Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part III: Argument. Secundulus Dies in the Prison. Felicitas is Pregnant, But with Many Prayers She Brings Forth in the Eighth Month Without Suffering, the Courage of Perpetua and of Saturus Unbroken.
Chapter V.—Argument. Secundulus Dies in the Prison. Felicitas is Pregnant, But with Many Prayers She Brings Forth in the Eighth Month Without Suffering, the Courage of Perpetua and of Saturus Unbroken.
1. The above were the more eminent visions of the blessed martyrs Saturus and Perpetua themselves, which they themselves committed to writing. 9002 But God called Secundulus, while he has yet in the prison, by an earlier exit from the world, not without favour, so as to give a respite to the beasts. Nevertheless, even if his soul did not acknowledge cause for thankfulness, assuredly his flesh did.
2. But respecting Felicitas (for to her also the Lords favour approached in the same way), when she had already gone eight months with child (for she had been pregnant when she was apprehended), as the day of the exhibition was drawing near, she was in great grief lest on account of her pregnancy she should be delayed,—because pregnant women are not allowed to be publicly punished,—and lest she should shed her sacred and guiltless blood among some who had been wicked subsequently. Moreover, also, her fellow-martyrs were painfully saddened lest they should leave so excellent a friend, and as it were companion, alone in the path of the same hope. Therefore, joining together their p. 704 united cry, they poured forth their prayer to the Lord three days before the exhibition. Immediately after their prayer her pains came upon her, and when, with the difficulty natural to an eight months delivery, in the labour of bringing forth she was sorrowing, some one of the servants of the Cataractarii 9003 said to her, “You who are in such suffering now, what will you do when you are thrown to the beasts, which you despised when you refused to sacrifice?” And she replied, “Now it is I that suffer what I suffer; but then there will be another in me, who will suffer for me, because I also am about to suffer for Him.” Thus she brought forth a little girl, which a certain sister brought up as her daughter.
3. Since then the Holy Spirit permitted, and by permitting willed, that the proceedings of that exhibition should be committed to writing, although we are unworthy to complete the description of so great a glory; yet we obey as it were the command of the most blessed Perpetua, nay her sacred trust, and add one more testimony concerning her constancy and her loftiness of mind. While they were treated with more severity by the tribune, because, from the intimations of certain deceitful men, he feared lest they should be withdrawn from the prison by some sort of magic incantations, Perpetua answered to his face, and said, “Why do you not at least permit us to be refreshed, being as we are objectionable to the most noble Cæsar, and having to fight on his birth-day? 9004 Or is it not your glory if we are brought forward fatter on that occasion?” The tribune shuddered and blushed, and commanded that they should be kept with more humanity, so that permission was given to their brethren and others to go in and be refreshed with them; even the keeper of the prison trusting them now himself.
4. Moreover, on the day before, when in that last meal, which they call the free meal, they were partaking as far as they could, not of a free supper, but of an agape; with the same firmness they were uttering such words as these to the people, denouncing against them the judgment of the Lord, bearing witness to the felicity of their passion, laughing at the curiosity of the people who came together; while Saturus said, “To-morrow is not enough for you, for you to behold with pleasure that which you hate. Friends today, enemies to-morrow. Yet note our faces diligently, that you may recognise them on that day of judgment.” Thus all departed thence astonished, and from these things many believed.
[To be regarded like the Shepherd of Hermas, merely as visions, or allegorical romances.]704:9003
“The gaolers,” so called from the “cataracta,” or prison-gate, which they guarded.704:9004
[A gentle banter, like that of St. Lawrence on the gridiron.]
Next: Argument. From the Prison They are Led Forth with Joy into the Amphitheatre, Especially Perpetua and Felicitas. All Refuse to Put on Profane Garments. They are Scourged, They are Thrown to the Wild Beasts. Saturus Twice is Unhurt. Perpetua and Felicitas are Thrown Down; They are Called Back to the Sanavivarian Gate. Saturus Wounded by a Leopard, Exhorts the Soldier. They Kiss One Another, and are Slain with the Sword.
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