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The Acts of Martyrdom of St. Justin and companions

In the time of the lawless partisans of idolatry, wicked decrees were passed against the godly Christians in town and country, to force them to offer libations to vain idols; and accordingly the holy men, having been apprehended, were brought before the prefect of Rome, Rusticus by name.

And when they had been brought before his judgment-seat, said to Justin, "Obey the gods at once, and submit to the kings."

Justin said, "To obey the commandments of our Saviour Jesus Christ is worthy neither of blame nor of condemnation."

Rusticus the prefect said, "What kind of doctrines do you profess?"

Justin said, "I have endeavoured to learn all doctrines; but I have acquiesced at last in the true doctrines, those namely of the Christians, even though they do not please those who hold false opinions."

Rusticus the prefect said, "Are those the doctrines that please you, you utterly wretched man?"


Justin said, "Yes, since I adhere to them with right dogma." Rusticus the prefect said, "What is the dogma?"

ustin said, "That according to which we worship the God of the Christians, whom we reckon to be one from the beginning, the maker and fashioner of the whole creation, visible and invisible; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had also been preached beforehand by the prophets as about to be present with the race of men, the herald of salvation and teacher of good disciples. And I, being a man, think that what I can say is insignificant in comparison with His boundless divinity, acknowledging a certain prophetic power, since it was prophesied concerning Him of whom now I say that He is the Son of God. For I know that of old the prophets foretold His appearance among men."


Rusticus the prefect said, "Where do you assemble?"

Justin said, "Where each one chooses and can: for do you fancy that we all meet in the very same place? Not so; because the God of the Christians is not circumscribed by place; but being invisible, fills heaven and earth, and everywhere is worshipped and glorified by the faithful."


Rusticus the prefect said, "Tell me where you assemble, or into what place do you collect your followers?"

Justin said, "I live above one Martinus, at the Timiotinian Bath; and during the whole time (and I am now living in Rome for the second time) I am unaware of any other meeting than his. And if any one wished to come to me, I communicated to him the doctrines of truth."


Rusticus said, "Are you not, then, a Christian?"

Justin said, "Yes, I am a Christian."

Then said the prefect Rusticus to Chariton, "Tell me further, Chariton, are you also a Christian?"

Chariton said, "I am a Christian by the command of God."

Rusticus the prefect asked the woman Charito, "What say you, Charito?"

Charito said, "I am a Christian by the grace of God."


Rusticus said to Euelpistus, "And what are you?"

Euelpistus, a servant of Cæsar, answered, "I too am a Christian, having been freed by Christ; and by the grace of Christ I partake of the same hope."


Rusticus the prefect said to Hierax, "And you, are you a Christian?"

Hierax said, "Yes, I am a Christian, for I revere and worship the same God."


Rusticus the prefect said, "Did Justin make you Christians?"

Hierax said, "I was a Christian, and will be a Christian."


And Pæon stood up and said, "I too am a Christian."

Rusticus the prefect said, "Who taught you?"


Pæon said, "From our parents we received this good confession."

Euelpistus said, "I willingly heard the words of Justin. But from my parents also I learned to be a Christian."


Rusticus the prefect said, "Where are your parents?"

Euelpistus said, "In Cappadocia."


Rusticus says to Hierax, "Where are your parents?"

And he answered, and said, "Christ is our true father, and faith in Him is our mother; and my earthly parents died; and I, when I was driven from Iconium in Phrygia, came here."


Rusticus the prefect said to Liberianus, "And what say you? Are you a Christian, and unwilling to worship [the gods]?"

Liberianus said, "I too am a Christian, for I worship and reverence the only true God."

The prefect says to Justin, "Hearken, you who are called learned, and think that you know true doctrines; if you are scourged and beheaded, do you believe you will ascend into heaven?"

Justin said, "I hope that, if I endure these things, I shall have His gifts. For I know that, to all who have thus lived, there abides the divine favour until the completion of the whole world."


Rusticus the prefect said, "Do you suppose, then, that you will ascend into heaven to receive some recompense?"

Justin said, "I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it."


Rusticus the prefect said, "Let us, then, now come to the matter in hand, and which presses. Having come together, offer sacrifice with one accord to the gods."

Justin said, "No right-thinking person falls away from piety to impiety."


Rusticus the prefect said, "Unless you obey, you shall be mercilessly punished."

