Irene, martyr of Thessalonica

April 20, 1945 Maria Valtorta

I see with insistence the remains of a charred human body. It is a sight that inspires pity and awe. It is so consumed by the flames that it looks like a shapeless iron statue taken from the bottom of the sea. The main lines of the nose, the cheekbones and the chin are still identifiable on the head, but the roundness of the cheeks, the fleshy part of the nose, the ears and the lips are missing. Everything is dried out or destroyed. The extremities, for example, are also missing: both the arms and the legs resemble semi-carbonized branches, which the heat has changed their appearance: it is as if wax were covering the tendons which, twisted by the combustion, have made the feet and hands contract and twist. Naturally the hair and eyebrows are missing. I could not tell whether this miserable being lying on the remains of a fire that has already been extinguished, was a man or a woman, whether he was young or mature, blond or brown. As for the place, it seems to be the suburbs of a city, a place where the countryside begins, a desolate, stony, dreary area.

I look and look at that poor body abandoned in such a place and I ask myself: "Who are you?

For many hours I don't get an answer. But now, even though I find myself in

I see it animated by people dressed in old-fashioned clothes who are preparing a formidable bonfire with sashes mixed with small sturdy logs, a solid bonfire, fit to burn properly. I also see that, from the city side, a procession of soldiers and townspeople is arriving. I do not know what city it is, but it is surely a city near the sea, which can be seen shining there in the background under the midday sun.

In the midst of this procession is a young girl; she is little more than a teenager. They lead her to the bonfire. The bonfire was meant for her. She goes there, calm, confident, with the same dreamy expression of supreme peace that I have always seen reflected in the faces of the martyrs.

A woman, covered by a veil, follows her to the foot of the stake and greets her there. From her rather abundant forms and from the little that can be seen when she lifts the veil to kiss the young girl, it is understood that she is an old woman. He does not say a word to her. He only kisses her in tears. They try to reject her and harshly force her to move away while the first flames, lit in the dry heather of the fajinas, lick the pile. They say to her: "Why are you interested in this rebel? Are you related to her? Go away. You cannot comfort Caesar's enemies". With dignity not without haughtiness, the old woman replies: "I am Anastasia, a Roman lady, and she is my sister. I have the right to stand by her as I stood by the sisters of yesterday. Leave me here or I will appeal to the emperor."

They allow her to stay and she looks at the young girl, towards whom tongues of flame and billows of smoke rise and engulf her at times. She sees that she is serene and smiles at her spiritual dream, insensible to the flames that devour her, beginning with her hair, which burn in a smoking tongue of fire, and then pass to her clothes... until, instead of the white tunic, scorched by the flames, the very instrument of martyrdom forms for her a splendid attire of living fire that hides her from the gaze of the crowd.

"Farewell, Irene. Remember me when you are at peace," exclaims Anastasia. And, behind the veil of fire, the calm and youthful voice answers her: "Goodbye. I'm already talking about you with...". But nothing is heard but the roaring crackle of the flames....

When they understand that death has come, the soldiers and the executioners of the sentence move away and leave only the bonfire to accomplish the total destruction.

Anastasia does not move. Steadfast in the midst of the burning fire and the sun, which hits hard in this arid area, she waits... until the shadows of twilight arrive, in which a spark that has survived among the wood of the bonfire glows faintly and seems to write mysterious words, which narrate in the shadows the glories of the young martyr.

Then, Anastasia moves. She does not go towards the bonfire but towards a ruined hut that is not far away, lost in the middle of a bare field. In the light of the first moonbeam, she resolutely enters a small abandoned orchard, leans over the well and knocks. Her voice resounds with echoes in the cavity of the well. Several voices answer her. Then, one after another, some shadows emerge from the well - which must be dry.

"Come along. There is no one here. Come before she is outraged. She has died like an angel, just as she has lived. I have not touched the ashes because... I have given her everything, as the Father of my soul has commanded me. But... oh, it's too horrible to see a young lily reduced to charcoal!".

"Step aside, ma'am. We'll do it for you."

"No. I must get used to this ordeal. He has told me so. But then I will not be alone. She and the sisters, in company with the angels, will be by my side. For For now, O brothers of Thessalonica, stay with me.

They go to the bonfire, which is now definitely extinguished: it is only a heap of scattered ashes, on which is perched the charred body I saw before. Anastasia weeps quietly while, with the help of the Christians, she wraps in a precious cloth the body that the flames have mummified. Then they place it on a parihuela and the small, pious cortege makes its way along the edge of the city and arrives at a beautiful house, very spacious. They enter and, in the cemetery dug in the garden, they deposit the corpse, while one of them, surely a priest, blesses it in the middle of the slow chants of those present.