‘Jesus Christ is my only spouse’ – Agnes
If I had to pick just one word to describe this young soul, I’d use the word ‘fearless’. What is it with these young ones who were martyred for their faith and their giant souls of courage? What is that? In short, it’s Jesus, but in the same breath there is tremendous awe and wonder, and Agnes is no different in that regard.
When I would speak with young women on the feminine genius, I’d share her story a bit like this:
A young 12/13yr old girl living her life with a family of wealth, wants nothing else than to commit her life to Jesus, totally and completely. Yet, at even such a young age she was being sought after as a bride for men who saw her beauty and wealth, were drawn to it, and wanted it all for themselves. Suiter after suiter, she rejected them, and they walked away disappointed and some disgruntled. One, decided to take vengeance. You see, in Agnes’ day, being a follower of Jesus is something that wasn’t only socially frowned upon like today, back in 300AD, you were killed for it.
He dobbed her in and this 12-year-old girl received the death sentence for refusing to deny Jesus as her Lord and saviour.
Sometimes, we hear stories of these little-giant souls, and we gloss over it, not allowing it to impact us because we know the ‘facts’ of the story and there’s nothing ‘new’ here. But if we pause and just allow their stories to sink in, to put ourselves in their story as witnesses, we can allow our hearts to experience something that can be an opening for a new gift of wisdom from God.
Let’s try that for a moment, shall we?
Take yourself back to a couple of memories of when you were 12. What school did you go to? Who did you live with? Picture what you looked like. Who were your friends? Were you a regular church goer, or more rebellious? What were you really into at that age? Was there a show, a game, a trend you liked?
Now engage your imagination here.
Imagine you had a friend named Agnes whom you admired. There was just something about her. She didn’t go to your school, but you saw each other after school, she’d come to hang out and play with a few of you. That young girl was just like every other, except that she seemed extra kind, generous, gentle and she would tell you regularly ‘another man wanted me to marry him today, and I told him the same as all the ones before – Jesus Christ is my only spouse’. You’re intrigued by that, what does that even mean? And one day, your 12-year-old self asked her. She tells you ‘I’ve made a vow to God, that I will remain single, and a virgin all my life – to be united to Jesus wholeheartedly’. At first, you might be a bit shocked ‘aren’t you a bit young to make that kind of decision, Agnes? What if later you change your mind? What will your parents say?’ and in Agnes’ usual gentle, and patient way, she smiles and reaffirms that Jesus is the love of her life, now and forever. You just accept that there is something about Agnes.
The next week, Agnes doesn’t come to hang out like usual, in fact some of the other kids are missing too. You find out everyone has gathered a few streets away and Agnes has been tortured for days. You run, and when you get there, there are crowds. Some crying, some laughing. They talk amongst themselves ‘Did you hear? She was dragged through the streets naked and the men who tried to abuse, her lost their sight’ and ‘Did you hear? They tried to burn her, but the fire just seemed to separate and didn’t touch her’. Others said ‘Oh get on with it already, she must be punished. How dare she say no to the Governor for that Jesus guy? We will have chaos if the Governor doesn’t have order and control’.
Your eyes are frantically looking for Agnes, where is she? You’re so little, and you can’t see over the adult crowd around you. One of your adult cousins spots you, and pulls you aside and says, ‘you shouldn’t be here!’ and you explain ‘that’s my friend!’. Your cousin quickly covers your mouth and says ‘Shhh! You can’t say stuff like that, it’s dangerous!’. You become paralysed as you see little Agnes in her torn clothes and messy hair. You see the chains that are too big for her around her wrists and ankles dragging as she steps up onto the stage. You almost didn’t recognise her, except that she has the same, peaceful, patient and kind look on her face that you know so well.
The executioner mocks her, and her face doesn’t change, and you wonder ‘Does she realise what’s happening?’ After some time, she eventually turns to the executioner and says to him ‘I will be his, who first chose me for himself. Executioner, why do you delay?’ (from a treatise written by Ambrose) his face becomes pale and white, and he stops, frozen in his tracks. Did she really just ask him why he’s hesitating? Why isn’t she running? Or putting up a fight? But her demeanour remains unchanged, in fact, she moves closer to the executioner and looks on him with loving eyes. Those eyes take you back to Jesus’s own words to Pilot:
‘You have no authority over me, except that which has been given you from above; for this reason, he who delivered me to you has the greater sin’ (John 19:11).
His hands begin to shake, and you see fear in his eyes. With that, the crowd goes silent. What is it that we’re witnessing? And why does it feel like this is holy? The executioner lifts his hand, and as your cousin covers your eyes once more, with one blow you can hear her fall to her death. In Ambrose’s words ‘Agnes preserved her virginity and gained a martyrs crown’.
When we put ourselves in her story, we can allow our hearts to be moved. At Virtue Ministry, her fearless love for Jesus brings us to tears and encourages us to never hold back on speaking the Gospel truth into the places that we are called in to. We try to model her purity of heart to love like her regardless of what work or state in life we’re in. Agnes in Latin comes from ‘agnus’ meaning lamb, and you’ll often see images of her portrayed as holding a lamb for this reason. It also has a Greek translation of chaste, pure, and sacred. All the things that describe our little-giant soul and friend in heaven, Agnes.
by Stina Constantine
Founder of Virtue Ministry