The Passion of Saints Tryphaena and Tryphosa

by shukyou (主教)
illustrated by tongari


Translator’s Notes

The author of The Passion of Saints Tryphaena and Tryphosa (part of a larger codex recently unearthed by Dr. Wm. Ford) identifies as ‘Persis,’ the third name listed with Tryphaena and Tryphosa in Romans 16:12. All three women are identified as leaders of the Roman church, though further biographies are absent elsewise from Christian writings. Nonetheless, St. Paul appeared to hold all three in high esteem, going so far as to identify them by context as διακονοι (diakonoi, deaconesses) who laborant/laboravit in Domino (labour/have laboured in the Lord).

The style used in the Passion lends credence to its unique authorial claims, as it bears little resemblence to later martyrdom accounts (see: The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas), choosing instead to focus its attention on the acts in life of the paired saints. In this, it bears more likeness to the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, which, despite the assertions its text makes, is a later forgery whose appearance coincides with the end of martyrdom accounts and the rise of hagiography. The author’s intent appears to be to recount both life and death of her subjects, which lends credence to the text’s claims that the author is an otherwise-uneducated, lower-class foreign woman in Roman society, for the mimesis the text evidence displays is interpretive, not verbatim (suggesting mimicry performed by someone who had possibly heard but never read similar accounts). The timeline does not follow precisely the dates suggested by other ancient texts, though precision of chronology was not a major concern of these authors.

The descriptions of sexual activity cannot, of course, be considered authentic, but must be understood as metaphorical, or perhaps a miscreant scribe’s later addition to the text.

The Letter to the Romans is generally accepted to have been written c. 58 AD, at a time at which the author of this Passion can be assumed to be approximately fifteen years of age; if, as the letter claims, she waited until her fiftieth year to commit the tale to paper, it may tentatively be dated c. 93 AD. Were it somehow to be authenticated, this text would have to be embraced by historical studies as not only the earliest example of Christian hagiography, but one of the earliest church writings preserved in its entirety to our modern age.

-Bishop W___, 15 July 1927


My story is not the one to be told, but I shall tell it, that a greater story, in which I was but a small part, becomes to you known, all to the Glory of God.

Brought was I to the great city of Rome at tender age, into the service of a house of a Roman senator. Though my name my pagan parents had given me was Armani, I was from Persian lands, and so to the Romans around me became Persis, a name which has followed me through my life. As my twelfth year drew to a close, I chanced to hear the words of the Apostle Paul, speaking in the center of the Great City of Rome, and through his words my heart was turned to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is glory and honor for ever and ever. And so I became a Christian, and when I thus professed my fate to my master, he ordered me beaten and confined to the house. Yet I worked my escape, and ran straightaway to Paul, throwing myself upon his mercy. Merciful was he indeed, for he delivered my life, as Christ delivered my soul, into the hands of two women of God.


Glory be to Saint Tryphaena, who (though her name means ‘delicate’) was sturdy and steadfast in the Lord! The house to which I was delivered was hers, where she alone had lived for many years; her husband had been struck dead of a fever less than a year after their marriage, and she, grieved and childless, resolved never to marry again and instead began a business with fabrics and dyes, making of herself a wealthy woman. She was a virtuous woman, though she did not know the Lord, and dealt fairly with all.

One night, she told me, a sudden storm had swept across the land, bringing with it tremendous clouds of rain and wind. And though she did not know why, Tryphaena was urged by a spirit she did not understand to open the front door of her house, though her servants cautioned her that such was madness. And there against the stoop, huddled against the rain and soaked to her skin, was a woman of her own age and in great distress. Though she did not yet know Him, Christ had known Tryphaena’s spirit was kind, and that in it was the seed for great work, and had moved her heart to open the door. For has Christ Himself not also been compared to the man who stands at the door and knocks, and are not those who are able to hear His voice and invite Him in to be thrice blessed?

