Today is the feast of the African martyrs Perpetua, Felicity, and their companions. Through their prayers I wrote an akathist in their honour. I know, a bit bold, but let me at least explain how inspired by them I was in order to take up this task.
I had first read about them in St. Nikolai Velimirovich’s Prologue from Ohrid while living in Seoul, South Korea. I remember scribbling their names down in my journal, Perpetua, Felicity, Saturus, Saturnius, Revocatus, Secundulus… because I was particularly moved by the account of their martyrdom. They were all just young catechumens when they were arrested for converting to the faith in the year 202 (some think 203) AD. Only Saturus was an already baptized Christian. He was their teacher in the faith, and to encourage them in their bonds he asked to be put in prison with them. At that time a decree had gone out that no one was allowed to convert to Christianity. And so, the five catechumens were arrested specifically for being catechumens. St. Perpetua was only 22 years old at the time; St. Felicity was even younger. I was also 22 years old when I read about them and I too was a catechumen, full of zeal at that time, eagerly awaiting my baptism. The few things we had in common made their story all the more inspirational.
Years later I heard their martyrdom account read by Khouria Frederica Matthews-Green on her podcast on Ancient Faith Radio and it got me all chocked up thinking about how awesome these early African martyrs are. So I started searching for an akathist hymn to them – nothing. I searched in Greek – nothing. So, since I remembered that a friend of mine (a Romanian priestmonk and fellow student in Thessaloniki) had written the akathist to the saints of the British Isles when he was a layman I thought perhaps I could try to put my hand to writing their praises.
I would often make up hymns to saints (or just give my husband instructions) to the melody of Byzantine tones just for fun while working in the kitchen. So, I thought maybe if I actually concentrated and prayed, the martyrs would help me properly magnify them. And I believe they did.
And so, I began writing the akthaist hymn – two years ago now. I wrote it in Elizabethan English because once upon a time I was a traditional Anglican and fell in love with that language. I also wrote it in acrostic (alphabetical order) because that is how akathist hymns are written in Greek. This is done for ease in chanting the hymn, I think, and so the faithful can memorize them. Of course, I doubt anyone will memorize the hymn I wrote, but nevertheless I wanted keep the traditional form. The entire hymn is heavily based on the martyrs’ Passion, which St. Perpetua wrote herself.
It surprisingly didn’t take very long to write the hymn. It took longer to edit. And of course a real hymnographer could have probably done a much better job. But since I could find no one else who was so bold to do so, I did. May God forgive me.
And that, friends, is why (and bit of how) I wrote the akathist hymn to Sts. Perpetua, Felicity and their companions. And if I receive a blessing from Vladyka Irenee in Canada (I’ve already sent it to him for consideration), I will post it here for those who wish to pray it.
Rejoice O holy martyrs Perpetua, Felicity, and your companions!