November 22, 2020: ST. CECILIA
November 22, 2020: COMMEMORATION OF ST. CECILIA, VIRGIN AND MARTYR
There is a secret, Valerian, which I will discover to you: I have an Angel of God for my lover, who guards my body with great jealousy.
With organs sounding, Cecily sang to the Lord, saying; Let my heart be undefiled, that I may not be confounded.
This glorious Virgin always carried in her bosom the Gospel of Christ, and ceased neither night nor day from divine conversation and prayer.
O God, who givest us the yearly comfort of celebrating the feast of blessed Cecily, thy virgin and Martyr; grant, that as we honour her in glory, so we may follow her example in the practice of a virtuous life. 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.
Let us read the liturgical history of the illustrious Virgin and Martyr.
Cæcilia, a Roman virgin of noble origin, was brought up from her infancy in the Christian faith, and vowed her virginity to God. Against her will, she was given in marriage to Valerian; but on the first night of the nuptials she thus addressed him: Valerian, I am under the care of an Angel, who is the guardian of my virginity; wherefore beware of doing what might kindle God’s wrath against thee. Valerian moved by these words respected her wishes, and even said that he would believe in Christ if he could see the Angel. On Cæcilia telling him that this could not be unless he received Baptism, he, being very desirous of seeing the Angel, replied that he was willing to be baptized. Taking the virgin’s advice, he went to Pope Urban, who on account of the persecution was hiding among the tombs of the Martyrs on the Appian Way, and by him he was baptized.
Then returning to Cæcilia, he found her at prayer, and beside her an Angel shining with divine brightness. He was amazed at the sight; but as soon as he had recovered form his fear, he sought out his brother Tiburtius; who also was instructed by Cæcilia in the faith of Christ, and after being baptized by Pope Urban, was favored like his brother with the sight of the Angel. Both of them shortly afterwards courageously suffered martyrdom under the prefect Almachius. This latter next commanded Cæcilia to be apprehended, and commenced by asking her what had become of the property of Tiburtius and Valerian.
The virgin answered that it had all been distributed among the poor; at which the prefect was so enraged, that he commanded her to be led back to her own house, and put to death by the heat of the bath. When, after spending a day and a night there, she remained unhurt by the fire, an executioner was sent to dispatch her; who, not being able with three strokes of the axe to cut off her head, left her half dead. Three days later, on the tenth of the Kalends of December, she took her flight to heaven, adorned with the double glory of virginity and martyrdom. It was in the reign of the emperor Alexander. Pope Urban buried her body in the cemetery of Callixtus; and her house was converted into a church and dedicated in her name. Pope Paschal I translated her body into the city, together with those of Popes Urban and Lucius, and of Tiburtius, Valerian, and Maximus, and placed them all in this church of St. Cæcilia.
Another account of St. Cecilia
The name of St. Cecily [Cecilia or Cӕcilia] has always been most illustrious in the church, and ever since the primitive ages is mentioned with distinction in the canon of the mass, and in the sacramentaries and calendars of the church. Her spouse Valerian, Tiburtius, and Maximus, an officer, who were her companions in martyrdom, are also mentioned in the same authentic and venerable writings. St. Cecily was a native of Rome, of a good family, and educated in the principles and perfect practice of the Christian religion. In her youth she by vow consecrated her virginity to God, yet was compelled by her parents to marry a nobleman named Valerian. Him she converted to the faith, and soon after gained to the same his brother Tiburtius. The men first suffered martyrdom, being beheaded for the faith. St. Cecily finished her glorious triumph some days after them. Their acts, which are of very small authority, make them contemporary with Pope Urban I, and consequently place their martyrdom about the year 230, under Alexander Severus; others, however, place the triumph of these martyrs under Marcus Aurelius, between the years 176 and 180. Their sacred bodies were deposited in part of the cemetery of Calixtus, which part, from our saint, was called St. Cecily's cemetery. Mention is made of an ancient Church of St. Cecily in Rome in the fifth century, in which Pope Symmachus held a council in the year 500. This church being fallen to decay, Pope Paschal I began to rebuild it; but was in some pain how he should find the body of the saint, for it was thought that the Lombards had taken it away, as they had many others from the cemeteries of Rome, when they besieged that city under King Astulphus, in 755. One Sunday, as this pope was assisting at matins, as was his wont, at St. Peter's, he fell into a slumber, in which he was advertised by St. Cecily herself that the Lombards had in vain sought for her body, and that he should find it; and he accordingly discovered it in the cemetery called by her name, clothed in a robe of gold tissue, with linen cloths at her feet, dipped in her blood. With her body was found that of Valerian, her husband; and the pope caused them to be translated to her church in the city; as also the bodies of Tiburtius and Maximus, martyrs, and of the popes Urban and Lucius, which lay in the adjoining cemetery of Prӕtextatus, on the same Appian road. This translation was made in 821. Pope Paschal founded a monastery in honour of these saints, near the Church of St. Cecily, that the monks might perform the office day and night. He adorned that church with great magnificence, and gave to it silver plate to the amount of about nine hundred pounds—among other things a ciborium, or tabernacle, of five hundred pounds weight; and a great many pieces of rich stuffs for veils, and such kinds of ornaments; in one of which was represented the angel crowning St. Cecily, Valerian, and Tiburtius. This church, which gives title to a cardinal priest, was sumptuously rebuilt in 1599 by Cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati, nephew to Pope Gregory XIV, when Clement VIII caused the bodies of these saints to be removed under the high altar, and deposited in a most sumptuous vault in the same church, called the Confession of St. Cecily; it was enriched in such a manner by Cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati as to dazzle the eye and astonish the spectator. This church of St. Cecily is called In Trastevere, or, Beyond the Tiber, to distinguish it from two other churches in Rome which bear the name of this saint.
St. Cecily, from her assiduity in singing the divine praises (in which, according to her Acts, she often joined instrumental music with vocal), is regarded as patroness of church music. The psalms, and many sacred canticles in many other parts of the holy scripture, and the universal practice both of the ancient Jewish and of the Christian church, recommend the religious custom of sometimes employing a decent and grave music in sounding forth the divine praises. By this homage of praise we join the heavenly spirits in their uninterrupted songs of adoration, love, and praise. And by such music we express the spiritual joy of our hearts in this heavenly function, and excite ourselves therein to holy jubilation and devotion. Divine love and praise are the work of the heart, without which all words or exterior signs are hypocrisy and mockery. Yet as we are bound to consecrate to God our voices and all our organs and faculties, and all creatures which we use, so we ought to employ them all in magnifying his sanctity, greatness, and glory, and sometimes to accompany our interior affections of devotion with the most expressive exterior signs. St. Chrysostom elegantly extols the good effects of sacred music, and shows how strongly the fire of divine love is kindled in the soul by devout psalmody. St. Austin teaches that “it is useful in moving piously the mind, and kindling the affections of divine love.” St. Charles Borromeo in his youth allowed himself no other amusement but that of grave music, with a view to that of the church. As to music as an amusement, too much time must never be given to it; and extreme care ought to be taken, as a judicious and experienced tutor observes, that children be not set to learn it very young, because it is a thing which bewitches the senses, dissipates the mind exceedingly, and alienates it from serious studies, as daily experience shows. Soft and effeminate music is to be always shunned with abhorrence, as the corrupter of the heart, and the poison of virtue.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. VI, Edition 1903;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Cecilia, pray for us.