Glory be to Saint Tryphosa, whose name indeed means ‘thrice-blessed’, and who numbered among those blessings her salvation from the storm that night. Though the women did not know one another, Tryphaena brought Tryphosa inside, and gave her warm clothing and a meal, and found herself entirely concerned with her visitor’s welfare. Tryphosa did not object, having that very evening been robbed and brutally attacked, and separated from her companions. When Tryphaena asked her guest who her companions had been, Tryphosa replied: I am a Christian, and my companions are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and we have come from Corinth to Rome following the man named Paul who once was Saul.

Though Tryphaena was a woman well-aware of the world, she had heard neither of Christ nor of Paul, and asked her guest: Who is this Christ, and who is this Paul that would leave you in such a state, helpless and alone?

Then Tryphosa said, It was not the doings of my companions, but my own, that brought this misfortune upon me. But behold, it was more greatly a blessing! For I was sent a vision that I would be led to the house of a godly woman upon whose ears had not yet fallen the Word of the Lord. Yet even as I set off alone, I did not know where that place should be, and would have passed your house entirely had not both weather and condition forced my stop.

At these words, Tryphaena marvelled, for she had felt in herself the calling to open the door even not knowing what she would find beyond it. Thus she asked Tryphosa, Who is this God you worship, Who has brought you to me in the storm?

Thus Tryphosa began to explain to her host the glory and majesty that had been at work on earth in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and how that work continued on in the person of Paul, who had been struck blind by the Lord and healed by the Apostle Ananias, and who had travelled the world far and wide preaching the Gospel. All night they talked, until the morning, when the storm had ceased and light had begun again to fill the sky, and they were no longer host and guest, but equals. It was then that Tryphosa, weakened from her ordeal and exhausted from the telling, begged a pause that she might rest; and Tryphaena ordered her brought not to a guest’s quarters, but to her own bed, and lay beside her there, held awake in awe and wonder by all she had been told.

From that day on, Tryphosa did not return to the her companions, but stayed with Tryphaena, instructing her in the Teachings of Christ, and also of the Prophets. In this alone was one ever greater than the other, for in all other aspects they became of one mind and heart, to where the word of one on a matter was as good as the word of the other, to where each even began to answer for the other. Some even began to mistake one for the other, so alike they were in disposition, though they differed greatly in countenance. And Tryphaena grew in knowledge and fullness of the Lord, and made of her home a place where Christians might gather and worship, and all in her household came to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

In their third year together, I was delivered unto them, and when my master heard I had fled and came to look for me, I trembled with fear that they should turn me back to him. But Tryphaena listened patiently to his grievances, and, when he was finished, offered him twice the sum of damages he had estimated that I might be allowed to remain in her household. As God hardened Pharoah’s heart, so did He soften my master’s, and at this price was my freedom bought (though it be nothing like the price for which my soul was purchased, with the very blood of God’s Son!): and so I came to dwell in their household.

For years we there remained, and both came to be as sisters and mothers alike to me, for though neither wished to consider herself greater than any other in the faith, they took great responsibility for all aspects of my rearing. And when I came to my sixteenth summer and was courted by suitors, for in my youth I was fair of face, I went to them and begged not to be made to marry, that my virginity be preserved for the Lord. And they so agreed, and Tryphaena made it be known that none should be allowed to take my hand in marriage; and Tryphosa stood as a sister with me in my decision, for she too had sworn never to take a husband for the preservation of her own virginity.

In that same summer, news came to our ears that several of our brothers and sisters in Christ had been brought before the Roman courts to the east and martyred for their faith. Upon hearing these words, Tryphaena and Tryphosa began to plan together to depart Rome and take up our fallen brethren’s cross of spreading the Gospel throughout the world.

Though they made plain their desire to go alone, I threw myself at their feet and wept, as Ruth to the feet of Naomi, begging them not to part me from them. Though they tried to make me stay, their attempts were in vain, and they saw that I would not be moved from my determination to stay at their side. Thus Tryphosa said to Tryphaena, See, she will come with us and we will be three, as the strangers who visited Abraham; and Tryphaena relented and allowed me to accompany them on their journey eastward. That very day we took upon our backs our own things and set out, three women together, with God’s Hand to protect us from all harm.


