Friday, March 21, 2014

The Gospel of Petronilla

I.

I live to be a vessel of chastity and faith.  I know that I must soon be martyred, so I live now to earn my crown in the Heavens.  Although my father is famous and known by many names, my own name is not important.  I have decreased to the fullest, and am but filthy and polluted waste compared to the glory of the One who was crucified for my sake.  I no longer live, but it is He who lives through me.  The curse that I live with in the flesh is the price that I willingly must pay for the reward given to me by my Heavenly Father.  It is the life that was given to me, and the life that I am forced to choose.

I am an undefiled maiden, and the daughter of the most famous apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I spend most days lying on a cushion, appearing before many unbelievers to be helpless.  I always lay behind my father while he preaches.  This is how I live my witness to those who seek Faith.  Though I am weak in the flesh, I have been given strength by the Spirit of God.  The power of my father’s preaching comes from his gift of the Spirit of Jesus, which he received by fire and the sign of speaking with unknown tongues.  Since he was given this power, his words and deeds have gained fame through all of Jerusalem and even through the whole world!  He heals the sick with a touch of his sweaty handkerchief, or even the passing over of his shadow.  There are times when such a tumultuous crowd presses against my father in search of a miracle, that he graciously wipes his brow with a cloth, then throws the cloth into the mob.  The crowds sometimes fight for just a touch of his cloth so that they may also receive of his blessing.  The Holy Spirit of God has also given my father the power of discernment.  The false believer and the hypocrite are naked before his presence, and can hide nothing before his opened eyes.  Through discernment and wisdom, he can see the stain of deceit and faithless sin.  Father’s eyes can see all of the spirit dominions, principalities and powers that lie hidden behind this physical world and our carnal eyes. The people fear his power of miracles and discernment.  They love him for his miracles, signs and wonders, but fear the power behind his cursing and condemnations.  Some hypocrites have dared to blaspheme the holy Name of Jesus by conspiring to lie to the Spirit of the Lord.  Father can see the serpents in the grass, and they have dropped dead before his curse and the Sign of the Cross.

The greatest sign which our Lord gives to my father is through the power of his preaching.  Many have turned to faith in Jesus Christ because the Spirit of God works through his words.  I remember the time of my own youth, when father spent his days fishing in the Great Sea.  In those days, he was very strong.  His hands were rough from working ropes, oars and sails.  His language was course, and his manners were rude.  My big, simple, lovable father!  How I loved him so!  He was simple, but he was mature and always provided for his family.  In those days he had a name which I now no longer remember.  But after father was privileged to be chosen by our Lord Jesus Christ, he was given a new name as the Rock and Foundation of our new Faith.  My simple father was given the keys to the very Heavens by our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our Lord Jesus is now in the Heavens, beyond the clouds, sitting at the right hand of His Father.  Now my father must fulfill the responsibilities given him by our Lord, and he is to fulfill the work of our Lord here on earth. 

After my father was given power through the Spirit of God, he began to speak and preach as he never did before!  His speech is no longer the course and salty speech of a fisherman.  The very Spirit of God now speaks through my father and empowers him to convert many to the Faith by his words.  Only through the power of our Lord could any man work so mightily.  He no longer fishes, or provides for his family.  We now have faith that the Lord Himself will provide for all of our needs.

But even greater than that, greater than the signs and wonders, greater than the healings and miracles, greater even than the power of the Spirit that works through my father - the greatest miracle of all is the conviction of sin which the Spirit works through me.  Yes, me, the humble daughter of the First Apostle of Jesus and the rock upon which our Lord’s Church is built.  Our Lord Jesus has blessed my father by empowering him with bold speech and the working of miraculous signs and wonders, but our Lord has also blessed me with my own witness.  Sometimes the sin of the heathen has made their hearts so hardened that even the great miracles of my father will not make them believe.  They will not believe him after hearing his preaching, and they fight to suppress the truth of the Gospel.  Our Lord, with His great mercy, does not will that any of these heathen be left out of the Kingdom of God, where there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth.  No!  Glory to God, He will not forsake them!  He will tug on their hearts to convict them of their sin!  They will not yield up their ghosts to everlasting torment!  When the miraculous signs and powerful preaching of father have failed, then comes my calling.  That is my blessing.  My gift can soften their hardened hearts.  My father steps aside from his preaching, and the heathen can see me, reclining helpless on a cushion.  Though my flesh is weak, the Spirit of God is powerful.  The last stumbling block is overcome when the unbeliever beholds my body, crippled from the palsy which our most beneficent Lord Jesus has blessed me with.

