Thursday, July 31, 2008

SS Abdon and Sennen

Rather late (their commemoration was yesterday), I feel I should blog on those holy Persian Martyrs of the Primitive Church, SS Abdon and Sennen. It is my contention that we should be careful to foster devotion to these and other first and greatest Christians, who truly served the Lord by their witness unto death: they exemplify, in their zeal for the fearless propagation of the Gospel, how all should live. Furthermore, these and other Persian saints remind us of what is almost forgotten: the voluntary holocaust, surely very pleasing to the Lord, of vast numbers of Persian Christians in the early centuries and since. Though on earth few now recall them, they live and reign forever in heaven; surely their prayers avail much.

It is related of them that, in the reign of the most impious Decius, they were arraigned on charges of burying the bodies of Christians - one of the corporal works of mercy, as exemplified for us by holy Tobias in Sacred Scripture - and, upon their stedfast refusal to offer incense to idols, were loaded down with chains, whipped, and thrown to the savage beasts: which refused to devour them. In the usual fashion, then, they were beheaded, by inhuman cruelty more savage than wild animals; yet thereby they defeated the enemies of their salvation by fearing not those who may slay the body but cannot kill the soul, and in triumph won eternal victory with, in, and through Christ. As befitted those who had shewn care for the bodies of the departed, their remains were privily recovered and given honourable repose. (The exact details of their sufferings is unclear, owing to the general loss of certain records over time, but they were certainly revered as saints as early as the third century.)

Their collect:

Deus, qui sanctis tuis Abdon et Sennen ad hanc glóriam veniéndi copiósum munus gratiæ contulísti: da fámulis tuis suórum véniam peccatórum; ut, Sanctórum tuórum intercedéntibus meritis, ab ómnibus mereántur adversitátibus liberari. Per...

O God, Who didst confer on Thy saints Abdon and Sennen the great gift of grace of coming to this glory: give to Thy servants forgiveness of their sins; that, by the inteceding merits of Thy Holy Ones, they may deserve to be delivered from all adversities. Through...

Through, with, and in Christ, as members of His Body, truly holy as He is Holy, the Saints plead their merits (which are His gift, which He has crowned), that by God's gift of grace we, His sin-stained servants, may be granted the Divine forgiveness, and ourselves come to merit liberation from all our foes, principally those that would attempt to drag down our immortal souls from the bliss promised those faithful to the end.

As a coda, there is a most curious manifestation at one of their locales of especial veneration, Arles-sur-Tech, Pyrenees-Orientales (Rousillon), France, concerning which I quote:

ARLES-SUR-TECH has a beautiful Romanesque Abbey, whose Carolingian origins in the ninth century are thought to account for its back-to-front alignment of altar at the west end and the entrance at the east. Against the wall outside the east front stands a very ancient (fourth- or fifth-century) sarcophagus, known as the Ste Tombe , which has the mysterious and scientifically inexplicable habit of slowly filling with very pure water. Every year, on 30 July, when Arles celebrates its fête dedicated to SS Abdon and Sennen, the water is siphoned out and distributed after Mass to the pilgrims who have come to worship.

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