After many days of travel, we reached a city whose name I shall not recount here, that I do not wish to bring dishonour to its inhabitants, many of whom have since become Christians. But in that day, the Word of the Lord was unknown to them, and they were like children, not knowing the consequences of their actions. And so, when we arrived in the city, we found neither brethren to take us in nor shelter for three women. It was then Tryphosa, who had heard tell of the city before, took us to a house of ill repute, where lived many prostitutes.

At first I was taken aback, that we should associate with such persons, but Tryphosa silenced me, saying, Did not your Creator make them as well? And did we not all three come from ignorance, you and Tryphanea from pagans and idolaters, and only I from the line of Abraham; yet were we not all three raised into kinship in the love of Christ? Let none scorn his fellow man, no matter that man’s lowly state, for did not Christ eat with sinners, and lepers as well? And when I hung my head, abashed at my short-sightedness and shamed by the wisdom of her words, she kissed my on my brow, saying, All people of the earth are now the people of God, and though they may scorn and deride us for who we are, we shall not visit upon them the same.

Upon our arrival, I saw a beautiful woman stretched out along a cot, whose breasts were bare and adorned with precious metals, and then my eyes fell upon the lower half of her body, and I could see her legs were withered as from some childhood malady. When she saw us come in, she said: My name is called Claudia, for I am lame, and by this manner alone do I earn my living, but I am sympathetic to the plight of travellers, and will give you shelter for the night as is only right and hospitable.

Tryphaena knelt at her side and took her hand, which was decorated with earthen paints and ringed with gold, and said, How have you come to such a state?

Then Claudia recounted to us her tale: In my youth, I was struck by a careless chariot, and was thrown aside. While much of my body was unharmed, my legs were mangled such that no doctor could be found to set them straight. My family was not wealthy, and upon hearing of my impairment, no suitor would have me, and so my parents sold here because this was a place where my legs were of no use to me, and as such I would not feel their lack. I have been here now twenty summers, and these are my family and this is my home, yet now I am an old woman, and my beauty is fading, and when it is gone, what then shall I have?

Then Tryphaena pressed her hand to her lips, and whispered something none but the woman called Claudia could hear. Her brow furrowed, and she shook as though possessed by a fever, and all around her looked on in awe. Then she lifted her head and said aloud, Arise, sister, and walk! And Claudia drew the thin sheet that had partway obscured her knees, and behold, she stood! And all there were amazed to see her legs restored, and none so amazed as Claudia herself, who wept with joy.

Claudia said, Please, good lady, tell me what sorcery this is, that I might thank the god who gave you power to restore the lame!

And Tryphaena answered, No sorcery, but the Power of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, and who died and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, that Death and Hell might have no dominion! It is He who has raised you, and I am but His hands!

Then Claudia invited us in as her guests, and prepared a meal herself to show her gratitude. And as we ate, Tryphaena and Tryphosa talked of the wonders of Jesus the Christ, and all who heard were amazed. That night, many accepted Christ into their hearts, and the doors of the house did not open to men that night, as was customary, but remained closed to all customers until long after the oil in the lamps had burned down and the streets had been deserted.

That night I could not sleep, for my heart was filled with the wonders that I had seen. I wondered in my heart if my travelling companions had felt the same, and so I stole from where I lay alone in a small room, to the curtained chamber that they had been allowed as a sign of gratitude from Claudia and our new sisters. The night was dark and I carried no candle, and so I slipped in behind the heaviest curtain, until only a thin veil separated me from them, and the bright moonlight falling in the room illuminated them, but kept me in shadow. The sound of their voices stopped me before I made my presence known, and I held my breath and stood still as death in the space between the heavy velvet and the light damask, daring neither sound nor motion, yet the curtains moved in the night breeze through the open window, and thus any disturbance of my own surely would have appeared only the motion of the wind.

