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WITH PRIMITIUS, THE PRESBYTER.
HE venerable presbyter laid his hand fami
liarly on the young man's shoulder and conducted him into a smaller, but much more elegantly finished, apartment. It contained no graves, save an arched tomb which had never been used; at one side was a shelf for lamps. The whole surface of the wall was covered with hard white stucco, which was divided into panels by bands and borders of brilliant red and blue, as shown in the cut on next page. The vaulted ceiling was similarly divided. The angles were filled in with elegant floral designs, and the panels with Biblical and symbolical paintings, which Primitius began now to explain.
“Thou seest, my son," he said, “that central group above the arch. That represents the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep. Thou perceivest He bears the lost sheep upon His shoulders, and gently leads those which follow Him. Even so, all we, like sheep, have gone astray, but the blessed Saviour seeks the erring, and brings them into the safe and true foll.
Thou seest to the left the figure between the two lions. That is Daniel in the lion's den; and to the right are the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace. These, my son, are symbols of the Church of Christ, amid the wild beasts and the fires of persecutions. But she shall be delivered unhurt; she shall come forth unscathed. In the ceiling you will observe praying figures between lambs, the emblems of the Church, the Bride which is the Lamb's wife, perpetually engaged in adoration and prayer.” · The youth was deeply impressed, and almost awed, to see the silvery-haired old man, a refugee from persecution, in these subterranean crypts, with the full assurance of faith, confronting all the power of the persecuting despot of the world, and predicting the triumph of that oppressed Church which was compelled to seek safety in those dens and caves of the earth.
The good old man then sought to impart the great truths of our holy religion to his new catechumen, and to implant in his soul the same germs of lofty faith that flourished in his own. With this object he led him through the long corridors and chambers of the vast encampment of death-a sort of whispering gallery of the past, eloquent with the expression of the faith and hope of the silent sleepers in their narrow cells.
"Listen, my son," said Primitius, “to the testimony of the dead in Christ, and of the martyrs for the truth,” and pausing from time to time before some inscribed or painted slab, he jointed out the lofty hopes which sustained their souls in the very presence of death.
“ Here,” he said, entering again the chamber he had first left, “is the sepulchre of my own beloved wife. When depressed and lonely, I come hither and derive strength and consolation by reading the words which she requested, with her dying breath, should be written on her tonıb,” and with deep emotion he traced with his finger the inscription :-*
PARCITE VOS LACRIMIS DVLCIS CVM CONIVGE NATAE
VIVENTEMQVE DEO CREDITE FLERE NEFAS. “Refrain from tears, my sweet children and husband, and believe that it is forbidden to weep for one who lives in God.”
“And here,” he went on, “is the tomb of our little child," and Isidorus read with softened spirit the words :
AGNELLVS DEI— PARVM STETIT APVD NOS ET
PRAECESSIT NOS IN PACE.
“God's little lamb- he stayed but a short time with us, and went before us in peace.”
“And here,” said Primitius, “is the couch of
* The following, except the last one, are all authentic inscriptions from the Catacombs, selected from many hundreds, translated by the writer in his volume on this subject.
our eldest daughter," and he read, with caressing tones, her epitaph :
ANIMA DVLCIS INNOCVA SAPIENS ET PVLCIIRA
NON MORTVA SED DATA SOMNO. “A sweet spirit, guileless, wise, beautiful. She is not dead but sleepeth.”
“This is certainly very different,” said Isidorus, “from two epitaphs I read to-day upon the pagan tombs on the Appian Way. They ran thus :
DECIPIMVR VOTIS ET TEMPORE FALLIMVR ET MORS
DERIDET CVRAS ANXIA VITA NIHIL. "We are deceived by our vows, misled by time, and death derides our cares ; anxious life is naught.”
INFANTI DVLCISSIMO QVEM DEI IRATI AETERNO
SOMNO DEDERVNT. “ To a very sweet child, whom the angry gods gave to eternal sleep."
“ Yes,” said Primitius, "nothing can sustain the soul in the presence of death, but such faith as that of my friend Eutuchius, who sleeps here;” and he read the lofty line
IN CHRISTVM CREDENS PREMIA LVCIS HABET.
Believing in Christ, he has the rewards of the light (of heaven)."
“Similar are these also," and he pointed to the following ill-written, but sublime, epitaphs, which Isidorus slowly spelled out :