The moving, contemporary account of these early third-century, African martyrs proved to be of great significance in the life of the early Church. Vibia Perpetua was a young, married noblewoman of Carthage and Felicity was her personal slave. Saturas was possibly a priest and there were two other men, Saturninus and Revocatus, the latter also a slave. Felicity was pregnant. It seems most of them were catechumens when arrested and only baptised later in prison. They were condemned as Christians by the Roman authorities and dispatched to the public arena, there to be mauled by wild animals. They all survived and were then taken to be executed by the sword. Before this, they all exchanged the Kiss of Peace and affirmed their faith in Christ, the Son of God. The contemporary account was much circulated secretly throughout the Christian congregations and proved both to give renown to their courage and to give encouragement to their fellow Christians in the face of adversity. They were martyred for their faith on this day in the year 203.
who gave great courage to Perpetua, Felicity
and their companions:
grant that we may be worthy to climb the ladder of sacrifice
and be received into the garden of peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
A reading from the Song of Songs.
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned.
This is the word of the Lord. Song of Songs 8. 6-7
|R||Many waters cannot quench love,|
[neither can the floods drown it].
Save me, O God, by your name;
in your might, defend my cause.
Hear my prayer, O God;
give ear to the words of my mouth. R
For the arrogant have risen up against me,
and the ruthless have sought my life,
those who have no regard for God. R
Behold, God is my helper;
it is the Lord who sustains my life.
I will offer you a freewill sacrifice
and praise your name, O Lord, for it is good. R Psalm 54
A reading from the Revelation to John.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. Rejoice then, you heavens and those who dwell therein!
This is the word of the Lord. Revelation 12. 10-12aHear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.
Jesus said to his disciples, They will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
This is the gospel of Christ. Matthew 24. 9-13