They had become entwined on the bed, skin fair and pale in the silver light, two figures so close in light and shadow that they might as well have been only one. Dimly through the veil could I see that Tryphaena’s dark hair had fallen free of its tight knot, spreading long and wild across the white sheets, and Tryphosa’s hair had done as well, its curls falling over her shoulders and curtaining their faces, and even had the night been day and the gloss between us vanished, their faces would have yet remained unknown to me. Tryphaena’s long arms reached up for Tryphosa’s hair, and pulled their faces closer together, obscuring them completely from me, and she spoke.

I will not recount here the words they said, though they echo in my mind still as clearly as the night I first heard them; for such are private things. Yet they were indeed words of devotion and love, vows of endurance the very likes of those which Ruth spoke to Naomi: Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. [Ruth 1:16-17] These were not words lightly chosen, nor newly said, but carried the weight of ritual, and of prayers repeated ceaselessly.

I drew my hand to my breast to hear them say so, for though I had never for an instant doubted the devotion they felt each to the other, it made my heart blossom to hear them say these things. Soundlessly I watched as they enacted their love for one another, and was brought to mind of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, saying: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. [John 13:34-35] Hear the words of the Saviour! For what are we Christians, then, if we can preach the Gospel to the nations, but cannot do something so simple as love?

Tryphosa covered her sister with kisses, and did so not out of obedience, but of joy, and Tryphaena gathered her sister’s curls in her hands and kissed them, anointing them not with tears as did the penitent woman at the feast, but laughter. For that long moment, I could not tell where one ended and the other began, and as their hands and bodies searched and found one another in the moon’s pale light, my eyes truly beheld that their hearts were no longer two, but one, and that as long as they lived, they would never part one from the other. The sounds of their breathing grew together, and melted together until there was only one breath behind the gauzy veil, and each spoke the other’s name.

When at last their stirrings ceased and their bodies stilled, they prayed together, each offering thanks to Christ for the other, and begging that she never be parted from her sister, that even in death they might sit together at the right hand of the Father, glorifying and praising Him together throughout eternity. And so they slept, one heart in two bodies. O blessed saints! O how your lives reflect the truth of the Savior’s words!

I stole from their chamber and returned silently to my bed, where I placed my hands upon my chest and watched as the moon made her bright course through the darkened sky, giving thanks to God for all I had seen that night.

When the morning came, we were accosted by the men of the town, who thought little of our time with our sisters and the change we had wrought in their hearts, and we were forced to flee from their anger, lest we be caught in its jaws. Bidding our newly restored sister and the rest of our new sisters farewell, we set off again along our journey.


Then came we several days later upon a larger village, where in the center of the town a great crowd had gathered, and asking as to the cause of this disturbance, we were told by an old woman: A virgin has been betrothed to a man bearing the name Publius Gallus, yet though he has come to take her from her father’s house to his, she will not come, and cries for aid, though aught may come to her, for Publius Gallus is a man of wealth and good reputation in the town, and none would seek to cause him offense.

At the hearing of this tale, Tryphosa grew grim and a pallor set upon her face, and she reached to draw her hand with Tryphaena’s, and Tryphaena said to her, Has the Lord put this upon your heart? And Tryphosa said, I pray you, let me be a voice for she whose voice is none. Having said this, she strode her way into the crowd, her countenance fierce, and we on her heels followed.

What sight then my eyes beheld! A girl, scarcely my own age, her bare heels thrust deep into the city street, until the ground was furrowed and her feet were bloodied, though ever she was dragged forward by two men of high dress, following a third even nobler in appearance than they. Though crowds had gathered all around, they parted to make way for this hideous procession, giving succor with naught save piteous glances. The virgin neither wailed nor called for aid, but spoke in a hushed voice, that I upon hearing it knew her shouts had left her already, and that this meagre protest was all her throat could manage. Streaks of tears cut her dust-stained cheeks as a plow’s furrows mark a field, and my heart was grieved to know that the fate to which she had been consigned was such a burden upon her.

