Our Wednesday devotions will follow a series featuring different women who were mystics, visionaries, and prophets. Some will be from the ancient world and some from our world. Yes, I said ancient world. Sometimes the lack of attention and information available on the women of faith leads us to believe that there weren’t any, that they were silent, that they were uneducated, or that what they had to say was not worth preserving. These things are not true. It is true that some (men) decided they were not worth saving, that some were uneducated, and that many were silenced over and over again. However, women of ancient faith are a part of our herstory and a part of how what we know today in spiritual practices took on life and passed from the generations.
Today’s woman is Perpetua. She is a martyr of the third century from Carthage, a North African city. She lived during a time where dying for one’s faith was seen as a must if one was faced with confessing a faith in the triune God. Perpetua was a woman who was born into wealth and was martyred when her child was young. Her story is unique, scholars believe, because of her circumstances to care for herself and her child as well as the existence of the writings that have survived centuries. We know of her from her diary and from other witness accounts such as this statement she made when going to her death:
“Stand fast in the faith, and love one another, all of you, and be not offended at my sufferings.
(Last words of Saint Perpetua, as testified to by the eyewitness to her martyrdom, as preserved by Tertullian in The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity.)”― St. Perpetua
These words bring meaning today- to stand fast and hold on to the faith that finds us grounded in love. There are many sufferings in the world. Many of which are deeply personal and heart-breaking. There are the sufferings of people that we don’t know, but we know of their suffering and struggle. There are immigrants trying to make their way out of Haiti for a new life, Afghan women fighting for their rights over their own personhood and body, COVID causing illness and death again and again, and war torn Ethiopia where today, literally today, people are dying of starvation at the hands of the warriors and their own government. Countless atrocities to the earth and the seas and the sky continue each and every day. There are plenty of reasons to give up hope and to see the suffering and drop faith in the promise of the God of love and grace and forgiveness. And yet, Perpetua begs us to not be offended- to not allow the suffering of the world to turn us inward and away from the love and hope of Jesus but instead to turn us towards the freedom and the striving of the Holy Spirit.
We are not asked to die for our faith in the way Perpetua was persecuted and killed. We are today asked to keep living in love and hope. To keep allowing the spirit to guide our minds and touch our hearts. To live in this world as people of faith with our voices, our actions, our decisions, and most of all our love for others.
A blessing for today:
May you know the open love of God moving through you.
May you know the firmness of faith as Perpetua lived.
May you be soft enough to know the world’s suffering and strong enough to stand steadfast in hope.