Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June 10 - Alexander and Antonina of Krodamos, Martyrs

Antonina was yet another Christian who was arrested because of her faith in God. By pledging her allegiance to the Kingdom of God, as expressed in her Lord Jesus, she was labeled a traitor to Rome and a trouble maker. She was a virgin and had given her body and her life over to God's service alone. This was yet another abhorrent act in the eyes of Rome, and most of the inhabitants of Krodamos, and so she was dragged before the governor Festus and commanded to renounce her faith. Many Christians were awed by the pomp of Rome and found it hard not to obey when standing before likely the most powerful mortal they had ever met. Antonina, on the other hand, had no such trouble. So, Festus tried something a little more subtle and offered her power if she would only reject the God of the Christians. For many people forced to kneel before the imperial governors, this offer would have been impossible to refuse--not only did it mean escape from wrath but, also, ascension into a power similar to the one under which they were languishing.Festus offered to make Antonina a priestess of the goddess Diana (better known in that area as Artemis). Antonina refused and begged Festus not for her life but for his--she encouraged him to abandon false Gods and false values and turn to the saving and merciful embrace of her Lord Jesus. This time it was Festus who refused. He had her beaten and thrown in prison while he deliberated as to how he might effect her conversion.

Festus came up with a plan. If he couldn't rob her of her faith by persuasion, then he hoped to rob her of her devotion. He turned to the soldiers who stood nearby and commanded them to go to the cell of Antonina and to rape and humiliate her.Festus assumed that the loss of this offering to God might be enough to shake Antonina's faith. He suspected that perhaps rape could induce enough shame and trauma to crush her will for a while. If it didn't work, then he'd kill her and she would be an example to any others who opposed him. As the soldiers were leaving, though, one of them (Alexander) stopped the group and turned to Festus. "Give me a little while alone with her. I think I can convince her to listen to you." Feeling that he had nothing to lose, Festus allowed Alexander the time alone with Antonina. When he entered her cell they were alone and unwatched by any guards. Meanwhile, just before Alexander had arrived, Antonina had been praying and God had directed her to eat, drink, and prepare to do God's will--she had interpreted it as comfort in her impending death but she was only seeing part of the plan. When Alexander entered, he began taking off his clothes and armor. Antonina must have feared that he had been sent to further abuse and defile her but he started handing the clothing and armor to her. "Put it on," he insisted, "and get out of here."

Antonina didn't want to, at first, but did so when she felt God directing her. Nobody stopped Antonina as she masqueraded as Alexander. She kept her eyes down, her hair up, and her mouth shut as she slowly left the prison. It must have been hard to act calm while her heart beat so rapidly in the face of her impending freedom. Festus eventually sent other soldiers to act on his original plan and they found nearly-naked Alexander sitting in the cell. They dragged him before Festus who accused him of conspiring to release a prisoner. Alexander took it one step further and declared himself to be a Christian. As Festus fumed and mentally planned a horrible death for the traitor, Antonina--in the clothing and armor of Alexander--reentered the chamber. She had gotten away and then became convicted that she could not flee her own martyrdom. The soldiers savagely beat them both at Festus' command.Then, the servants of Rome cut off their hands. As the bled to death they prayed, and as they were smeared with pitch they forgave their executioners. Finally, they were pushed into a roaring fire and burned alive. Alexander and Antonina had accepted their martyrdom--had sought it out--and in doing so challenged an empire that refused to be challenged.

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