Scarce had they taken five steps more when their progress ceased, for in their path stood Tryphosa, hands knotted to her sides, hair wild and dark come loose from its pins, and I found myself thinking of the she-demons in stories of my childhood. But Tryphosa was no demon there, but messenger [ed. lit. ἄγγελος, ‘angel’] of God’s Holy Word. The man with the most regal attire regarded her with contempt, and said to her, Have you quarrel with me woman? As you are a stranger here by the looks of you, I will take no offense that you neither know Publius Gallus by sight, nor have heard that the business of his property is not for outsiders. Return now to your husband or your harlotry, and allow us passage.

But Tryphosa stood fast, and spoke thusly the Word of God:

Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God. [see Matt. 5:8]

Blessed are they who love one another in the fulness of God’s grace; for their love is not as the Sin of Adam that brought corruption to mankind, but as the love of Christ, the Second Adam, who brings into the perishable world the imperishable truth of His Love.

Blessed are the merciful; for, having shown mercy, great mercy shall be shown unto them. [see Matt. 5:7]

Blessed are they who keep their flesh pure; for they shall be worthy to be the temple of God.

Blessed are the prisoners; for on the Last Day their chains shall be released, and the shackles that bound them loosed, and they shall stand before the Throne of God to judge them by whom they once were judged.

Blessed are the bodies and souls of virgins; for they are acceptable to God, and shall not lose the reward of their virginity; for the word of the Father shall prove effectual to their salvation in the day of His Son, and they shall enjoy rest for evermore.

Blessed are they whose bridegroom is Christ alone; for his marriage feast is the feast of eternity, and his marriage bed is the bed of salvation.

No sooner had she finished speaking these words than there came from the multitude a great cry, and from the crowd there stepped forth four hundred virgins of the town, who, having heart Tryphosa’s words, were moved in their hearts to come to the aid of their sister. They moved forth wildly, with hands outstretched and voices upraised, and the suitor and his two men were forced to flee into the crowd for fear that the women intended to do them great harm. Yet the women did not pursue the offenders, but crowded about their stolen sister, who, with grateful tears, embraced each of them in turn.

Having done so, they gathered at the feet of Tryphosa, she who had called them together that they might hear more of the saving Word of God. Accordingly, Tryphosa spoke to them of the life of Christ, who for the sins of many had hung upon the cross, yet who has come to bring liberation to the captive and release to the slave; for in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor freeman, female nor male, for who are baptised are made one by His saving Grace. [see Gal. 3:26-29] And for those who do not defile themselves, but who remain pure in love and in body, there shall come the future resurrection, where all the baptised shall be gathered unto eternal life.

And they asked of Tryphosa in one voice, Who is worthy to be baptised in the Lord? And she said unto them: All who repent of sin and wish to enter in one body into the love of Christ, they may enter the waters of baptism and be redeemed from death. And she led them to a river beside the town, and four hundred of them received the baptism of Christ, which cleanses not the body but the soul, and each one took an oath of her virginity.

Then at the shore of the river came again the men, and many more with them besides, who were the intended husbands of many of the virgins who had been baptised; and they said, Who is this woman, who deprives young men of their intended wives, and virgins of their intended husbands, by teaching, there can be no future resurrection but for they who continue in chastity, and do not defile their flesh? Let us stone her for her impudent words!

Yet as they gathered to stone Tryphosa, an angel appeared and sewed up their mouths, that they could not speak angry and blasphemous words against a servant of the Lord; and they went away, frightened by the awesome power and might of the Lord.

Now the virgin who had been saved from the unjust marriage was of the name Elisheva, who was also known as Elisabet, and her heart rejoiced that she had been set free as a bird from a cage, and she bade us come with her to the house of her father that evening. And there, when we arrived, her mother raced to the door and gathered her daughter in her arms, for she had never wished such a marriage upon her daughter; yet her husband had arranged the betrothal shortly before his death, and she his widow had not wanted to go against his wishes. But seeing Elisheva now, her heart broke in its false resolve, and she fell to her knees, crying, My daughter, my daughter, can you forgive an old and foolish woman?

And Elisheva took her in her arms and kissed her and said, Mother, I am yet wedded to the Lord, and for Him shall keep myself pure all my days; now dry your eyes, and fix a place for my sisters, who have come to me in my hour of need. And her mother took us in to her house, and prepared for us a meal, and gave to us a room in which we three might stay.

