Sunday, March 30, 2014

Perpetua's Account

I heard the cry ring through-out the streets with a venomous twist, “Perpetua is accused of being a Christian.”

Still, I remained calmly sitting on my warn wooden bench, calmly awaiting for the soldiers who would come to capture me. I heard their footprints as they marched towards my door. They knocked once and then burst through as I whispered one final prayer, “Father, forgive them.” They grabbed at my clothes, pulled me up by my hair, and forced me to stand. As they dragged me to my soiled prison cell I made no cry.

The door clanged shut and the soldiers walked away, I could hear a familiar voice echo down the hallway. Out of the love of my earthly father’s heart, he must have come to visit me. With gentleness and sincerity in his rough voice and a tear trickling down from his eye, he fell to his knees before me as he begged me to come home. “Denounce your allegiance to Christ and you will be a freed woman again.”

But, I knew freedom of a different sort. With sadness in my heart, but truth on my lips, I pointed to a pitcher across the room. “Father, do you see that pitcher there?” He looked. I explained, “Can anything, even a pitcher, be called something other than what it truly is?” “No” was his reply. “So it is the same with me. I cannot be called anything other than what I am. And, I am sincerely a Christian.”

As her father’s eyes came back to mine, they burned red from tears of agony. Rage washed over him. He reached for me through the bars of the cage. He came at me as if he were to gouge out my eyes. But, his arms fell short. They could not reach me. He lifted his voice, but he could not speak. I am sure that was when he began to hate me because of how much he loved me. After he had ripped his shirt from the strain and formed cuts on his upper arms, he pulled back from the cold metal bars, he knocked over a worn wooden chair, and left as a victim. He knew what I had said rang true.

Behind him as he walked away, I calmly sat, stroking my hair, looking down towards the dirty floor, and began to pray. My father remained absent for days. This relieved me. It made it easier to deal with the pain I had caused him. I continued to pray and as a baptized child of God, the Spirit instructed me, He gave me strength, and He encouraged me to ask for endurance of my body and my mind through my suffering.

I had never before experienced such darkness. It seemed as if there was no light and no hope at all. That is, besides the hope and the light that had been given to be by Christ. The limited space and harsh guards, the heat and the hunger, it all became unbearable. I worried for the sake of my child, still an infant.

Two deacons took care of my needs. Out of the love of their hearts, they paid for me to be moved from my crowded cell to a better part of the prison for a few hours. There I could finally breathe. The air remained putrid, but at least it filled my lungs. There I could nurse my child who had already begun to weaken out of hunger. I feared for his life. I spoke to my mother and brother, begging them to care for my son. As I spoke with them, I suffered all the more as I sensed the pain that I had caused them just as I had pained my father before them.

Finally, I was granted the privilege of having my son remain with me. I did not fear for his life because could care for him. He became my strength. Suddenly, the prison became my palace. I loved being there rather than any other place. For, there I was with my son, we were fed, and we were safe.

Soon, my brother came to me in my caged castle and said to me, “Dear sister, you already have such a great reputation with God. You could ask Him for a vision revealing whether you will be freed or condemned.” I knew that I could freely speak with the Lord who had already gladly blessed me in my suffering. So, I confidently promised my brother that I would petition the Lord for a vision. As sat watching, I closed my eyes, took a breath, and made my request.

Before another though could form within my mind, I saw a bronze ladder like that of Jacob, reaching its lengthy arms up into the heavens. But, the latter was so narrow that only one person could ascend it at a time. Every conceivable kind of weapon had been attached to the sides of the ladder, making an eerie clanging echo in my ears as they dangled from its rungs. Swords, lances, hooks, and daggers filled my peripherals. Surely, if I were to carelessly climb the ladder, I would be mangled, torn, and bleeding before I got anywhere close to its top. As I fallowed a trail of smoke to the bottom rungs of the ladder, I gave a start at the sight of a dragon crouching, peering out of the darkness and into my soul. The serpent had obviously been placed there to instill fear in the hearts of those who would pursue the climb.

The shadow of a man before me forced me to realize that I was in a line, following one of my dear friends closely. But, this friend was Saturus, he had disappeared before my arrest. Once, he had been my strength, but suddenly he had vanished. He headed up the ladder, slowly and carefully, as he reached the top he turned to me and said, “Perpetua, I wait for you. Be careful not to be bitten by the dragon.” I cried up to my beloved friend, “Do not worry. In the name of Jesus Christ, even the dragon cannot harm me.” At this the dragon gave a soft whimper and lowered his steaming head, cowering as if he were afraid. Using his head as the first step, I began my ascent towards heaven.

At the summit I saw an immense garden, in the center sat a tall, grey-haired man dressed like a shepherd. He was giving milk to his sheep. Around the man stood a company of several thousand white-robed saints. As he raised his head, our eyes connected, he said, “Welcome, my dear child.” His hand moved out to me and held my shoulder as his other hand handed me a small morsel of cheese. Steadily, I took his gift, cupped it in my hands, and ate the most delicious morsel known to man. All those surrounding us resounded in an “Amen.” I awoke still tasting the sweet cheese and immediately told my brother of my vision. His eyes filled in wonder as we both realized that we were to experience the sufferings of martyrdom. From then on we gave up in the hope of this world...

This is my rewrite. Here's the original (translated into English).

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