II. 

My flesh once tasted the curse of health and comeliness.  When I was a young girl, I was an obstruction to many men because of my beauty.  My father had warned me that I was doomed to be a stumbling block to many.  Father once told me that on the very day I was born, long before father had even met our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh, father had a vision.  Through an angel, the Lord visited my father in that vision and said to him, “On this day has been born unto you a very great affliction.  This daughter of yours will blossom in beauty, strength, grace and bewitchery.    She is destined to hurt many souls, if her flesh is to remain strong and healthy!  She will have a comely appearance, a strong body, and will learn graceful movements and charming song.  Her fleshly body will be the damnation of many as long as her flesh remains healthy”

As I grew older, the vision from the angel the Lord proved to be true.  I grew strong, healthy, and more alluring than any of my young playmates.  When our Lord humbled Himself and walked the earth among us, He met my father in the docks as he was casting nets for fish.  Father could not resist Him, and it was there that father and uncle Andros began to follow Him.  Father had received his calling from our Lord, and I still remember the blessed day when He preached in our humble family house.  The crowds!  There were so many people crowded into our small house just to hear our Lord, that some men even pried a hole through the thatched rooftiles, just so they could lower a sick man down in front of Him.  Because of their faith, the sick man was healed on that blessed day. Soon after that, my father left our house, his family and his fishing nets to wander the land, casting his nets as a fisher of men.

During those few, short years when father followed our Lord throughout the country, I stayed at home with my grandmother.  I believe that the men who had crowded in our small house remembered me, because grandmother could not keep the heathen suitors away from our door.  Father had become a wandering preacher, and could not easily tend to his chores at home.  At that time, many men wished to defile me, and it was only through the grace of God that I remained a virgin.

After our Lord put on the robes of His glory and ascended into the Heavens, father was told by an angel to remain in Jerusalem and the Spirit of God would enter into him there, and direct him on his new mission of preaching.  While he was away in Jerusalem, a local gardener and his young daughter came to visit my father, thinking that he had already returned.  The gardener had heard of the many miraculous things which Jesus our Lord had shown to my father, and the gardener had a request.  The girl he brought was his only child.  And like myself, she was young, exceedingly beautiful, and a virgin devoted to faith in our Lord Jesus.  But father was away, and the suitors who pursued me, saw the beautiful gardener’s daughter.  Her father was able to curse these heathen and keep his daughter safe, but this occurred so that the gardener’s daughter could see the real danger and need for our Lord’s protection from defilement.

III.

After father had received the mighty gifts of the Spirit, of miraculous healing and powerful discernment, he returned home to his family.  When he returned, it was as if we had never known him.  The humble fisherman was now a luminous prophet of God.  The suitors who wished to defile me now feared my father, and removed themselves of the fearsome Spirit which empowered him.  Upon hearing of his return, the gardener and his daughter returned to our house for a visit.  Because of the gardener’s love for his daughter, and his wish that she not be shamed with sinful defilement, he asked my father to pray for her, and to ask for God’s special blessing upon her. 

Father did as he was asked for his friend the gardener.  He anointed the girl’s head with a dollop of oil, made the Sign of the Cross, placed his hands on her and prayed, “Most Holy Lord Jesus, I ask you to place your special blessing on this young woman, this daughter of the faithful gardener.  She has remained pure and undefiled for You, and only strives to live a holy life and to perform those works which are according to Your divine purpose.  As I begin to prepare my humble house for Your great commission and ministry, I ask that you give the gardener Your Spirit to live in Faith, and for his daughter to remain untainted by sin and pure in immaculate chastity.”

After my father prayed this prayer, and after again invoking the Sign of the Cross, the gardener’s daughter yielded up her ghost, and dropped dead before the eyes of us all.  There was a shameful and faithless shock at the drastic action of our Lord, and our minds struggled to understand and accept our Lord’s means of answering my father’s prayer.  Only through the discernment of the Holy Spirit did my father understand the true meaning of this answered prayer.  “She has been baptized and received the Eucharist.  Our Lord has elected to bring an end to her life of fleshly corruption and suffering, and to bring her home to glory with Him in the Heavens.  O worthy gain and suitable to God, to escape the insolence of the flesh and mortify the boastfulness of the blood!”  But that foolish, old gardener, faithless, and not knowing the greatness of the heavenly favor, ignorant of the divine benefit, begged of father that his only daughter might be raised again. 