That night, Tryphaena and Tryphosa lay on either side of me, and I in the middle of the mat, my head again awake with all the wonders I had seen that day. And they gathered close to me, one at each side, and I lay between them as a child between its parents, safe from the harsh hand of the world. And there in the dark, with their hands upon me, I could scarce tell one from the other, for they had become to me as one being, whole and perfect in its merging, a unity of two souls who each without the other stood incomplete; for they had become one in spirit and in desire.

Hands pressed to part my robes, and I was laid bare as on the day of my birth, as well as on the day of my baptism, which is the second birth. Tryphaena leaned my head to her breast, and I suckled at her as a child at the breast of its mother, and she spoke to me words of love in a voice nearly robbed of its breath, and my heart was filled and I began to weep, for the she spoke of a time at which she would have to depart from my side. It was then her hands stroked my hair, and she told me: Let bodies when they are together be together as bodies will be, for bodies will one day be parted, yet our souls will remain fast to one another for all eternity.

At this time, Tryphosa drew towards me, and placed her hands upon my skin, and pressed kisses to my neck and shoulders, saying nothing of love with her lips, but letting her actions speak for her. Her hands pressed low about my belly, then moved between my legs, and I felt from there a rush of warmth such as I had not felt before. I might then have cried out had not Tryphaena lifted my mouth from her breast and pressed it to her own mouth, and breathed into herself all my spirit and voice; and I was made silent in the dark sea of the room, between the anchors of their bodies.

Presently I felt within myself a stirring, as though my body were being inhabited by some exterior force, and I drew from Tryphaena’s embrace to tell her of my distress. But the wise saint hushed me with her words, assuring me that as long as they held me, I would be safe, and at her assurances, I gave myself over to the sensation completely. Tryphosa’s hands continued to press against my skin, drawing from my frame great shudders, and at last I felt my entire being awaken from within me, and might have cried out had Tryphaena not again pressed her mouth to mine, taking into her my words.

It was at this moment I recalled the words spoken to me by another sister in Christ, she herself a missionary and a scribe: If we love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us [1 John 4:12]; and I lay pressed tight between them, helpless and at ease, as the fever from inside me subsided, and I found myself again.

Tryphosa then laughed, and drew my hair from my sweat-dampened brow, saying, Thanks be to the God who has brought you to us. And I said, Thanks be to God for bringing me to you, that I might know the love of Christ through you. And Tryphosa drew me close to her and kissed my mouth, and I could taste upon her lips the sweetness of the prayer which she had offered up for me.

Then she lifted her mouth from mine and placed her lips to Tryphaena’s, and there they continued their prayer, as I beheld close within my grasp the sight I had beheld nights before only from a distance, the manifestation of their love for one another. They reached for one another, yet did not cast me aside, but held me between them, as steady as ever I had been.

Tryphosa placed her hand atop mine, and my hand became hers, and she guided it to Tryphaena’s breast, then to the fork of her legs as she had done with me, and I trembled at the touch there, for all about her was such a softness and a warmth that I could hardly bear. Yet Tryphaena herself reached for me, and her body became my own, and I knew her as I knew myself. After a time, I moved, and now my hands were Tryphaena’s, and my body Tryphosa’s, and from her and from myself she and I drew the same sweetness. And for these moments all words were erased; for at that time I became part of their unity, and we were not two or three but one, held fast in love.

From there I felt sleep tug tightly at me, and though my wish to stay awake was great, my eyelids grew heavy and I could not keep them open. Thus Tryphaena stroked my hair and said, Let our hearts be joined, that when the strife is over, our hearts will meet again.

At these words I wept silently, for I knew then in my heart I would be soon parted from them whom I loved, though I did not know how.

Before I was taken by sleep, I felt myself held between them at their breasts, and knew that close by me their mouths joined together, and they spoke to one another again the words of Ruth to Naomi: Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. And my heart was put to rest at the sound of their love for one another, and I slept.