Justin said, "Through prayer we can be saved on account of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when we have been punished, because this shall become to us salvation and confidence at the more fearful and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Saviour."


Thus also said the other martyrs: "Do what you will, for we are Christians, and do not sacrifice to idols."

The holy martyrs having glorified God, and having gone forth to the accustomed place, were beheaded, and perfected their testimony in the confession of the Saviour. And some of the faithful having secretly removed their bodies, laid them in a suitable place, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ having wrought along with them, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


¿Why do we love our Lady?

Faith in the fact that God himself became man has been the joyful conviction of the Church from the very beginning. To come into the world, God chose to rely on the free cooperation of a human being, Mary, to be the mother of his Son through the work of the Holy Spirit. And the Church, from her beginnings, has honored Mary as the daughter of God the Father, mother of God the Son, and spouse of God the Holy Spirit. How did God choose Mary? How did she conceive the Son of God? Why do we call Mary Virgin and Mother?

Why do we love our Lady?

Faith in the fact that God himself became man has been the joyful conviction of the Church from the very beginning. To come into the world, God chose to rely on the free cooperation of a human being, Mary, to be the mother of his Son through the work of the Holy Spirit. And the Church, from her beginnings, has honored Mary as the daughter of God the Father, mother of God the Son, and spouse of God the Holy Spirit. How did God choose Mary? How did she conceive the Son of God? Why do we call Mary Virgin and Mother?

1. How did Mary conceive the Son of God made man?

The historical event which God had foreseen from all eternity took place in a Nazareth, a village in Galilee, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to a young Jewish woman, “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” says St Luke in chapter 1 of his Gospel.

To come into the world God wanted the free co-operation of a creature, Mary, to be the mother of his Son. “The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 488, 504, 511.

2. How did God choose Mary? What did the Angel Gabriel say to Mary in Nazareth, and what was her answer?

St Luke tells in the first chapter of his Gospel how the Angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” When she heard these words, she wondered what this greeting could mean. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive and bear a son, and you will call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary’s womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.” From his conception, Christ’s humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God “gives him the Spirit without measure.” From “his fullness” as the head of redeemed humanity “we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 504.

3. Was Mary free to respond to God’s plans for her?

Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the fullness of the divinity was to dwell bodily, and she asked about what she did not understand – “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” God’s response to her question was, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” And she pronounced her “fiat”, yes, “Let it be to me according to your word,” in the name of all human nature.

The Virgin Mary, by her faith and free response, took up God’s plan for the salvation of mankind. By her obedience she became the new Eve, mother of the living.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 484, 511.

4. What does it mean to say that Jesus was conceived by the work and the grace of the Holy Spirit?

It means that God became man without the intervention of a human father. Jesus has no Father except God (cf. Luke 2:48-49). It means that his Mother, Mary, was a virgin. Mary’s virginity manifests God’s absolute initiative in the Incarnation of the Word.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 503.

5. What is the connection between Eve and Mary?

Throughout the Old Covenant Mary’s mission was prefigured by that of many holy women (Sarah, who conceives a son in spite of her old age; Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther). At the very beginning there was Eve; despite her disobedience, she receives the promise of a posterity that will be victorious over the evil one.
After a long period of waiting the times are fulfilled in her, the exalted Daughter of Sion, and the new plan of salvation is established. Mary “stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 489.

6. What does it mean to say that Mary is full of grace

?The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace”. In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace. Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.”
It means that she was conceived without original sin. Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin” (Pius IX, Bull Ineffabilis Deus, DS 2803).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 490-491.

7. How can a woman be the Mother of God?

Mary is truly “Mother of God” since she is the mother of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God made man, who is God himself, as we are told by Sacred Scripture, God’s Revelation. This truth of faith has been proclaimed by Christians from the earliest times.

The eyes of faith can discover in the context of the whole of Revelation the mysterious reasons why God in his saving plan wanted his Son to be born of a virgin. These reasons touch both on the person of Christ and his redemptive mission, and on the welcome Mary gave that mission on behalf of all men.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 509, 502.

8. Why is Mary also the Mother of Christians and Mother of the Church?

Jesus is Mary’s only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends (cf. Jn 19:26-27; Ap 12:17) to all men whom indeed he came to save: “The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren (Rm 8:29), that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother’s love.”

St John, in chapter 19 of his Gospel, records the words spoken by Jesus to his Mother: standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”

“The Virgin Mary is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’ since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.” “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 501, 963-967.

