many are under the illusion that prayer is done to be rescued from suffering, but in truth, it is done to inspire endurance, to face death and martyrdom. Thus, Alexander spoke with God, he saw God through the eyes of the soul, as Samson did before his own martyrdom when he destroyed the pagans. So deep was this unity, so hot was the flame that kindled in his heart, that he disregarded all of the pain and tortures. He was silent, neither yelling nor making a single noise. “Because for thy sake we are killed all the day long: we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Psalm 43:22)
The sheep are slaughtered silently, the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world, died in silence, and from Him came resurrection, and this very divine disposition glimmers from the souls of His sheep, perishing as He perished, all being emulations of Him, and entering eternal glory in the divine presence. After all of these tortures that he endured, Alexander was taken, and with what little life remained in him, they executed him.
They now turned to Attalus. But for him, they wanted something else, something, more sadistic and cruel: the iron chair. They strapped him onto the seat, and the metal was so hot and scorching, that it burned HIS flesh within the quickest moment. As his flesh was charring, as the fumes from his roasting skin surrounded him, and as the resonance of the crowd rattled the ears with their bloodcurdling cheers and praises, Attalus gathered all of the strength that he could, and cried:
“Lo, this is to devour men, what you are doing. But as to us, we neither devour men nor commit any other evil.”
Some from the crowd began to ask, ‘What is the name of God?’ to which Attalus replied boldly, ‘God as no name!’
After this, he gave up the ghost, and perished.
Witnessing all of this cruelty was Blandina, who stood next to a fifteen year old Christian named Ponticus. Both of these were forced to watch the deaths of their brethren, so as to coerce them to worship the idols. But Blandina stood strong, and by her inner fortitude did she infuse into dear Ponticus the enthusiasm and zeal to never deny Christ. It was now their turn, their moment of suffering, the time to partake in the Crucifixion, and honor the armies of martyrs that now reside in heaven, praying for the militants of the Cross, exhorting on our behalf, praying for us. They brought Blandina and the boy into the middle of the amphitheater, and now the battle was about to commence. The cloud of witnesses were around them, watching and strengthening.
We can behold them in our minds, and imagine how it was in the battle between the Maccabees and the pagans; how Jeremiah was seen in heaven, praying for the people and the holy city (2 Maccabees 15:14) and how, “Stretching out his right hand, Jeremiah presented a gold sword to Judas.” (2 Maccabees 15:15) Never did this battle cease, but it occurs still, with the physical realm and the spiritual world intertwined. For in this great struggle, in the midst of warfare, in the midst of bloodshed and of sacrifice, when death is ever so near, God is near; the soul lends its arms, reaching to touch the sublime mountain of eternal Zion, where lies the ineffable Trinity, the angels and the saints. When Christ was born a holy man told His mother, “As for thy own soul, it shall have a Sword to pierce it.” (Luke 2:35) A spear struck the Heart of Christ, a mystical sword pierced the heart of Mary (9) and here is manifested the coalescence of the spiritual and the physical, Divinity and Humanity, the glory of God and the humble heart.
The sword of anguish, the sword of dolor and sorrow, struck at the heart of the Mother of mankind’s Hope; here is grief, here is bitterness, but all such things would not exist in the absence of love, for in apathy there is callousness, but in love there is despair, and from the grief of the tormented there the rose of boundless yearning blooms, the pedals shrivel and perish, but from its death it brings forth fruit, and this fruit springs from love, and its sweet fragrance fills the air and melts our hearts. The womb of Mary is the flower, and her Fruit is Jesus Christ, for the angel told her, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (Luke 1:42) Upon the harrowing mountain of the skull, in the presence of the Holy Wood, there the heart of the sacred flower languished in love, as she beheld her Fruit mocked and afflicted; a lance pierced His side, and blood flowed; and the blade of bittersweet anguish pierced her heart, and tears flowed down. Water and blood streamed down, from the rib of God and from the eyes of His mother, the two were one, bounded by love. infinite and timeless, present and omnipresent, simple and profound. This is so, for Christ desired this, saying to His Father,
“And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me; that they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
Christ was in Mary, and she was in divine union with her Son; thus, His pain was her pain, His anguish her anguish, the two were one, their hearts coming together in mystical theosis. In that solemn day, when the sun would soon go down and the earth shake, Christ was pierced, and while dread was in the heart of His mother, a great zeal was also kindled within her very spirit. So it is with the followers of the Cross, they see the afflicted Body of the Lord on the altar, they contemplate on the sacred Passion, and within them a flame glimmers, and their souls sing with an ancient sage:
“Come, mother, do this for me:
in my heart do implant firmly
wounds of your son crucified;
share them with me, all those suffering
that your son endured while wounded,
deigned to bear so much for me.