I awoke to find that they had already dressed and gathered themselves, and stood at the door of the house to meet a throng of soldiers who had arrived to arrest them and bring them before the tribune for charges of disturbing the peace. Then I shed bitter tears at the thought that they should go without me, but they said to me, Here you must stay, for we go to meet our Lord, but you must take the tale of what has happened here back to our brothers and sisters in Christ. And with this, they departed forever from me.


Though they bade me follow them no further, I, Persis, stole into the proceedings in the guise of a youth, and thus am able to recount the miracles that there occured.

They were brought before the tribunal together, for Tryphaena being a citizen of Rome, to do otherwise would be to neglect the law. There they were told, You are women still of marriageable age; certainly you should be home with your husbands, and not abroad on the land, tempting young girls to turn from the intended husbands who are theirs by rights of law, and teaching that the way to eternal life is through remaining unwed. Make sacrifices to the gods and to the emperor’s prosperity, that by your right actions you may be saved.

And Tryphaena and Tryphosa answered in one voice: I am a Christian. Then the procurator passed sentence on them and condemned them to the beasts, and they were led to the dungeon, and there they remained for a fortnight, with none allowed to visit or bring them aid or comfort. There in the dungeon, it was later told to me, they were surrounded by their jailers and the adjutant, in whose charge the prison was, and they would have had their purity wrenched from them had not an angel visited them and kept they who might have done them harm away with a flaming sword, that the saints were able to spend their time in jail fasting and praying with one another in safety.

Then dawned the day of their victory, and they were led from the dungeon to the arena, where a host of fierce beasts awaited them; yet they were at peace in their countenances, and strode forth into the midst of the crowd arm in arm, each lending the other strength.

I shall attempt my best to recount the tale of their great witness, yet what words are there for such a display of courage and faithfulness in the Lord? Can any account convey the full depth of the sacrifice by any martyr of Christ? My own words are meagre, and what few I have acquired are insufficient for the glory of their suffering and triumph! Nevertheless, here I shall try:

The tribune ordered them forth into the light, and gave to them one last chance to repent; yet they would no longer look upon him nor speak to him, but only gaze with love upon each other. Furious, he then ordered into the arena a maddened she-bear, who having recently whelped, had then too quickly been robbed of her cubs, for even the sex of their animal tormentor had been chosen to mock their status as women; and she tore forth from her den, enraged and with teeth and claws bared, to savage the women who had been placed before her. Yet Tryphaena stepped forward and raised her hand, and all at once the bear was still; and Tryphaena spoke to the bear, saying, Do not harbour us ill will, for we are like you, that we are mothers who have been robbed of our beloved child, and who will not in this life see her again. And though they wished for the crown of martyrdom to be placed upon their heads, even at their moment of triumph, with their hour of glory so close at hand, they would not see another soul caught in torment. With this the bear was silenced, and Tryphaena went forth and placed her hand against the cheek of the bear, and the engentled bear licked at her hand, and all who were assembled caught their breath and were amazed.

At this, the tribune was enraged and he yelled at his soldiers to open the second gate; and from this gate came forth a maddened bull, to whose thighs had been applied irons of hottest red in order that it might be filled with greatest furor; and it charged forth, striking both Tryphaena and Tryphosa, and knocking them to the ground, washing them by the second baptism, which is the baptism of blood. Yet even as it caused great injury to the two saints, the she-bear raged at it, tearing her claws deep into the side of the bull and rending its flesh, and the bull’s anger found itself brought forth upon the she-bear, and the two tore each other limb from limb.

The horn of the great bull had caught Tryphosa at the hip, and though she tried with every pain to stand, she could no longer; and Tryphaena went to her side, and bore her to her feet, that she might not later be said to have shown reluctance at the hour of their triumph. From the distance I was forced to keep, I could not hear the words they spoke to one another, but saw their lips moving, and knew they again had made to one another the promise of Ruth to Naomi, and my heart was filled both with joy knowing at their victory was upon them, and great sorrow that such torments might be visited upon those who so truly loved one another, and I wept to know they were able to fulfill their promise.

