Today the Church observes the feast of St. Ambrose of Milan. In a letter (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 10, pg 438) written to his sister, the future saint speaks of the discovery and reposition of the remains of two martyrs, Gervasius and Protasius. We read:
Let these triumphant victims be brought to the place where Christ is the victim. But He upon the altar, Who suffered for all; they beneath the altar, who were redeemed by His Passion. I had destined this place for myself, for it is fitting that the priest should rest there where he has been wont to offer, but I yield the right hand portion to the sacred victims; that place was due to the martyrs. Let us, then, deposit the sacred relics, and lay them up in a worthy resting-place, and let us celebrate the whole day with faithful devotion.
The esteem given to martyr witnesses is apparent. As was the Church in general, St. Ambrose was well aware of chapter 6, verse 9 from the Book of Revelation. “When he broke open the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered because of the witness they bore to the word of God. They cried out in a loud voice, “How long will it be, holy and true master, before you sit in judgment and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” Each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to be patient a little while longer until the number was filled of their fellow servants and brothers who were going to be killed as they had been.”
St. Ambrose received his wish, as his remains to this day rest underneath the main altar of the Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan. And at his side rest the remains of Sts. Gervasius and Protasius – they in red, he in white.