Saint Peter Balsam

(A.D. 291)

[Commemorated in most Latin Martyrologies, and in the Greek Mensea on the 12th Jan. He is mentioned as Peter the Ascetic, by Eusebius ; his genuine Acts are given in Ruinart.]

Eusebius, in his account of the martyrs of Palestine, appended to the 8th book of his Ecclesiastical History, says: — " On the eleventh of the month Audynoeus, i.e., on the third
of the ides of January (11 th Jan.), in the same city of Caesarea, Peter the Ascetic, also called Absolom, from the village of Anea, on the borders of Eleutheropolis, like the purest gold, with a good resolution, gave proof of his faith in the Christ of God. Disregarding both the judge and those around him, that besought him in many ways to have compassion on himself, and to spare his youth and blooming years, he preferred his hope in the Supreme God of all, and
even to life itself" 

The name of this Saint seems to have been Peter Absolom; the latter appellation has been corrupted into Apselm, Anselm, and Balsam. The acts of his martyrdom are authentic. They are as follows : 

At that time Peter, called Balsam, was captured at Aulane, in the time of persecution. He came from the borders of Eleutheropolis, and was brought before the governor, Severus, 

who said to him, "What is your name?"

Peter answered, "I am called by my paternal name of Balsam, but in baptism I received my spiritual name of Peter.

" The Governor, "To what family do you belong?"Peter, "I am a Christian."

 The Governor, "What office do you bear?" Peter, ""What office can be more honourable than to live a Christian?" 

The Governor, " Have you any parents ?" Peter, " I have none." 

The Governor, " There you lie, for I have heard that you have." Peter,"  In the Gospel I am commanded to renounce all things when I come to confess Christ."

 The Governor, " Do you know the imperial edicts ?" Peter, " I know the laws of God, the Sovereign true and everlasting." 

The Governor, " It is commanded by the most clement emperors that all Christians shall either sacrifice, or be executed in various ways." Peter,  "And this is the command of the everlasting King. If thou sacrifice to any demon, and not to God alone, thou shalt be plucked out of the Book of the Living. Judge thou which I shall obey." 

The Governor, "Come, listen to me, sacrifice and obey the law." Peter.

"I will not sacrifice to gods made by men's hands of wood and stone." 

And he poured forth a vehement invective against idolatry. The governor ordered him to the rack, and when he was slung to it, he said, " Well, Peter, what say you to this ? How do you like your swing?" Peter said, " Bring the iron hooks ; I have already told thee that I will not sacrifice to devils, but to God alone, for whom I suffer." The governor ordered him to be tortured.

And when the stress of torment was very great, the martyr uttered no cry of pain, but sang, " One thing have I desired of the Lord, which I will require : even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the fair beauty of the Lord, and to visit His temple. What reward shall I give unto the Lord for all the benefits that He hath done unto me ? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord." As he thus spake,
the governor ordered other executioners to come to the work, being much exasperated. And the crowd standing by, when they saw much blood run over the pavement, lamented, and urged him, saying, " O man, compassionate thyself, and sacrifice, that thou mayest escape these dreadful pains." But the holy man of God answered them, " These pains are nothing, and give me no suffering ; but were I to deny the name of my God, I know that I should fall into greater torments, which would last eternally." The Governor said, " You had better sacrifice, or you will repent it" 

" No," answered Peter ; " I will not sacrifice, and I shall not repent it." The Governor said, "Well, then I shall pronounce sentence." "That," said Peter, "is what I most ardently desire." Then the governor gave sentence in these words, " I command Peter, continuously despising the commands of the unconquered emperors, to suffer the death of the cross."

Thus, the venerable athlete of Christ, fulfilling his agony, was found worthy to participate in the Passion of his Lord. And he suffered at Aulane, on the third of the nones of January (Jan. 3rd,) under Maximian, the emperor. This account is somewhat abbreviated from the Acts.

There is some little discrepancy between it and that of Eusebius. The ecclesiastical historian says he was executed at Csesarea; the Acts say at Aulane; but as this was an insignificant village in the district over which the governor of Csesarea held jurisdiction, the discrepancy is only a parent. Eusebius says he suffered on the third of the idesthe Acts, that he suffered on the third of the nones. It is probable that Eusebius is right, for the Greeks observe the martyrdom of St. Peter Balsam on the 12th Jan., and in the Martyrology, attributed to St. Jerome, the passion of this Saint is given as occurring on the third of the ides, 11 th Jan.


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