Saturday 29 December 2012

The Three Kinds of Martyrdom from The Cambrai Homily

There are three different types of martyrdom catagorized in the text of the seventh- or eighth-century Cambrai Homily:

Now there are three kinds of martyrdom that are counted as a cross to us, namely, white, blue and red martyrdom.

The white martyrdom for someone is when they part for the sake of God from everything that they love, although they may suffer fasting and hard work thereby.

The blue martyrdom is when through fasting and hard work they control their desires or struggle in penance and repentance.

The red martyrdom is when they endure a cross or destruction for Christ’s sake, as happened to the Apostles when they persecuted the wicked and taught the law of God.

These three kinds of martyrdom take place in those people who repent well, who control their desires, and who shed their blood in fasting and labour for Christ’s sake.

Celtic Spirituality, ed. by O. Davis, T. O’Loughlin, Paulist Press, Classics of Western Spirituality series, 1999, p. 370.

These translators have chosen to follow scholar Clare Stancliffe in translating the second type of martyrdom as 'blue' rather than 'green' as is more common. Footnote 175 on page 474 is also helpful:
This motif occurs also in a sermon from the Catechesis Celtica. In her article "Red, White and Blue Martyrdom" in Ireland in Early Medieval Europe, pp 21-46, Clare Stancliffe shows that this theme originates in early monastic texts, such as the Life of St Anthony and Life of St Martin and perhaps passes to Ireland with a more developed association with colours in the work of the fifth-century Spanish author, Bachiarius. Stancliffe concludes: "Red martyrdom denotes death for Christ's sake; white, the daily martyrdom of ascetic life; and blue the tears, hardships and fasting of the penitent" (p.44). 

I suppose it would be fair to say that the early Irish church was distinguished more for white and blue martyrdom than for red. The majority of early Irish martyrs met with their red martyrdom in territories outside Ireland, saints like Blathmac of Iona who gave his life in the defence of the relics of Saint Columba or saints martyred on the European continent by hostile pagans, such as Killian of Würzburg or Coloman of Austria. Saint Odhran, the charioteer of Saint Patrick, is thus a very rare species indeed - the native martyr who met his death on Irish soil.

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Χρήστος said...

Saint Donan of Eigg also suffered the red martyrdom according to a prophesy of saint Columba. A biography of the saint here:

Marcella said...

Yes, I know, I posted an account of St Donan and the martyrs here in 2013: