On The Anvil
by Lance Gargus
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The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.
Stand firm and immovable as an anvil when it is beaten upon. The Christian anvil has broken many hammers.
- St. Ignatius of Loyola
"On the anvil they put us. Thousands of hammers hitting the anvil of my destiny."
The stories of martyrs will move any faithful Christian. What one is given here is a direct human experience, the soul being touched through every human sense. These people who were ready to give all that in them lay for the service of the God who had created them. These martyrs who would not give up because they were overwhelmed with the power of Faith. They could not give up because there were people around them who were in direct need of that same Faith.
One such story takes place during the rule of Emperor Maximian. He continued the persecutions of the Christians. Having them beaten and tortured for their beliefs.
At this time a young couple, newly married only for a few months, with the husband as governor of the Praetorium. Adrian and his wife, Natalia were from Nicomedia. Both were of noble blood and from prominent, wealthy families. They lived a very good life. Natalia was secretly a Christian, unawares to her husband. Adrian, being what he thought of as a true Roman, was a pagan. Denoting the Roman gods as fundamental to Roman society. Refusal to worship these Gods was to cause unrest. Being governor he had seen these Christians before. Now stood before him was a group of Christians. He was to note the names of these 23 Christians that were found in a cave nearby. Under orders of Maximian, they had already been put to torture before they met before him. Under the crack of leather whips and staves, they had been flogged. Here they stood before him after being tormented. Seeing they were still unbent. So docile and peaceful were their faces. He became curiouser. He asked, "What do you hope to gain from this God of yours after enduring such things?" They responded with, "The blessings that our righteous God will bestow upon us when we reach His kingdom." He was taken aback. Never had he seen such loyalty, devotion, and love. No one would ever speak of Roman gods in such a way. The Spirit stirred up inside him. Turning to his scribe he said,"Write my name along with those of these saints. I also am a Christian." The emperor after hearing this was shocked. "Have you lost your mind?" he shouted. Adrian with a thunderous voice exclaimed back,"I haven't lost it, but found it!"
Natalia rejoiced at this news. He now shared in their suffering, being chained in the prison with them. He showed the new love of Christ in him. Encouraging them and ministering to each of the 23 Christians. In return, his wife encouraged him during the floggings and tortures to endure to the end.
Their time had come to a closing. The emperor ordered for their arms and legs to be broken with hammers on the prison anvil. Refusing to renounce his decision, Adrian breathed his last along with the 23 others. Natalia fled to Constantinople. Taking their remains there to be buried. Days went by and she longed for him. One day he appeared to her. He was covered in a bright, light that filled the air around him. He had the look of beauty beyond anything she had ever seen. Oh, how she had weeped bitterly for him. Longing to be with him and to see the wonders he beheld. The thoughts of sharing this together was her longing. Now he stood before her with hand extended calling her to God. Taking his hand she released her soul. Placing it into God's hands. Together forever to share in the beauty of Christ.
Their special moment together makes me think of these words. "God make something beautiful out of all this suffering." Broken on the anvil were they but like the anvil they stayed the same. No matter how many times a blacksmith would beat an anvil, it stayed an anvil. No matter how many times they beat these Christians, they remained a Christian. This is one of the reasons why an anvil had come to represent the Martyr as a symbol.
May, Christ- with my anvil- shape me into who I am to become. May I find the strength to endure the troubles, trials, and tribulations of the hammer's blows. Heated in the fires of this life.
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