Spiritual Reading for the Second Wednesday after Epiphany ~ St Alphonsus Liguori

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading

“THE BLOOD OF MARTYRS THE SEED OF CHRISTIANS”

From the foregoing facts Clement of Alexandria subsequently inferred, that if God Himself had not upheld the Christian Faith, it could never have withstood the efforts of so many philosophers who endeavoured to obscure it with sophisms, or the violence of so many kings and emperors who laboured to extinguish it by persecution. The number of Christians, far from having been diminished by the slaughter of the Saints, became so wonderfully increased, that Tertullian said: “Our number grows in the same measure that you decimate us; the Blood of the Christians is as it were a seed.” He used the word seed because the Blood of the Martyrs was that which multiplied the faithful. Tertullian, indeed, boasted of this, and upbraided the tyrants with their impotency; since, notwithstanding all their endeavours to exterminate the followers of the Gospel, the streets, the Forum, and even the Senate, were filled with Christians. Origen likewise wrote: “It is a thing worthy of note and eminently calculated to excite wonder, the steady progress of the Christian Religion,in spite of the most untiring persecution and continual Martyrdoms.” “Greeks and barbarians,” continues this celebrated writer, “the learned and unlearned, voluntarily embraced it; from which we may conclude that its propagation is due to a higher than human power.”

Before the end of the Second Century, we are assured by Tertullian, that all nations (universae gentes) had embraced the Faith of Jesus. He makes special mention of the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, of Armenia, and of Phrygia, of Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Cirenasia, and Palestine; the Gethuli, the whole of Spain, many of the Gallic tribes, Bretagne, the Sarmatians, the Dacians, the Scythians, and many remote nations, provinces and islands. Arnobius, who died a hundred years after Tertullian, adds to the list of those converted to the Faith, the Indians, the Sarii, the Persians, and the Medes; Arabia, Syria, Gallacia, Acaja, Macedonia, and Epirus, with all the islands and provinces from the rising to the setting sun. Besides those regions enumerated by Tertullian, St. Athanasius, half a century afterwards, mentions others. Writing to the Emperor Jovinian, he says: “Know that this Faith has been preached from the beginning, approved by the Nicene Fathers, and professed by all the Churches of the world — in Spain, in England, and in Gaul; throughout the whole of Italy, in Dalmatia, Dacia, Mysia, and Macedonia; in all Greece, and in all Africa; in Sardinia, Cyprus, Crete, Pamphylia, Lysia, and Isauria; in Egypt and Lybia, in Pontus and Cappadocia.”

Thus we see that, after the Ten Persecutions of the Roman emperors, which lasted for more than two hundred years, beginning from the first under Nero, the greater part of the human race, having abandoned the worship of false deities, had embraced the doctrines of Christianity. Finally, after so many struggles, it pleased the Almighty Disposer of events to grant peace to His Church under Constantine. This emperor was, after a miraculous manner, chosen by Heaven for the carrying out of the merciful dispensations of Divine Providence. Having first overcome Maxentius and afterwards Licinius, in the strong arm of the Lord, — for, as Eusebius relates, in whatever direction the Labarum, or Standard of the Cross, appeared, the enemy either fled or surrendered, — after peace had been established he forbade the Gentiles to sacrifice any longer to their idols, and caused magnificent temples to be erected to the honour of Jesus Christ. And oh, how glorious did not the Church then appear! Still more widely extending her blessed influence, and, with every new conquest, bringing additional joy to the hearts of her once persecuted children! Then ceased the torments of the Martyr, and with them the bitter calumnies of the idolater. Busy multitudes of zealous converts were to be seen in every city destroying the idols they once adored, pulling down the ancient shrines of superstition, and erecting new Altars to the worship of the true God! The confines of so vast an empire were too narrow a limit for the active zeal of the great Constantine. He laboured to propagate the saving doctrines of Religion in Persia and among the barbarous nations he had subdued; nor would he, according to Eusebius and Socrates, grant them the friendship of the Roman Empire except upon the condition of their becoming Christians.

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