Then the third gate was opened, and from it burst forth a she-lion whose claws and fierce teeth tore their garments and cause the whole crowd to gasp in astonishment, that two women might endure such a savage fate, and many wept to see such faithfulness brought to such a pained end. Yet as the she-lion retreated, the women stood, their linens ragged but still intact sufficiently as to preserve their modesty, and the skin beneath them only bloodied, not gored. It was then Tryphosa stood, always at Tryphaena’s side, and raised her head, saying: All you who derided us and sought to cause us injury because of our purity, behold! today we go to meet our bridegroom, who is Christ the Lord, and in his arms will we rest for all eternity, as true spouses of Christ.

When it seemed no beast could do them injury sufficent to bring about their deaths, the tribune ordered forth two swordsmen, both young and beardless, and they bared their swords at the women, who did not protest, but held one another close, and when the soldiers tried to separate them they found the two women held fast by their love for one another; and so the swordsmen brought their swords to the women’s sides, for they could not reach their throats, so close as they cleaved to one another. And their swords were readied and thrust into the saints’ sides, with greatest might, as the centurion at the crucifixion of Christ struck His side, from whence flowed blood and water; and the two women fell to the ground with no further sound, having each surrendered her soul and gone home to be with her beloved.


These things I have seen in my youth; I am now in my fiftieth year, where I have continued steadfast in my service to Christ. Three times have I been offered the second baptism, and three times have I refused, for though I too desire to go home as did my sisters these many years before me, and to make my witness, I have preserved my own life that I might make known to the world what has been shown to me of these two women. I have learned to write, trusting none other with my tale, and thus have I these words inscribed.

As I neared completion of this account, as it took me many days to make the telling, there came to me a vision in my dream, where I was standing at the top of a great staircase, which I had climbed, and around me stood a multitude in white, and they were the saints, at rest from their labours. And I saw blessed Saint Stephen, first among the martyrs, and the apostle John, whom Jesus had so loved, and they said to me: You are welcome here, daughter of God, for you have toiled long in the service of the Lord, and have all your days been faithful, and have told the truth of the great martyrs Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who are exalted among all for their dedication and faithfulness. And I said to them, Please, tell me where I may find them, that I might again see them and hear them speak to me.

And behold, I was led to another staircase, and this I ascended alone, and as I reached the top, I beheld the room where we three had spent our last night together, and there I saw them again, lain down as I had seen them then, their robes no longer washed with scarlet but now a snow white. And in the midst of them lay a third figure, whom I knew instantly to be the Lord Jesus, and I fell at His feet and wept, saying: Lord, forgive me that I have not joined my sisters in the second baptism.

Upon hearing my cries, Jesus rose and took me in His arms, saying: Do not weep, for I have preserved you until this time; for their witness must be told far and wide. And he lay me down on the mat between them where he had once lay, and they again took me in their arms, holding me as a child. And they said: Do not weep, for you have done as we said not for love of yourself or your own life, but for love of we who have gone before you in the service of the Lord; for your heart is pure and faithful, and you have kept yourself undefiled, for though you have taken a husband you have had him as though you have had no husband, and he has had you as though he has had no wife, and for such devotion and self-control are you to be praised, not chastised. Behold here the reward that awaits they who have kept themselves undefiled, for they shall no longer know pain nor grief nor suffering, even the suffering that the Lord Christ knew as he hung on the cross. And he showed me his hands and feet and side, and lo, they were healed of their wounds, and I knew these words to be true.

It was then I awoke and took to paper with renewed vigor my new task, and lo, here it is at its completion. May God add His blessing to these words and to those who read them and know their truth, that these new wonders also may testify that same Holy Spirit who works even now, for though the Father and the Son reside in Heaven, the Holy Spirit remains yet behind, to guide and comfort the faithful until the Last Day, when we shall all be healed; and with the Holy Spirit God the Father Almighty, and His Son Jesus Christ Our Lord, to Whom is glory and power unending for ever and ever. Amen.

illustrated by tongari

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