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Chapter XIII.—Of other confessors.

After this fatal distribution of money some of the recipients were feasting together at an entertainment. One of them who had taken the cup in his hand did not drink before making on it the sign of salvation.638638    “The original mode of making the sign of the Cross was with the thumb of the right hand, generally on the forehead only, or on other objects, once or thrice. (Chrysost. Hom. ad pop. Art. xl.) ‘Thrice he made the sign of the cross on the chalice with his finger.’ (Sophron. in Prat. Spirit.)” Dict. Christ. Ant. s.v.

One of the guests found fault with him for this, and said that it was quite inconsistent with what had just taken place. “What,” said he, “have I done that is inconsistent?” Whereupon he was reminded of the altar and the incense, and of his denial of the faith; for these things are all contrary to the Christian profession. When they heard this the greater number of the feasters moaned and bewailed themselves, and tore out handfuls of hair from their heads. They rose from the banquet, and ran through the Forum exclaiming that they were Christians, that they had been tricked by the emperor’s contrivances, that they retracted their apostasy, and were ready to try to undo the defeat which had befallen them unwittingly. With these exclamations they ran to the palace loudly inveighing against the wiles of the tyrant, and imploring that they might be committed to the flames in order that, as they had been befouled by fire, by fire they might be made clean. All these utterances drove the villain out of his senses, and on the impulse of the moment he ordered them to be beheaded; but as they were being conducted without the city the mass of the people started to follow them, wondering at their fortitude and glorying in their boldness for the truth. When they had reached the spot where it was usual to execute criminals, the eldest of them besought the executioner that he would first cut off the head of the youngest, that he might not be unmanned by beholding the slaughter of the rest. No sooner had he knelt down upon the ground and the headsman bared his sword, than up ran a man announcing a reprieve, and while yet afar off shouting out to stop the execution. Then the youngest soldier was distressed at his release from death. “Ah,” said he, “Romanus” (his name was Romanus) “was not worthy of being called Christ’s martyr.” What influenced the vile trickster in stopping the execution was his envy: he grudged the champions of the faith their glory. Their sentence was commuted to relegation beyond the city walls and to the remotest regions of the empire.


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