From the Archives: Cyprian’s Letter to Banished Christians
While imprisoned, and soon to be beheaded, Cyprian sent a letter to comfort nine Christian friends who had been exiled to the mines at nearby Sigua.
Cyprian to . . . the brethren in the mines, martyrs of God the Father Almighty, and of Jesus Christ our Lord, and of God our preserver, everlasting greeting . . . As golden and silver vessels, you have been committed to the mine that is the home of gold and silver, except that now the nature of the mines is changed, and the places which previously had been accustomed to yield gold and silver have begun to receive them.
Moreover, they have put fetters on our feet and have bound your blessed limbs and the temples of God with disgraceful chains. . . . To men who are dedicated to God and attesting their faith with religious courage, such things are ornaments, not chains; nor do they bind the feet of the Christians for infamy but glorify them for a crown. . . .
Let cruelty, either ignorant or malignant, hold you here in its bonds and chains as long as it will, from this earth and from these sufferings you shall speedily come to the kingdom of heaven. The body is not cherished in the mines with couch and cushions, but it is cherished with the refreshment and solace of Christ. . . . Your limbs unbathed, are foul and disfigured with filth and dirt: but within they are spiritually cleansed. . . . There the bread is scarce; but man liveth not by bread alone, but by the word of God. Shivering, you want clothing; but he who puts on Christ is both abundantly clothed and adorned. . . .
This temporal and brief suffering, how shall it be exchanged for the reward of a bright and eternal honor, when, according to the word of the blessed apostle, “The Lord shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be fashioned like to the body of His brightness!”
. . . Farewell in the Lord, and always and everywhere remember me.
By Cyprian of Carthage
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #27 in 1990]
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