Too often we forget that the path laid out before us today was paved many years ago. In this 3-part series called “Voices of the Martyrs”, we want to examine a few examples of those who have bravely endured suffering for us to have the truth we hold dear today as Christians.
There will be some gory details in these blogs, but we need to understand the price that has been paid for us to thrive today.
We will start with the persecution that took place under Marcus Arelius, who was Roman Emperor from 169-180 AD. The worship of the old pagan gods of Rome was of high importance to him. It was something he desired early in life. As a boy he was inducted into the Salian priesthood of Rome. He joined the concepts and practices of Roman religion with the Empire itself. This means that Christianity was an opposed belief system since it espoused one God while also denying other deities.
One of the heroes of the faith from this time period was a woman named Blandina. She was tortured and endured more than most people could handle. Her constancy in the midst of her suffering turned people who had strayed from the faith back to the faith.
The historian Eusebius, who wrote a history of Christianity in the early 300s AD, tells us about this faithful hero of our faith:
“Blandina was filled with such power as to be delivered and raised above those who were torturing her by turns from morning till evening in every manner, so that they acknowledged that they were conquered, and could do nothing more to her. And they were astonished at her endurance, as her entire body was mangled and broken; and they testified that one of these forms of torture was sufficient to destroy life, not to speak of so many and so great sufferings…
But the blessed woman, like a noble athlete, renewed her strength in her confession; and her comfort and recreation and relief from the pain of her sufferings was in exclaiming, ‘I am a Christian, and there is nothing vile done by us.’
But Blandina was suspended on a stake, and exposed to be devoured by the wild beasts who should attack her. And because she appeared as if hanging on a cross, and because of her earnest prayers, she inspired the combatants with great zeal….
As none of the wild beasts at that time touched her, she was taken down from the stake, and cast again into prison. She was preserved thus for another contest, that, being victorious in more conflicts, she might make the punishment of the crooked serpent irrevocable…
For through their influence many who had denied were restored, and re-begotten, and rekindled with life, and learned to confess
And, after the scourging, after the wild beasts, after the roasting seat, she was finally enclosed in a net, and thrown before a bull. And having been tossed about by the animal, but feeling none of the things which were happening to her, on account of her hope and firm hold upon what had been entrusted to her, and her communion with Christ, she also was sacrificed. And the heathen themselves confessed that never among them had a woman endured so many and such terrible tortures.” (excerpt from Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, Chapter 1:17-56)
Take some time today to reflect on the endurance and sacrifice of this special woman and her contribution to the Christian faith.