June 2: Blandina and Her Companions, the Martyrs of Lyon, 177

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

Maturus, Sanctus, Blandina, and a youth from Pontus, most miserably tormented, on the River Rhone, about the year 172. Jan Luyken (1649-1712)

About this commemoration

In the second century, after a brief respite, Christians in many parts of the Roman empire were once again subjected to persecution. At Lyons and Vienne, in Gaul, there were missionary centers which had drawn many Christians from Asia and Greece. They were living a devout life under the guidance of Pothinus, elderly Bishop of Lyons, when persecution began in 177.

At first, the Christians were socially excluded from Roman homes, the public baths, and the market place; insults, stones, and blows were rained on them by pagan mobs, and Christian homes were vandalized. Soon after, the imperial officials forced Christians to come to the market place for harsh questioning, followed by imprisonment.

Some slaves from Christian households were tortured to extract public accusations that Christians practiced cannibalism, incest, and other perversions. These false accusations roused the mob to such a pitch of wrath that any leniency toward the imprisoned Christians was impossible. Even friendly pagans now turned against them.

The fury of the mob fell most heavily on Sanctus, a deacon; Attalus; Maturus, a recent convert; and Blandina, a slave. According to Eusebius, Blandina was so filled with power to withstand torments that her torturers gave up. “I am a Christian,” she said, “and nothing vile is done among us.” Sanctus was tormented with red-hot irons. The aged Pothinus, badly beaten, died soon after. Finally, the governor decided to set aside several days for a public spectacle in the amphitheater.

On the final day of the spectacle, writes Eusebius, “Blandina, last of all, like a noble mother who had encouraged her children and sent them ahead victorious to the King, hastened to join them.” Beaten, torn, burned with irons, she was wrapped in a net and tossed about by a wild bull. The spectators were amazed at her endurance.

Eusebius concludes: “They offered up to the Father a single wreath, but it was woven of diverse colors and flowers of all kinds. It was fitting that the noble athletes should endure a varied conflict, and win a great victory, that they might be entitled in the end to receive the crown supreme of life everlasting.”

Collects

I  Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we who keep the feast of the holy martyrs Blandina and her companions may be rooted and grounded in love of thee, and may endure the sufferings of this life for the glory that shall be revealed in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

II  Grant, O Lord, that we who keep the feast of the holy martyrs Blandina and her companions may be rooted and grounded in love of you, and may endure the sufferings of this life for the glory that shall be revealed in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Psalm 34:1-8

Lessons

Jeremiah 12:1–3a

1 Peter 1:3–9

Mark 8:34–38

Preface of a Saint (3) 

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

13 Responses to June 2: Blandina and Her Companions, the Martyrs of Lyon, 177

  1. Michael Hartney says:

    This commemoration is already included in the Calendar. The Hebrew Scripture reading is new.

  2. Michael Hartney says:

    Title: This title should conform to the format utilized for Constance (September 9). Just say: Bladina and Her Companions on the first line, then in italics on the second line: Commonly called “The Martyrs of Lyons. The year of their deaths needs to be added, too.

    Bio: They need a ‘Who they are’ and ‘Why they are important’ statement. A statement “They died in ….” is needed as well.

    New Hebrew reading: This reading from Jeremiah is ok, bu IMOt not particularly strongly connected to Blandina and her companions.

    • greg howe says:

      The current revision of the title is owed to the initiative of the Rev. Prof. J.Robert Wright, who requested the amendment of the original.

  3. Michael Hartney says:

    First Book of Common Prayer.
    I wonder when the commemoration of the First Book of Common Prayer will be posted on the blog. True, it is to be after the Day of Pentecost according to the ‘rule’, but it is listed in a fixed place (a place early in June) in previous editions of Lesser Feasts and Fasts.
    I just don’t want it to be ‘forgotten.’

    • Well done. Thanks for the reminder. I forgot to post it because it isn’t listed on a particular date. Look for it soon!

      • Chip Chillington says:

        Can you repost it the week of June 12 so those of us who will use it when appointed will find it in the blog near when we will use it?

  4. Bill Moorhead says:

    I am struck by similarities between the Roman government in Lyons in 177 and the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930s.

    For the sake of the folks in the congregation, who may not hear about Blandina et soc. until the homily, I suggest phrasing the Collect “the feast of Blandina and her companions, the holy martyrs of Lyons.” I remember (way back!) being aware of the Martyrs of Lyons long before specifically knowing the name Blandina.

    • Michael Hartney says:

      Bill.

      You probably remember the Martyrs of Lyons because early editions of Lesser Feasts and Fasts did not include Blandina’s name. It was just Martyrs of Lyons. A General Convention a while back changed the title to include a female’s name.

  5. Philip Wainwright says:

    The collect should make its petition on behalf of all Christians, not just those observing this commemoration.

  6. S. Sauter says:

    Eusebius’ name is just dropped into the narrative without explanation. Something should be said about the source of information for the martyrdoms. The narrative is based on information in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Book V. Eusebius (c. 263-368), the Bishop of Caesarea, quoted a letter from the churches at Lyon and Vienne describing the events, though he wrote about the events more than a century and a half after they happened.

    In the narrative, Pothinus, the 90 year old bishop of Lyons, is mentioned once at the beginning, and then again in the fourth paragraph. It would be really helpful if that fact the Pothinus was the Bishop of Lyons were mentioned again. Otherwise his death seems almost an afterthought when the martyrdom of four were mentioned: Deacon Sanctus, Attalus, a recent convert Maturus, and Blandina the slave girl who was killed as was her mistress.

  7. Michael Weylandt says:

    I love Eusebius’ style and that ending is wonderful. Collect is funny — does anyone know which edition of LFF it comes from? Let me try to figure out what I don’t like about the middle — I think it’s the “for” connecting to clauses, but I can’t quite say why yet.

    PS — The names are priceless!

    • Michael Weylandt says:

      Yes, I think it is the “for” connector. It sounds to my ear like it connects sufferings and glory instead of the clause ending in sufferings. I.e., it sounds like they endured “sufferings for glory.” Maybe one of these works:

      1)”may endure the sufferings of this life until thy glory shall be revealed in us”
      2)”may endure the sufferings of this life, even unto the day the glory that shall be revealed in us”
      3)”may endure the sufferings of this life so that thy glory shall be revealed in us” [I think this is the closest in sense to how the collect reads now]

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