July 24, 2020: ST. CHRISTINA OF BOLSENA
July 24, 2020: COMMEMORATION OF ST. CHRISTINA OF BOLSENA, VIRGIN AND MARTYR
“Thou hast exalted
my dwelling-place up on the earth, and I have prayed for death to pass away. I called upon the Lord, the father of my Lord, that he would not leave me in the day of my trouble, and in the time of the proud, without help. I will praise thy name continually,
and will praise it with thanksgiving, and my prayer was heard. And thou hast saved me from destruction, and hast delivered me from the evil time. Therefore I will give thanks, and praise thee, and bless the name of the Lord.”
(Ecclus, li. 13-17)
Let blessed Christina, thy Virgin and Martyr, O Lord, sue for our pardon, who by the purity of her life, and the profession of thy virtue, was always well pleasing to thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Christina, whose very name fills the Church with the fragrance of the Spouse, comes as a graceful harbinger to the feast of the elder son of thunder [St. James, the Greater]. The ancient Vulsinium, seated by its lake with basalt shores and calm clear waters, was the scene of a triumph over Etruscan paganism, when this child of ten years despised the idols of the nations, in the very place where, according to the edicts of Constantine, the false priests of Umbria and Tuscany held a solemn annual reunion. The discovery of Christina's tomb in our days has confirmed this particular of the age of the martyr as given in her Acts, which were denied authenticity by the science of recent times: one more lesson given to an infatuated criticism which mistrusts everything but itself.
As we look from the shore where the heroic child was laid to rest after her combat, and see the isle where Amalasonte, the noble daughter of Theodoric the Great, perished so tragically, the nothingness of mere earthly grandeur speaks more powerfully to the soul than the most eloquent discourse. In the thirteenth century, the Spouse, continuing to exalt the little martyr above the most illustrious queens, associated her in the triumph of his Sacrament of love: it was Christina's Church he chose as the theatre of the famous miracle of Bolsena, which anticipated by but a few months the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi.
Another account of St. Christina of Bolsena
The following story belongs to the realms of Christain romance, and what and how much (if any) of fact has formed a foundation for the great superstructure of fable it is not possible to determine.
There was a maiden at Tyre, aged eleven, the daughter of Urbanus, a man in military command, and of a mother of the illustrious Anician family. Now Urbanus built a high tower, in which he placed gold and silver gods, and twelve servant maids, and he shut up Christina, his daughter, in this tower, that she might consume her time in adoring her gold and silver gods, and might be beyond the reach of ardent and venturesome lovers.
But Christina soon tired of her seclusion and of her gods of precious metal, and began to believe in the God who made the heavens, which she could see through her window; and so she placed her censer in the window, and watched the fragrant smoke curl up to the pure dark night sky.
Then her maids murmured because the gold and silver gods and goddesses had been neglected for nine days, and when Christina refused to have anything more to do with them, the maids rushed out of the tower to complain to her father.
Thereupon Urbanus entered and said, “Christina, my child, what is this I hear of you?” “Do not call me your child,” answered the girl petulantly; “I will only worship the God of heaven.”
Then her father tried to kiss her, but she drew her face aside and said, “You pollute me with your kisses, for you are a heathen, and I am a believer in the One only God.”
“My dear Christina,” exclaimed Urbanus. “If you offer incense and prayer to one god only, all the rest will be out of temper with you. Here, child, here are three of them. Worship at least three.” Then thinking she was discontented at being shut up in a tower and deprived of her liberty, he thought best to leave her and take no more notice of her petulance. But when he was gone, Christina washed her hands and face, and began to cry.
Then an angel came from heaven and bade her not fear, and made the sign of the cross on her head; and having given her a brief instruction in the principal Christian verities, he deposited a loaf of white bread on the table for her to eat. And when night came, she smashed the idols, and throwing a rope out of the window slid down by it to the ground, distributed the fragments of the idols among the poor, and then swarmed up the rope again, and into her window.
Next day her father sent her before the magistrate, and twelve robust soldiers were set to scourge her in turn, but they failed to produce any effect on the maiden.
She was thrown into prison, where her mother visited her, and vainly entreated her to renounce the worship of Christ. Then the maiden, opening her mouth, answered, “How can you call me your daughter? Was there any of your family called Christina?” “None,” said her mother. “Then see, I bear the name of my Saviour; it is He whom I love, who gives me power against those who oppose me.”
In the morning she was brought forth again to be scourged, and pieces of her flesh fell before the lash. She stooped, picked up a piece and flung it in her father's face. Then he ordered a stone to be put round her neck, and that she should be flung into the sea. But when she was cast in, the stone broke, and she walked on the surface of the water. Then she prayed for baptism, and Jesus Christ himself came down from heaven, and baptized her in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. This incident, which is given in the lections for the Sunday after the festival of S. Christina in the Neapolitan Breviary, is not contained in the Acts, which only say that a purple garment fell out of heaven over her, as she prayed for baptism, and a crown dropped upon her head. The archangel Michael conducted her ashore, and she was again remitted to prison. She was taken into a temple of Apollo, and according to the lessons of the afore-mentioned Breviary, she ordered the idol to walk about the temple, and it did so, till she bade it stand still, and then it stood rigid. She was put in a cradle filled with boiling pitch and oil, and four soldiers were set to rock her in it.
She was placed in a pit full of serpents, and two vipers hung on her breasts like infants sucking them; she was cast into a burning fiery furnace, and walked about in the flames with an angel, unhurt; and, finally, according to the Greek story, was stabbed with a sword, according to the Latin, transfixed with a javelin or arrow…
By a curious blunder of the martyrologists, Tyre was placed on the lake of Bolsena in Tuscany. Consequently at Bolsena she is supposed to have suffered there, and the stone attached to her neck, and the impression of her feet on a rock are exhibited. Not only so, but her body, entire, attracts crowds of pilgrims to Bolsena, and on this day, as we are solemnly assured, her, head is seen to swim about the lake. But her body, also entire, is shown also at Sepino, another body at Torcelli, another at Venice, a fifth at Beuvry, near Bethune, in Artois, a sixth at Palermo; a head in the Escurial, another head at Avila, another at Hertzbruch in Osnaburg; a rib at Lisbon, some bones at Prague, an arm at Cologne, a jaw at Montpellier; another head in the church of S. Maria Maggiore at Rome. But enough; numerous other relics of this saint are shown all over Catholic Europe.
S. Christina is represented in Art bearing an arrow, with her tower at her side, and sometimes a burning kiln.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. IV, Dublin, Edition 1901;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. VIII; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Christina of Bolsena, pray for us.