So the gardener blasphemed the perfect will of our Lord.  The Lord was faithful to His word and answered the gardener’s prayer, and his daughter was raised as he had wished.  But not many days after, the slave who lodged in their house could no longer resist the fleshly temptations, and ruined the gardener’s daughter.  It was then that we all understood the wisdom of our most holy Lord, and the lesson to allow His divine will to be done on pain of His most terrible consequences.  The gardener would not heed the perfect will of our Lord, and his daughter would suffer the offensive penalty with her corrupted body.  She was defiled, and was cursed to be the vessel of sin which would flow to her children of contempt.  But father, having heard of her fate, again prayed for her.  God heard father’s prayer, and took her again as a merciful relief from the suffering of this world.

IV.

Soon after that time Flaccus, another friend of my father, came to visit.  He had also wished to marry me, but he was not among the other suitors who wished to have me as a wife.  Since he was a wealthy and generous man, he did not lie at the door of our house like a dog, as the other suitors had done.  He decided to wait until father returned from Jerusalem, so that he could ask him as one man to another.  I was thirteen years old by this time, in the flower of my youth, and Flaccus was offering my father a handsome dowry to bring me into his house as a wife.  He insisted to my father that he would love me, cherish me, and offer a most generous dowry in return for my hand.  Father then remembered his prayer for the gardener’s daughter, and the meaning of her giving up the ghost.  “No Flaccus!  A curse be upon you and your dowry!  You shall not defile my virgin daughter!  Her body is to be offered up as a temple of the Holy Spirit, and she is to remain a virgin and a living testimony of the purity and holiness of our Lord!”  But Flaccus was not mindful of religious concerns.  He doubled his offering price to marry me, and still my father refused.

Father said to me, “The assaults of the devil are many, and there are many evils of the world which you must escape.  Do not shed tears.  You will soon learn of what you must suffer on earth if blessing is to fall upon you in the Kingdom of Heaven.  The snares of the Evil One are many, and chastity has been perverted by the wiles of Satan.  O treachery of life and perversion of all that is holy!”

But I was such a fetching young girl!  My comely appearance, strong body, graceful movements and charming song made me worth much more than even the abundant dowry offered by Flaccus.  The words that the angel had spoken to my father concerning my seductive and inviting nature had been fulfilled.  I had remained healthy, and I became a stumbling block to the wiles of men.  Flaccus was so wealthy and prideful, that he could no longer fathom the thought that I was not included as first among his wives.  Finally, one day soon after, Flaccus sent his slaves for me.  They stole me away while my father was preaching by the docks.  The slaves took me to the house of Flaccus, where he hoped to defile me in his private bed chamber.

But father discerned my danger through the power of the Holy Spirit, and he remembered the angel that had appeared to him on the day that I was born.  He remembered that I was to blossom into beauty, strength, grace and bewitchery, and it was not God’s will that I should bring men into sinful temptation.  Not only would I tempt men into lustful and filthy actions, but my exceeding beauty doomed me to be a defiled vessel and not among the members of the Body of Christ.  The angel had told my father that the temptations I bore in my body would be the curse of many men.  The angel’s words proved true as I stood in the bed chamber of Flaccus, poised to give him the cup of his own damnation.

V.

Father perceived that I had enticed Flaccus beyond his own capacity, and he had stolen me away to be his wife.  He made the Sign of the Cross as he prayed, “Almighty Father, maker of the Heavens, the earth, and all they contain; maker of Your unworthy servant and his lowly daughter; Your angel came to me in a vision and warned me that my daughter would be a stumbling block to many.  Indeed she has grown most alluring and temptful.  None can match her beauty, and all who look upon her are gripped with deceitful lust.  Holy Father, Your angel warned me in that vision that she would continue to be a distraction into sin as long as she remained healthy.  Lord Jesus told us when he had humbled Himself upon earth, that to look upon such a one as her with mere lustful thoughts alone is as a sin of adultery in Your holy presence.  But I now fear that she has been stolen away to be defiled by a man who is unable to resist her fleshly charm and wiles.  You know how my daughter believes in Your holy Name, and is faithful to You.  She does not wish to live in defilement.  I therefore ask, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you remove her curse of beauty!  Make her an undesirable burden to any man who would wish to defile her!”

