Orthodox America

  Holy Martyr Perpetua

Commemorated February 1

      Most of what we know about holy martyrs is from witnesses who handed down the stories from generation to generation. But the story of one martyr has been kept in an old valuable diary which she herself wrote. This martyr was named Perpetua. She was a young married woman, twenty-two years old. She had one child. As written in the diary, these events happened in the city named Carthage in the year 202 A.D. 

      Perpetua came from a rich and noble family. Her father, who dearly loved her, was not Christian. When the first persecution of Christians started, Perpetua, her husband, Satyrus, and her devoted maid, who was pregnant, were arrested with some other young Christians and thrown into prison. Perpetua's father implored her to renounce Christianity for his sake and her child's. She consoled him, cuddled her child, and asked him not to worry about the child. However, she told her father she could not renounce her faith. In prison, Perpetua looked after and consoled the other prisoners, and she was glad that she was allowed to feed her child. 

      Satyrus was executed first. After his death, Perpetua saw an amazing dream. She stood before a high narrow stairway, so narrow that there was room for only one person at a time. From the walls of the stairs protruded knives and razors, which were hung so that they could cut a person ascending the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs slithered a terrible dragon-like serpent. Perpetua saw in the dream how Satyrus courageously stepped over the serpent and climbed the stairs. At the top of the stairs, he turned and cried, "Perpetua, come, I am waiting for you. Be courageous and step over the serpent or it will get you." With these words, he turned and went through an open door from which there came a bright light.

      From this dream we can understand the feelings of the holy martyrs: their greatest difficulty was overcoming the fear at the beginning of sufferings. Those who are committed to martyrdom must each decide his own path, and then to him will open the door to eternal light and love. Perpetua and her friends were condemned to death and thrown to wild animals in the amphitheater. They went to death with joy and light hearts. 

From Stories about Saints, Moscow, 1994 Translated by Zoya and Vyatislov Panfilov

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