Let me truly shed tears with you,
with him crucified share mourning,
for as long as I shall live;
by the cross to stand beside you,
be your comrade there with gladness,
this I long for in my grief.” (10)
The martyrs and confessors who travail for Christ, are with Him, in all of His cosmic nature, bearing His wounds, with faces touched by His tears. St. Paul wrote that “the sufferings of Christ abound in us” (2 Corinthians 1:5), and thus not only are the sufferers mystically partaking in the Crucifixion, but they are with Mary, for she too was present on the most overbearing hill of holy Sacrifice, with her flesh being His flesh, and her blood being His blood, her heart intertwined with His heart, having the intimate bond with the I Am.
She has the title of the Theotokos, God-bearer, for in Her womb was God, and in her spirit and her heart was oneness with Him, in His suffering and in His glory. She gave birth to our Salvation, and so she participates in the redemption of man, in bearing Him and in beholding His sorrow. As Fr. Alexander Men wrote: “Thus, many say that it was as if the Lord’s Mother were crucified in heart with Him.”
Mockers will scoff at this very notion, and say that it is contrary to the Gospel. But do not forget, that before Elisha asked Elijah before he ascended up to heaven, “I beseech thee that in me may be thy double spirit.” (2 Kings 2:9) As Elisha partook in the spirit of Elijah, so the suffering saints profoundly partake in the heart of Mary. She beheld the thorns, His crimson soaked head, the nails in His hands, His pierced feet, His scourged flesh, and it is through her eyes, that we see the persecutions of the Christians, being one with Christ, and sharing in the anguish of her heart when the tribulations occur, and sharing in the zeal of her heart, knowing the victory of everlasting light.
So it was with Blandina and Ponticus, they saw what horrors the Christians had endured, as Mary had to witness the Crucifixion of her Son. Union with the divine was now nigh, as they were in the amphitheater. Blandina, with zeal and without sadness, rejoiced that soon, once death was done, she was to traverse to eternity. She encouraged the young Ponticus to have resolve within himself, to not deny the Faith and to face death. The heathens exhorted them to bow down before their gods, but like Gideon, they defied the idols with the spiritual sword, and held fast for Christ, never acquiescing nor assenting to the demands of the gentiles.
They subjected them to every torture: the scourges of the gantlet , the jaws of beasts, but still they stood firm in faith. Ponticus, weary of body and overwhelmed by the afflictions, lied down and gave up the ghost. They forced Blandina onto the iron chair, and after allowing her flesh to burn severely, and before letting her die, they took her from the chair, placed her into a net and cast her before a wild bull. The bull rushed in and struck her with its sharp horns, as Christ’s head was gashed by a crown of thorns.
Blood came running down His head, and blood ran down the wounds of her pierced body; The Son communed with the Father, her heart resonated with love as it spoke with God as waters flow from the river to nourish the groves and their beautiful fruit. Christ suffered, knowing that He was to vanquish death and rise above it; she confronted death and underwent its tribulations, knowing full well that she would ascend to the timeless realm, uniting with Eternal Hope.
