Friday, March 07, 2008

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity

Saints Perpetua and Felicity.

Today I have promised myself that I will finish my section on the charter commemorating the translation of St. Isidore to the Leonese church that would later be named after him in 1063. I will, or I will die trying. Still, it is the feast day of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, and if you haven't read the acts of their martyrdom in 203, you should. Much of it was written by Perpetua herself, and it comes from a time when some people (especially women) had a role as visionaries in the Church:
Then said my brother to me: Lady my sister, you are now in high honor, even such that you might ask for a vision; and it should be shown you whether this be a passion or else a deliverance. And I, as knowing that I conversed with the Lord, for Whose sake I had suffered such things, did promise him nothing doubting; and I said: Tomorrow I will tell you. And I asked, and this was shown me.

I beheld a ladder of bronze, marvelously great, reaching up to heaven; and it was narrow, so that not more than one might go up at one time. And in the sides of the ladder were planted all manner of things of iron. There were swords there, spears, hooks, and knives; so that if any that went up took not good heed or looked not upward, he would be torn and his flesh cling to the iron. And there was right at the ladder's foot a serpent lying, marvelously great, which lay in wait for those that would go up, and frightened them that they might not go up. Now Saturus went up first (who afterwards had of his own free will given up himself for our -sakes, because it was he who had edified us; and when we were taken he had not been there). And he came to the ladder's head; and he turned and said: Perpetua, I await you; but see that serpent bite you not. And I said: it shall not hurt me, in the name of Jesus Christ. And from beneath the ladder, as though it feared me, it softly put forth its head; and as though I trod on the first step I trod on its head. And I went up, and I saw a very great space of garden, and in the midst a man sitting, white-headed, in shepherd's clothing, tall milking his sheep; and standing around in white were many thousands. And he raised his head and beheld me and said to me: Welcome, child. And he cried to me, and from the curd he had from the milk he gave me as it were a morsel; and I took it with joined hands and ate it up; and all that stood around said, Amen. And at the sound of that word I awoke, yet eating I know not what of sweet.

And at once I told my brother, and we knew it should be a passion; and we began to have no hope any longer in this world.


Perpetua, Felicity, et al., from the Communion of the Saints tapestry in the Cathedral of Los Angeles.


Meg said...

Liam, thanks so much for this! I had no idea they were that early (or that tough!).

Many women saints sound quite insipid, but these 2 inspire me.

Liam said...

Well, all of the early martyrs were as tough as nails (they had to be), but this is one of the rare cases in which we get their actual words.

Garpu the Fork said...

I have a hard time reading works about martyrs. It seems like a lot of the 3rd party writings I've read get almost erotic in the descriptions of violence. Which, on the one hand, is interesting in and of itself, but also gets cloying after awhile. (Almost reminds me of Mary Sue-ism from fanfic the way some authors treat the martyrs.)

it seems like their writings are a lot easier to read, however.

jackjoe said...

Hey Liam, hate to break in but need to send a few messages.

Liam you are subtle. Won't comment on anything I write. But listen, I DO understand. You really helped me once, but apparently you've decided, or have been told not to, respond to anything I write. Of course, I'm not of your age or interest group, which is fine. Good luck.

Garpu, you cut me off and I responded way over board. So excuse my over response and keep up your music.

William, you kind of puzzle me. You (rather sarcastically) welcomed me to your blog, and then someone, we know who, told you to block me. Good times with your poetry.

Jeff, you thought I was a liar and I thought the same of you. Now you're free. I have said it before and I'll say it again, you came through when it counted.

So now guys, back to St. Blessina and who was the best jazz/blues,rock artist of Camden N.J. in the 1980's.(:) Jack

cowboyangel said...

I didn't know their story. Thanks. Interesting vision. Wicked ladder.

Jeff said...

Nice post, Liam. Here is some interesting commentary by Elizabeth Clark from the PBS series From Jesus to Christ. This paragraph on their marytrdon in the coliseum fits very well with the icon you have up there...

There's an intense sense of community that binds together these people who are insisting on being martyred. They take care of each other. There is a very affecting scene of Perpetua and Felicitas helping... arrange each other's clothes so they're not exposed after they've been jostled by these animals. And finally they say good-bye to each other in this life with the kiss of peace.

crystal said...

Liam, thanks for the link to the cathedral tapistry - I sent for a print of it from their gift shop :-)

Jared said...

Hi Liam,

Have you ever solved the mystery of the so-called "sweet cheese" in this story?