At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: “the Church indeed (...) by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse” (Lumen Gentium, no. 64).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 507

9. What does the Assumption of our Lady into Heaven mean?

The Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate, was at the end of her earthly life raised body and soul to heavenly glory, and likened to her risen Son in anticipation of the future lot of all the just; and we believe that the Blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ’s members.
Credo of the People of God, 15.

We look to Mary to contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own “pilgrimage of faith,” and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, “in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity,” “in the communion of all the saints,” the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother. “In the meantime the Mother of Jesus, in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth until the day of the Lord shall come, a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God” (Lumen Gentium, 68).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 972

10. Why does Our Blessed Lady hold a central place in Christian life?

“All generations will call me blessed”: these are our Lady’s words in the Magnificat, recognizing what God has worked in her. “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.” The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs
This very special devotion differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.” The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 971



The Church is not an organization or a corporation, but an entity of an entirely different class, says Benedict XVI: It is the body of Christ, present in the Eucharist.


The Devotion to the Virgin Mary in the Early Church

The Virgin Mary has been honored and venerated as Mother of God since the first centuries of Christianity

“The first Christians, whose lives are an example for us, showed a loving veneration to the Virgin. In the paintings produced during the first three centuries of Christianity, those that are conserved in the Roman catacombs, the Virgin is contemplated through her representation with the Child God in her arms. We can never be contented in the way we imitate this attitude of the first Christians! 

“From now on will all ages call me blessed.” (Luke 1, 48)

Recent Mariological studies give evidence that the Virgin Mary has been honored and venerated as Mother of God and our Mother since the first centuries of Christianity.

During the first three centuries, the veneration of Mary was essentially included in the rites of adoration of her Son. A Father of the Church summarizes the essence of this primordial Marian cult using these words (referring to Mary): “The prophets announced you and the apostles commemorated you with the highest of praises.”

During these first centuries, only indirect testimonies of the Marian cult exist. Among them are archaeological remains of the catacombs that demonstrate the cult and veneration of the first Christians toward Mary. One of the paintings in the catacombs of Saint Priscilla represents the Virgin with her Child in her arms and a prophet, probably Isaiah, at her side. The other two paintings correspond to the Annunciation and to theEpiphany. All of the paintings mentioned are of the second century. In the catacombs of St. Peter and St. Marcellinus, one admirable painting of the third or fourth century represents Mary between Saints Peter and Paul. There, Mary is portrayed praying with her arms extended.

One magnificent demonstration of the Marian cult is the prayer “Sub tuum praesidium” (We fly to thy patronage) that dates back up to the third to fourth century, and that illustrates theintercession of Mary.

The Fathers during the fourth century praise the Mother of God in many and diverse ways.Saint Epiphanius, after combating the error of adoring Mary practiced by a sect in Arabia, writes: "Let Mary be held in honor. Let the Father, Son and Holy Ghost be adored, but let no one adore Mary." St. Ambrose expresses the same sentiment who after giving praise to “the Mother of all virgins”, is at the same time clear and emphatic in saying that “Mary is the temple of God and not the God of the temple” to put the Marian cult in its rightful position and to distinguish it to the adoration of God.

It can be proven that during the time of Pope Sylvester, in the Roman Forum, where theTemple of Vesta used to be located, a structure was constructed bearing the advocation to “Santa Maria Antiqua” or Ancient St. Mary. In the same manner, Bishop Alexander of Alexandria consecrated a church dedicating it to the Mother of God. Moreover, it is known that Mary was being honored together with our Lord in the Church of the Nativity in Palestine since the era of Emperor Constantine, in remembrance of the miraculous conception of Christ.

Reliable ancient texts dated 225 A.D., used in the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist, mention the veneration of Mary. They also honor her during the feasts of the Incarnation, Nativity, Epiphany, etc. of our Lord. Towards 380 A.D., the first Marian feast, identified as “Memory of the Mother of God”, “Feast of the Most Holy Virgin”, or “Feast of the glorious Mother”, was instituted.

The testimony of the fathers of the Church

The first Father of the Church who wrote about Mary is St. Ignatius of Antioch († c. 110). He defended the veracity of the humanity of Christ against the docetists by affirming that Jesus pertained to the line of David because he was born of Mary. Jesus was conceived by Mary – He came from her – and this conception was virginal, and pertains to the most hidden mysteries in the silence of God.

