Today is All Saints today, and today my kids learnt about one of my favourite victorious Christian martyrs, Blandina, who was persecuted during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. For those of you would are not familiar with her, here is Foxe's account of her in his Book of Martyrs:
"Some of the restless northern nations having risen in arms against Rome, the emperor marched to encounter them. He was, however, drawn into an ambuscade, and dreaded the loss of his whole army. Enveloped with mountains, surrounded by enemies, and perishing with thirst, the pagan deities were invoked in vain; when the men belonging to the militine, or thundering legion, who were all christians, were commanded to call upon their God for succour. A miraculous deliverance immediately ensued; a prodigious quantity of rain fell, which, being caught by the men, and filling their dykes, afforded a sudden and astonishing relief. It appears, that the storm which miraculously flashed in the faces of the enemy, so intimidated them, that part deserted to the Roman army; the rest were defeated, and the revolted provinces entirely recovered.
This affair occasioned the persecution to subside for some time, at least in those parts immediately under the inspection of the emperor; but we find that it soon after raged in France, particularly at Lyons, where the tortures to which many of the christians were put, almost exceed the powers of description.
The principal of these martyrs were Vetius Agathus, a young man; Blandina, a christian lady, of a weak constitution; Sanctus, a deacon of Vienna; red hot plates of brass were placed upon the tenderest parts of his body; Biblias, a weak woman, once an apostate. Attalus, of Pergamus; and Pothinus, the venerable bishop of Lyons, who was ninety years of age. Blandina, on the day when she and the three other champions were first brought into the amphitheatre, she was suspended on a piece of wood fixed in the ground, and exposed as food for the wild beasts; at which time, by her earnest prayers, she encouraged others. But none of the wild beasts would touch her, so that she was remanded to prison. When she was again produced for the third and last time, she was accompanied by Ponticus, a youth of fifteen and the constancy of their faith so enraged the multitude, that neither the sex of the one nor the youth of the other were respected, being exposed to all manner of punishments and tortures. Being strengthened by Blandina, he persevered unto death; and she, after enduring all the torments heretofore mentioned, was at length slain with the sword."*
All Saints Day is not principally about remembering just those who were martyred. It is also about remembering those of noble status who lived remarkable lives and who have now entered glory. But beyond that we are also to remember that all who have believed in Christ and have died are now made righteous and victorious in his sight.
I love the account of Blandina so much, because Foxe notes she was "of a weak constitution." She was not mighty in body, but she was certainly mighty in Spirit, because of the power of God at work in her life, and her courage emboldened those who died with her. She shows what faith in Christ does to the spirit of the believer, it truly brings us alive and makes us strong in a way that the world cannot break. As long as we keep that faith, and that focus on Jesus.
Knowing that victory we have in Jesus, makes this life not just more bearable, but brighter, more exciting and more fulfilling. Because even when it looks like the wicked are winning, as it must have looked to those crowds in Roman Gaul, the truth is God is working in power to achieve his victory through his people.
* Fox's Book of Martyrs Or A History of the Lives, Sufferings, and Triumphant Deaths of the Primitive Protestant Martyrs (pp. 16-17). Kindle Edition.