In AD 316, the Roman empire is rapidly transforming under the rule of Constantine. Where Christians once feared for their very lives, a prominent ally now presides—but evil still prowls in dark corners of the empire.
Bishop Sylvester commissions Flavia, a senator’s daughter, to take a covert petition to Constantine to erect grand basilicas in Rome and determine the canon of scripture. But he knows this is a dangerous request. Even as paganism is dying, the church has powerful enemies and they’re on the move.
Once separated by fate, Flavia and hardened warrior Rex are reunited for their perilous quest on behalf of the catholic church. Traveling by land and sea, the pair are thrown into mortal danger as they strive to free the Roman people from the tyranny of wicked rulers and forge a tenuous future for Christianity.
Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.
Tell us something about where you live.
The city of my birth is the capital of the world—eternal Rome. Have you ever seen it? There is no place like it on earth! Never have so many people been gathered in one place. Everything you can imagine can be found in Rome: theaters, music halls, chariot racing, bath houses, temples, and of course, the amphitheater for gladiators. Great beauty can be found in Rome—and also great evil.
At the moment, though, I am not living in Rome. I have taken up residence in a remote place: the island of Sicilia. I live with other devoted sisters in a convent. It is a simple life, a peaceful one. My mother is with me. I have much time for contemplation. Everything about my life is happy, except that I long for . . . well, let us not speak of what is not yet.
Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?
Mine is an ancient family name, going back to the founding of Rome. Like every girl of noble birth, I am named for my father. He is Senator Neratius Junius Flavianus, so I am Lady Junia Flavia. But no longer am I called “lady.” Now I am just a humble sister like all the others. My former world of wealth and politics is in the past. Everyone just calls me Flavia.
Do you have an occupation, Flavia? What do you like or dislike about your work?
My days consist of simple chores. We tend a garden. We sweep the floors. We prepare meals of bread and vegetables. We gather for prayers and readings from the holy books that some are starting to call “the bible.” Though I am happy, I also have the sense that God is about to do something more in my life.
Who are the special people in your life?
My mother dwells with me in the convent, Lady Sabina Sophronia. And my best friend among the sisters is Cassiopeia, from Aethiopia. Cassi does not yet speak Latin with fluency, so I am teaching her that tongue. And she teaches me about her home in Africa, where the Nilus River has its beginnings.
Is there anyone else who is special to you?
Not at this time. My father is a scoundrel, and he is gone from us. There is no one else.
Are you sure?
Well, perhaps there is another. I had a . . . a good friend once. His given name is Brandulf, for he was born of the Germani. But within the borders of our empire, everyone calls him Rex. We were very close friends, and we shared many dangers and adventures together. Now, though, he is in exile far away with the Roman navy.
What is your heart’s deepest desire?
I will admit that I long to see Rex once more. His presence in my life gave me strength. Often, I scan the eastern sea, hoping to spy the sail that will bring him to me again. And yet, in truth, to be reunited with Rex is not my deepest desire. Even deeper is my desire to be faithful. And this means accepting the will of the Lord, even when it is hard.
Do you have a cherished possession?
The sisters share all property in common. Yet here in my room, I keep this little book and read from it often. Do you see its title? Ah, perhaps you do not read Greek. It says, in our Latin tongue, The Letters of Paul. These are some of the sacred passages that belong within the canon.
What do you expect the future will hold for you?
I am a young woman, just twenty-two. It may be that I shall live out my life here in Sicilia. Or perhaps the Lord has more adventures for me. Who can know the future?
What have you learned about yourself in the course of your story?
When I was a girl, wealth and privilege were part of my life. I thought I was in control. Now I am like a twig on a stream, carried where the currents take me. It is a humbling place to be. Yet I know that my God is good. I will await what he has in store for me. Look here at what it says in my book, in the Letter to the Philippians. “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow.” I am trying to learn to do this day by day.
Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better!
About the Author
Bryan Litfin is the author of The Conqueror, Every Knee Shall Bow, and the Chiveis Trilogy, as well as several works of nonfiction, including Early Christian Martyr Stories, After Acts, and Getting to Know the Church Fathers. A former professor of theology at the Moody Bible Institute, Litfin earned his PhD in religious studies from the University of Virginia and his ThM in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Bryan is head of strategy and advancement at Clapham School, a classical Christian school in Wheaton, Illinois. He and his wife have two adult children and live in Wheaton, Illinois. Learn more at www.BryanLitfin.com.