At the instant that father prayed this prayer, I was standing before Flaccus in his bedchamber.  Gripped by the deceit of his own lust, he commanded that I disrobe.  I refused his command in the Name of Jesus Christ!  Better to be tortured by the most gruesome instruments of pain than to be defiled by this faithless unbeliever!  I remembered my Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and invoked His power by the Sign of the Cross.  Flaccus became enraged and was ready to force himself on me.  But just as he approached me, I could feel my skin start to itch, and I looked, and my skin erupted into a rash of leprous boils!  What is more - I could feel my back warp around itself, my spine become weak, and my bones separating from one another.  I crumbled helpless to the floor!  My back was twisted like a coiled lizard so that I had no strength to stand.  I could not even sit up, and I lay helpless by my own flesh at the feet of Flaccus.  But I was not afraid, for though I was powerless in the flesh, the Spirit of God hovered over me for spiritual strength and stamina.  By the power of Jesus Christ, I had become crippled with palsy.  My skin lost its warm color and smoothness, and became hardened with scabs and thickened with calluses.  Before the eyes of Flaccus, I had lost my comely appearance, strong body, graceful movements and charming song.  The curse of temptation had been lifted!  I would be forever a burden to any suitor, and would never fulfill the price of any dowry.  I would never again tempt men with my beauty, or lose my Heavenly reward by the defilement of men!  I would not be cursed to be the vessel of sin or to pass that curse to my children of contempt. Blessed Lord Jesus – Your faithfulness is my salvation!

Flaccus beheld me as a pile of tangled bones before him and believed himself to be tricked and betrayed.  He lifted his foot to kick me, but the Spirit of God protected me, and divine conviction stopped him from harming me.  Even in his passion and anger, he could perceive that he had witnessed a miraculous act of our most holy Lord.  Even he dared not violate His will.  Flaccus uttered a prayer of gratitude, an admission of defeat, then commanded his slaves to lift me into the wagon and deliver me back to my father’s house.  His defilement was no longer worth any dowry that he could offer.  Praise be to our righteous and most holy Jesus Christ – He has saved me from corruption and defilement!

VI.

I now live with my father in Rome, the capitol of the Empire.  The authorities persecute those of us who believe on the Name of Jesus Christ.  They call us magicians and jugglers, and since we are not permitted to establish our Church, we must meet in the homes of new converts, or move from street to street.  But the powerful words and miraculous signs performed by father always attract large crowds, as a well of sweet water draws the parched camel.  It did not take long for the reputation of my father and knowledge of the new religion to spread throughout Rome.  On every street corner my father preaches, and I am there as part of our Lord’s witness of purity.

When the miraculous signs and powerful preaching of father have failed, then comes my calling.  That is my blessing.  My gift can soften their hardened pagan hearts.  My father steps aside from his preaching, and the heathen can see me, reclining helpless on a cushion.  Though my flesh is weak, the Spirit of God is powerful.  The last stumbling block is overcome when the unbeliever beholds my body, crippled from the palsy which our most beneficent Lord Jesus has blessed me with.

On the first day of the week, father preached the Faith of the true and living God just outside the pagan Templum Matris Deum.  As the pagans exited their temple and passed the courtyard, they saw father there, and knew of his reputation.  They had heard of the many miraculous deeds which Jesus worked through him.  The multitudes brought their sick to my father, asking that he would show them a sign and perform a miracle of healing.  Even the mother of their gods could not perform miracles or show signs to the people of Rome.  My father had mercy on the sick and indigent, and by his Word and the Sign of the Cross, he healed many in the name of Jesus Christ. 

One pagan man, after receiving his miracle took notice me.  Father left me on a cushion as he preached, and wished others to see the helpless and crippled maiden who lay on a mattress behind him.  The pagan man gathered the courage to ask, “disciple of the god Jesus, before our very eyes, you have caused the lame to walk, the deaf to hear and the blind to see.  We can see the power and the favor that your god has placed on you.  Therefore I ask, why has Jesus not shown favor on your own virgin daughter?  She has grown up faithful and believing in your God.  Yet there she lies on her cushion in the corner, legs fully crippled and a side of her body fully paralyzed.  She lies behind you helpless in the corner, and helpless without your care!  We can see all those that you have cured – our brothers and sisters in this city.  Do you not care for your own daughter?

