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Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr

Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr, November 22

Cecilia was early recognized as one of the most illustrious of virgin Martyrs. Therefore, along with Lucy, Agnes, and Agatha, her name is mentioned in the Gregorian Canon. Her story, and that of Valerian and Tiburtius, her companions, is told as followeth.

Saint Cecilia
Cecilia was a Roman maiden of noble birth, trained up from her earliest years in the teaching of the Christian Faith, who vowed herself unto God in virginity. Given in marriage, against her will, to Valerian, she said to him on their wedding night : Balerian, I am under the guardianship of an Angel who keepeth me always a maiden ; therefore touch me not lest the anger of God, be aroused against thee. And Valerian was in such wise moved at her words that he dared not touch her, and even said that he fain would believe in Christ if haply he might see the Angel. Whereupon Cecilia urged him to be baptized, and for the sake of seeing the Angel he was willing. So she urged him unto Urban the Bishop, who was hiding in the sepulchre of the Martyrs on the Appian Way, on account of the persecution. And he went and was baptized.
Thence he came back to Cecilia, and found her praying, and the Angel with her, shining from the glory of God. Whereupon, as soon as he had recovered from the wonder and fear thereof, he brought his brother Tiburtius, whom Cecilia also taught Christ, and who was baptized by the same Urban, and who also was vouchsafed to see the Angel. A little thereafter the brothers both bravely suffered martyrdom, thereby converting the pagan officer Maximus who chose death with them. The Prefect Almachius then took Cecilia and asked of her, first of all, where was the property of Tiburtius and Valerian. To him the virgin answered that all their goods had been given to the poor. Thereupon, filled with fury, he commanded her to be tortured by the heat of the bath. But after she was unharmed in that place a day and a night, he sent the executioner, who gave her three strokes of the axe. But nevertheless her head was not thereby cut off, although he left her half dead. Three days thereafter, namely upon the twenty-second of November, she winged her flight to heaven, glorified with the two palms of virginity and martyrdom. Her body was buried in the Cemetery of Saint Callistus, and her own house was consecrated as a church, and named after her. At the beginning of the ninth century her relicks were brought into the City by Pope Paschal I, along with those of Tiburtius, Valerian, and Maximus, and all laid together in the said Church of Saint Cecilia.

Antiphon on the Benedictus:
As dawn was fading into day, Cecilia spake with a loud voice, * Arise O soldiers of Christ away the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Cecilia thy Virgin and Martyr: grant we beseech thee, that as we do venerate her in our outward office, so we may follow the example of her godly conversation, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, one God, world without end. Amen.

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