She was struck again, and again, and again, by those sharp horns, tossed to and fro, and continuously was her spirit content, reposing in the serenity of God. Even some of the pagans wondered at her endurance, saying amongst themselves that never in their lives had they seen a woman suffer so much. Blow after blow, goring after goring, her body could no longer withstand it, but her spirit remained calm. Her eyes closed, her final breath departed, and her sprit left the body, ascending to what it had thirsted for throughout the whole duration of life.
After the death of Blandina, something awakened in the people, something evil. They were already savage and bloodthirsty, but now they were even more sinister, their wild and senseless rage suddenly erupted. They wanted to take the corpses of the Christians and prevent them from being buried..The governor consented to the devil ridden masses. The corpses of those Christians who died in their cells, they seized and cast to wild dogs. They gnawed and ripped the flesh from the bones, howling and snarling, like the mobs, whose hatred was so insatiable that it continued after the Christians’ death, neither extinguished nor quenched, swelling and fanning even at the sight of the holy corpses. This rage came from the devil himself; for he fought with Michael about the body of Moses (Jude 1:9), the holy man who experienced inspiration in the divine presence, and beheld the back of God.
These martyrs were one with God, so how much more was the hatred of the slaves of the devil. They took the severed heads of the Christians and kept watch over them with armed guards, so as to preclude them from being buried. They would even look at the heads and gnarl and laugh, with frenzy and madness, mocking them, and praising their idols. One could hear them say, “Where is their God, what benefit has their religion been to them, which they preferred to their own life?” Christians came and begged them not desecrate the bodies, they offered money, but yet they refused; they sent up their wailings and their cries, and no tears were able to break the dry soils of their souls. They took the corpses of the martyrs and set them all ablaze, saying amongst themselves, “Now we shall see, whether they will rise again; and whether their God is able to help them, and rescue them out of our hand.”
In the pitch blackness of the night, the flames arose high, the smoke clouded the air, and what gleam that came from the flames, casted itself upon the callous faces of the men. Their countenances mingled with the hue of the flames, their sinister disposition was seen in their eyes, the windows of the soul, beaming with pride and wanton cruelty. One could have seen them, as the flame cracked, and as the winds sighed, as if in grief for what evils flood the earth. The sight of the fires and the wicked men is seen ever so clearly, but soon it fades, as though it were from a dream, and we were now waking up from a nightmare.
The old man, sitting behind his table, was seen again, completing his letter that described the horrors that have just been recounted. There was sadness in his eyes, but still there was hope, as the dawn prevails over the night. For in his mind were the victories of Christ, the memories of the Crucifixion and how it was a vanquishing of evil. The Crucified One, how He hung nailed onto the Cross, the hues of orange and red glimmered from the descending sun, darkness prevailed over what radiance of the sky was left, the light of the pale moon was overtaken by shades of darkness that appeared as waves of shadows. The earth trembled, the people quivered in terror. But the Dawn arose, and looming above all of humanity, Hope no longer reposed, rather He stood conquering, exhibiting to the whole earth that the successors of the Mightiest Lion were soon to come, to show their valor for the service of the Lamb.
(1) Found in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 5.1
(2) Basil, On the Origin of Humanity, discourse 2, ch. 15, trans. Nonna Verna Harrison
(3) This last line was inspired by Prudentius, in his Crowns of Martyrdom, part 1
(4) Prudentius, The Divinity of Christ, 834, trans. H.J. Thomson
(5) Augustine, Confessions, 6.8
(6) Tertullian, De Spectaculis, ch. 26
(7) Tertullian says in his De Spectaculis, ch. 27, that it was words like this that were exclaimed from the crowds at the spectacles.
(8) Michelangelo, in The Poetry of Michelangelo, 284.13-14, ed. Saslow
(9) Sheen, The Life of Christ, ch. 2, p. 38
(10) Anonymous, Sabat Mater Dolorosa, in Walsh, One Hundred Latin Hymns, 100.5-6