Chapter 36. Lux Perpetua Sanctis Tuis, Domine

{377} THE bier and its bearers, and its protectors, have reached the cave in safety, and pace down the gallery, preceded by its Christian hosts, with lighted tapers, singing psalms. They place the sacred body before the altar, and the mass begins. St. Cyprian celebrates, and after the Gospel, he adds a few words of his own.

He said that they were engaged in praising, blessing, and exalting the adorable Grace of God, which had snatched so marvellously a brand out of the furnace. Benedicamus Patrem et Filium cum Sancto Spiritu. Benedictus, et laudabilis, et gloriosus, et superexaltatus in sęcula. Every day doing marvels and exceeding all that seemed possible in power and love, by new and still newer manifestations. A Greek had come to Africa to embellish the shrines of heathenism, to minister to the usurpation of the evil one, and to strengthen the old ties which connected genius with sin; and she had suddenly found salvation. But yesterday a poor child of earth, and today an inhabitant of the heavens. But yesterday without God and without hope; and today a martyr {378} with a green palm and golden vestment, worshipping before the Throne. But yesterday the slave of Satan, and spending herself on the vanities of time; and today drinking of the never-cloying torrents of bliss everlasting. But yesterday one of a number, a grain of a vast heap, destined indiscriminately for the flame; today one of the elect souls, written from eternity in the book of life, and predestined to glory. But yesterday, hungry and thirsty, and restless for some object worthy an immortal spirit; today enjoying the ineffable ecstasy of the Marriage Feast and the espousals of Emmanuel. But yesterday tossed about on a sea of opinion; and today entranced in the vision of infallible truth and immutable sanctity. And yet what was she but only one instance out of ten thousand, of the Almighty and All-manifold Grace of the Redeemer? And who was there of all of them, there assembled, from the most heroic down to the humblest beginner, from the authoritative preacher down to the slave or peasant, but was equally, though in his own way, a miracle of mercy, and a vessel, once of wrath, if now of glory? Only might he and all who heard him persevere as they had begun, so that if (as was so probable) their trial was to be like hers, its issue might be like hers also.

St. Cyprian ceased; and, while the deacon opened the sindon for the offertory, the faithful took up alternately the verses of a hymn, which we here insert in a most unworthy translation:— {379}

"The number of Thine own complete,
Sum up and make an end;
Sift clean the chaff, and house the wheat,—
And then, O Lord, descend.

"Descend, and solve by that descent,
This mystery of life;
Where good and ill, together blent,
Wage an undying strife.

"For rivers twain are gushing still,
And pour a mingled flood;
Good in the very depths of ill—
Ill in the heart of good.

"The last are first, the first are last,
As angel eyes behold;
These from the sheepcote sternly cast,
Those welcomed to the fold.

"No Christian home, no pastor's eye,
No preacher's vocal zeal,
Moved Thy dear martyr to defy
The prison and the wheel.

"Forth from the heathen ranks she stepped
The forfeit throne to claim
Of Christian souls who had not kept
Their birthright and their name.

"Grace formed her out of sinful dust;
She knelt a soul defiled;
She rose in all the faith and trust
And sweetness of a child.

"And in the freshness of that love
She preached by word and deed,
The mysteries of the world above—
Her new-found glorious creed.

"And running, in a little hour,
Of life the course complete,
She reached the throne of endless power,
And sits at Jesu's feet.

"Her spirit there, her body here,
Make one the earth and sky;
We use her name, we touch her bier,
We know her God is nigh."

The last sentiment of the yet unfinished hymn was receiving an answer while they sang it. Juba had been brought into the chapel in the hands of his brother and the exorcists. Since he had been under their care, he had been, on the whole, calm and manageable, with intervals of wild tempest and mad terror. He spoke, at times, of an awful incubus weighing on his chest, which he could not throw off, and said he hoped that they would not think all the blasphemies he uttered were his own. On this occasion, he struggled most violently, and shook with distress; and, as they brought him towards the sacred relics, a thick, cold dew stood upon his brow, and his features shrank and collapsed. He held back, and exerted himself with all his might to escape, foaming at the mouth, and from time to time uttering loud shrieks and horrible words, which disturbed, though they could not interrupt, the hymn. His bearers persevered; they brought him close to Callista, and made him touch her feet with his hands. Immediately he screamed fearfully, and was sent up into the air with such force that he seemed discharged from some engine of war: then he fell back upon the earth apparently lifeless.

The long prayer was ended; the Sursum corda was uttered. Juba raised himself from the ground. When the words of consecration had been said, he adored with the faithful. After the mass, his attendants {381} came to him; he was quite changed; he was quiet, harmless, and silent; the evil spirit had gone out; but he was an idiot.

This wonderful deliverance was but the beginning of the miracles which followed the martyrdom of St. Callista. It may be said to have been the resurrection of the Church at Sicca. In not many months Decius was killed, and the persecution ceased there. Castus was appointed bishop, and numbers began to pour into the fold. The lapsed asked for peace, or at least such blessings as they could have. Heathens sought to be received. When asked for their reason, they could only say that Callista's history and death had affected them with constraining force, and that they could not help following her steps. Increasing in boldness, as well as numbers, the Christians cowed both magistrates and mob. The spirit of the populace had been already broken; and the continual change of masters, and measures with them, in the imperial government, inflicted a chronic timidity on the magistracy. A handsome church was soon built, to which Callista's body was brought, and which remained till the time of the Diocletian persecution.

Juba attached himself to this church; and, though he could not be taught even to sweep the sacred pavement, still he never was troublesome or mischievous. He continued in this state for about ten years. At the end of that time, one morning, after mass, which he always attended in the church porch, he suddenly went to the bishop, and asked for {382} baptism. He said that Callista had appeared to him, and had restored to him his mind. On conversing with him, the holy Castus found that his recovery was beyond all doubt: and not knowing how long his lucid state would last, he had no hesitation, with such instruction as the time admitted, in administering the sacred rite, as Juba wished. After receiving it, he proceeded to the tomb, within which lay St. Callista, and remained on his knees before his benefactress till nightfall. Not even then was he disposed to rise; and so he was left there for the night. Next morning he was found still in the attitude of prayer, but lifeless. He had been taken away in his baptismal robe.

As to Agellius, if he be the bishop of that name who suffered at Sicca in his old age, in the persecution of Diocletian, we are possessed in this circumstance of a most interesting fact to terminate his history withal. What makes this more likely is, that this bishop is recorded to have removed the body of St. Callista from its original position, and placed it under the high altar, at which he said mass daily. After his own martyrdom, St. Agellius was placed under the high altar also.



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