~by St. Cyprian
I greet you, dearest brothers, and would like also to enjoy your company face to face, if only the conditions in which I find myself did not prevent my coming to see you. What could be more desirable or more joyful for me than to embrace you now, to be encircled by those pure and sinless hands that have kept the faith of the Lord and refused to offer sacrilegious worship? What could be more pleasant, more sublime, than to kiss at this moment those lips of yours, which have given such glorious utterance in praise of the Lord; to be seen also by those eyes of yours, which have despised the world and proved themselves worthy of seeing God?
But, because there is no opportunity for my sharing this joy, I send this letter as my representative for your ears and eyes to hear and see. Through it I congratulate you, and at the same time urge you to persevere courageously and steadfastly in your witness to heavenly glory, and to continue with spiritual courage, now that you have entered on the way that the Lord has graciously opened up for you, until you receive the crown of victory. You have the Lord as your protector and guide, for he has said: Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.
How blessed is the prison honoured by your presence, how blessed the prison that sends men of God to heaven! Darkness brighter than the sun itself, more resplendent than this light of the world, for it is here that God’s temples are now established, and your limbs made holy by your praise of God.
Let nothing else be now in your hearts and minds except God’s commandments and the precepts of heaven: by their means the Holy Spirit has always inspired you to bear your sufferings. Let no one think of death, but only of immortality; let no one think of suffering that is for a time, but only of glory that is for eternity. It is written: Precious in the sight of God is the death of his holy ones. And again: A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit; a broken and humbled heart God does not despise.
Holy Scripture speaks also of the sufferings which consecrate God’s martyrs and sanctify them by the very testing of pain: Though in the eyes of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality. They will judge nations, and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them for ever.
When, therefore, you recall that you will be judges and rulers with Christ the Lord, you must rejoice, despising present suffering for joy at what is to come. You know that from the beginning of the world it was so; justice is here oppressed in its conflict with the world, for at the very outset Abel the just is killed, and after him the just, and those sent as prophets and apostles.
The Lord himself is an example of all this in his own person. He teaches us that only those who have followed him along his way arrive at his kingdom: He who loves his life in this world will lose it. And he who hates his life in this world will save it for eternal life. And again he says: Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul; fear rather him who can kill both body and soul and send them to hell.
Paul too admonishes us, that as we desire to gain the Lord’s promises we must imitate the Lord in all things. We are God’s children, he tells us. If children, we are also heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him.