In his book "Dialogue with Trypho", St. Justin († c. 167) insists on the reality of thehuman nature of Jesus and, as a consequence of that human nature, he insists also of the maternity of Mary over Jesus. Like St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Justin emphasizes the virginal conception. Saint Justin bases his Marian reflections on the Eve & Mary parallelism as the passage of Genesis 3:15 suggests, and this perspective which is incorporated in his theology, will serve as the basis of the Marian reflections of the later Fathers of the Church.

St. Irenaeus († c. 202), focuses on the reality of the human corporeality of Jesus and that he really came from the womb of Mary to combat the prevailing Gnostic and Docetic beliefs. Moreover, he bases on the divine motherhood his Christology: it is the human nature assumed by the Son of God in the womb of Mary that gives to the redemptive value of the death of Jesus its universality, i.e., its applicability to all men. He emphasizes also the motherhood of Mary in relation to the new Adam (Christ) and her cooperation in the work of redemption.

The north African Father, Tertullian († c. 222), during the dispute with Marcion, a Gnostic, affirms that Mary is the Mother of Christ because Jesus was engendered by Mary in her womb.

During the third century, the use of “Theotókos” (“Mother of God” in Greek) became more widespread. Origen († c. 254) was the first to apply this title to Mary. Among the prayers of supplication, the title first appeared in the prayer “Sub tuum praesidium” that, as mentioned earlier, is the oldest known Marian prayer. During the fourth century, in opposition to the doctrine of Arius, the confession of faith of bishop Alexander of Alexandria contains the same title. Since then, it gained universality and many were the Holy Fathers who reflected and studied in depth the truth that Mary is the Mother of God. Among them were St. Ephrem, St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, Proclus of Constantinople, etc. Because of these, “Mother of God” became the most frequent title applied to Mary.

The truth of the Divine Maternity of Mary was proclaimed as a dogma of the Church in theCouncil of Ephesus in 431 A.D.

La verdad de la maternidad divina quedó definida como dogma de fe en el Concilio de Efeso del año 431.

“And after the death of the Savior? Mary is the Queen of the Apostles; she is present in the Cenacle and she accompanied them when they received what Christ had promised, the Paraclete; she supported them in their trials and she helped them overcome the obstacles that human weakness bring in along the way: she is a guide, light, and encouragement of the first Christians” (Saint Josemaría Escrivá)


The prerogative or privileges of mary

The account of the devotion to Mary throughout history would not be complete if not for a third basic element: the exceptionality of the person of Mary. The affirmation of her"exceptionality" forms part of her mystery and is rooted in her sanctity which leads one to her so-called “privileges”. The bases of these “privileges” are founded on her Divine Motherhoodand her cooperation in the work of redemption. In reality, these “privileges” are gifts endowed by God so that she can carry out her unique and universal mission.

The existence of these privileges or prerogatives is not a “superfluous” doctrine nor a theological opinion. They are necessary to preserve the integrity of the Christian faith.

St. Ignatius, St. Justin, St. Irenaeus and Tertullian wrote about the virginity of Mary.Similarly, in Egypt, Origen defends the perpetual virginity of Mary and considers the mother of the Messiah as a model and help of Christians. In the fourth century, the term “aeipathenos” – ever-virgin – was introduced by St. Epiphanius in his confession of the Faith. Later, the Second Council of Constantinople proclaimed it as a Dogma of the Church.

With the affirmation of the perpetual virginity of Mary becoming more and more widespread and universal, another privilege, theabsolute holiness of the Virginwas also given emphasis. Although it had been always believed that she was incapable of sin, the possibility of Mary having had imperfections was considered at first. St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Ephraim, and St. Cyril of Alexandria held this belief while St. Ambrose and St. Augustine did not accept it. After the dogmatic proclamation of the Divine Maternity of Mary in the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., the consideration of the privilege of absolute holiness of Mary grew stronger and was disseminated with the title “most holy” or “panagia” in Greek.

Since the fourth century, together with the privileges already mentioned (ever-virgin and most holy), the affirmation of her other privileges proceeded. Concretely, themes about her Dormitionor her Assumption, her preservation from all sin including original sin, her task asMediatrix, and her Queenship were developed. Along these lines, St. Modest de Jerusalem, St. Andrew of Crete, St. German of Constantinople, St. John Damascene, and the Fathers of the last centuries of the patristic period who studied in depth these privileges merit special attention.


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