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Friday, June 3, 2011

The Martyrs of Lyons

The Martyrs of Lyons
From the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius

A record of these Martyrs was written for posterity, and in truth it is worthy of perpetual remembrance. I will give it in their own words, to wit: - The servants of God residing at Vienne and Lyons in Gaul, to the brethren through Asia and Phrygia : The greatness of the tribulation in the region, and the fury of the heathen, and the sufferings of the blessed Martyrs, could not possibly be put into words. They shut us out from houses and baths and markets, and forbade us to appear in any public place whatsoever. But the grace of God confirmed even the weak amongst us, and made them able to endure in patience all kinds of shame and injury : clamours, blows, draggings, robberies, stonings, imprisonments, and all things which an infuriated mob delight to inflict on such as they chose to regard as enemies. * Then, being taken before the magistrate, and having confessed Christ, they were thrown into prison to await the governour’s coming. He treated us with the utmost cruelty. The Protomartyrs were manifestly ready. But some there were, weak as yet, and unable to endure so great a conflict. About ten of these proved to be children of God born out of due season, which same caused us sorrow beyond measure, and weakened the zeal of others who had not yet been seized. But those who were worthy were seized day by day. And some of our heathen servants, fearing for themselves, accused us falsely of deeds which we cannot even believe were ever done by men. Then all the people raged like wild beasts against us, even those who before had been moderate. And that which was spoken by the Lord was fulfilled : The time will come when whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. Wrath was aroused exceedingly against Sanctus, the Deacon of Vienne ; and Maturus, a recent convert but noble combatant ; and Attalus, a native of Pergamus, where he was always a pillar and a foundation ; and Blandina, the slave, through whom Christ shewed that what appeareth to men as mean can with God be of great glory. For Blandina endured her sufferings with so much fortitude that even those who in relays tortured her from morning till evening grew faint and weary. He relief in pain was in exclaiming ; I am a Christian, an nothing vile is done amongst us. * As for Sanctus, red-hot brazen plates were fastened to the most tender parts of his body, but he continued unyielding, his body being one complete wound and bruise, drawn out of shape, and altogether unlike human form. The devil invented other contrivances, such as : confinement in dungeons ; stretching of the feet to the fifth hole in the stocks ; suffocation ; leaving the tortured without human ministration. Blessed Pothinus, Bishop of Lyons, was more than ninety years of age, and very infirm ; but being asked who the god of the Christians is , he said : If thou art worthy, thou shalt know. Those near him beat him and kicked him ; those at a distance hurled at him whatever they could seize. Scarcely breathing, he was cast into prison, and died after two days. Blandina was suspended on a stake, and thus exposed to wild beasts ; and because she appeared as if hanging on a cross, and because of her prayers, she inspired the combatants with great zeal, for in this their sister they beheld Christ Crucified. But as none of the wild beasts at that time did touch her, she was preserved for another contest. And some of those who had as first denied Christ confessed him, and were added to the Martyrs. Blessed Blandina, last of all, was finally enclosed in a net and thrown before a bull, which same tossed her about. In the end all that remained alive were sacrificed by the pagans. We were in deep affliction because we were not even allowed to bury their bodies, for these were exposed for six days, then burned, and the ashes thrown into the Rhone. ( The foregoing is part of an Epistle written by the surviving Christians in Vienne and Lyons to the Christians of Asia Minor, a trustworthy account of the great martyrdom which occurred in Gaul about the year 177.)

Grant, O Lord, that as we keep the Feast of Pothinus the Bishop, Blandina the Virgin, and their Companions in holy Martyrdom : so we may become rooted and grounded in love of thee ; and sustain with unconquered soul any sufferings of this present life, for the glory that shall be revealed in us, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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