Father smiled at the pagan.  He understood the pagan’s confusion, and did not curse him for his lack of Faith.  This hapless unbeliever was not the first to accuse him of neglecting me, his crippled daughter.  They all considered me helpless and under the care of father.  They did not know that I was made inwardly strong by the power of the Spirit of God.  It is through Him that I gain my witness and show His salvation!  I could feel the inquisitive crowd huddle closer to my father, as they were also eager to understand the answer to this riddle.  In answering the pagan man, father addressed himself to the whole crowd, “My son, God has His divine purposes for keeping my daughter appearing as you now see her.  Know that God does not lack the power to touch her with His healing hand.  But, so that you may have faith in the power of His Word…” 

Father then lifted his voice to address the crowd, “… and so that those present here with us may believe all the more ... !”

Father turned back to me, and focused on my helpless and crippled form lying on the cushion.  He invoked the power of Jesus by the Sign of the Cross and commanded with a flourish, “Arise from your cushion in the name of Jesus Christ and in His name alone!  Rise!  And in the presence of all before us, walk to me!  My beloved daughter, rise! And walk to me!

I felt my flesh compelled by the irresistible Will of God!  My joints again fused in place, my limbs gained their strength, and the spirit of paralysis loosened its grip from my back.  My skin regained its moisture and color, and my face once more shone with healthy radiance.  I was forced up by the power of Jesus Christ, and I rose and walked slowly to my father, and before the astonished crowds of pagans.

The crowd stood in amazement.  Every man could see my great beauty now that I stood strong and erect.  But only those among the crowd with the eyes of Faith could see in this miracle the true wisdom of the Will of God.  I stood before the converts of Rome as a living testimony to the wisdom of the True God – set aside from fleshly corruption for eternal glory.  They could see before them my comely appearance, strong body, graceful movements and charming song, but only those with true faith in Jesus could see that I was a living temptation.  They could understand that without the miraculous power of God, I would lead many men to their eternal damnation.  Satisfied that the miracle opened many of their eyes, and had strengthened the faith of many present, my father again made the Sign of the Cross and commanded, “Daughter, return to your place!  Sit on your cushion and become as you were before – a witness to the supreme wisdom of Jesus Christ!”

I returned to the cushion as I was commanded, having again fulfilled my witness of Faith.  My skin again erupted into leprous boils, and my flesh lost all fleshly strength.   I became again a pile of crippled and tangled bones and flesh.  Those few unbelievers remaining pleaded with father to make me whole again.  They begged that I appear to them again as a striking virgin beauty.

But father laughed and instructed them, “Now you see that God is not unable or powerless to heal even my daughter, even before the faithless heathen.  But you now also understand His divine purpose and wisdom.” 

We gained many converts to belief in Jesus on that day, and the disciples of my father baptized many into the Faith.  We do this before the authorities chase us away, but we simply move and preach across from another pagan temple.  I know that we must soon be martyred.  I do not yet know how.  The execution may come from the unbelieving crowds, or perhaps by a pagan magician, or perhaps again by the Emperor himself.  But until that glorious day when I am martyred, and I am allowed to give up my ghost and ascend to our most Holy Father in the Heavens, I will continue to live my witness as an incorruptible virgin and symbol for the power of Jesus Christ.


-This tale was adapted from the 2nd century apocryphal work, The Acts of Peter

4 comments:

... Zoe ~ said...

Did you write this HeIsSailing?

HeIsSailing said...

ZOE, yes I wrote this crazy story. I recently re-read some of the Apocryphal Acts that contain some of the oldest Christian legends we know of. For some reason, this grisly scene about Peter's daughter from The Acts of Peter really grabbed my imagination. So I took a few other legends and kind of mixed them together to make this story. It just demonstrates to me how totally alien and bizarre the culture that Christianity sprang out of actually was. Anyway, I might write some more Apocryphal Acts fan fiction in the near future.

Ruth said...

Yay! HeisSailing is writing again!

I wondered, the same as Zoe, if you had written this. Those Apocryphal writings do contain some really "out there" concepts. When one reads those stories it becomes even more clear that the NT was just an attempt at a cohesive doctrine, not necessarily anything unique or more true than those found in the Apocrypha.

... Zoe ~ said...

Well it is crazy good. I've never read any of the apocryphal works.

The major theme for me is the disgust around women, the hatred of them, the blaming them and the self-deprecation she enjoys. You've captured so much in this but for me the whole 'Eve what a wretchedness you are' comes through.