Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"Dread Gehenna, and hold fast to Christ" ~ November 13, feast of Sts. Arcadius, Paschasius, Probus and Eutychianus

Funerary mosaic of Natalica, a Christian girl of 10, from 5th century
Roman or Vandal north Africa.
November 13 is the feast day of Saints Arcadius, Paschasius, Probus and Eutychianus. These four Spanish Roman martyrs were put to death by the cruel Vandal king, Geiseric, after he had completed his conquest of Roman Africa. Their martyrdom took place about AD 437 and their crime was refusing to accept the Arian heresy which was favored by the Vandals.

Writing in the mid-5th century, not many years after the events described, the chronicler Prosper of Aquitaine recorded the following about these martyrs:
In Africa, Geiseric, King of the Vandals, wanted to use the Arian impiety to undo the Catholic faith within the regions where he resided. He persecuted some of our bishops….In the same period, four Spaniards, Arcadius, Paschasius, Probus and Eutychianus were formerly considered by Geiseric to be valued and distinguished by virtue of their wisdom and faithful service. To make them even more esteemed, he commanded them to convert to the Arian heresy. But as they most steadfastly rejected this wickedness, the barbarian was roused to a most furious anger. First, their property was confiscated. Next, they were driven into exile, then tortured severely, and finally, suffering death in various ways, they succumbed wonderfully to a most glorious martyrdom.” [Taken from Eric Fournier: "The Vandal Conquest of North Africa: The Origins of a Historiographical Persona" in The Journal of Ecclesiastical History]. 
To one of these martyrs, Saint Arcadius, a remarkable letter was sent by Honoratus Antoninus, Bishop of Constantina in Africa. This letter urged the tortured man to constancy and pleaded with him to set aside the allurements of the world in favor of the Heavenly Kingdom. It reads, in part, as follows:
"The company of martyrs, thy predecessors, are waiting for thee. They guard thee, they hold out to thee the crown. I beseech thee, hold fast to what thou hast and let no other take away thy crown….Fear, then, the eternal punishments, where the fire always burns, where both body and soul are tortured in the darkness, where, with the devil, soul and body are consumed eternally. Dread Gehenna, and hold fast to Christ."
The persecution of Catholics by the Vandals in their newly won north African kingdom was brutal and thorough-going, though little remembered in our own time. I hope to write more about it in forthcoming posts. In the mean time, here is a previous post on the Vandalic conquest of Rome's north African provinces, as recorded by an eye-witness:

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