Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, November 22, 2014 — “And he is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Feast of Saint Cecilia)

Saint Cecilia by Guido Reni, 1606

Saint Cecilia (Latin: Sancta Caecilia) is the patroness of musicians. It is written that as the musicians played at her wedding she “sang in her heart to the Lord”. Her feast day is celebrated in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches on November 22. She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Cecilia

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr
Lectionary: 502

Reading 1

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I, John, heard a voice from heaven speak to me:
Here are my two witnesses:
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands
that stand before the Lord of the earth.
If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouths
and devours their enemies.
In this way, anyone wanting to harm them is sure to be slain.
They have the power to close up the sky
so that no rain can fall during the time of their prophesying.
They also have power to turn water into blood
and to afflict the earth with any plague as often as they wish.When they have finished their testimony,
the beast that comes up from the abyss
will wage war against them and conquer them and kill them.
Their corpses will lie in the main street of the great city,
which has the symbolic names “Sodom” and “Egypt,”
where indeed their Lord was crucified.
Those from every people, tribe, tongue, and nation
will gaze on their corpses for three and a half days,
and they will not allow their corpses to be buried.
The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them
and be glad and exchange gifts
because these two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth.
But after the three and a half days,
a breath of life from God entered them.
When they stood on their feet, great fear fell on those who saw them.
Then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, “Come up here.”
So they went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies looked on.
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Responsorial Psalm ps 144:1, 2, 9-10

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R. (1b) Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
My mercy and my fortress,
my stronghold, my deliverer,
My shield, in whom I trust,
who subdues my people under me.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
O God, I will sing a new song to you;
with a ten stringed lyre I will chant your praise,
You who give victory to kings,
and deliver David, your servant from the evil sword.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
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Gospel lk 20:27-40

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Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother
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Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them,
“The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise.
That the dead will rise
even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,
when he called ‘Lord’
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive.”
Some of the scribes said in reply,
“Teacher, you have answered well.”
And they no longer dared to ask him anything.
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• The Gospel today gives us the discussion of the Sadducees with Jesus on faith in the resurrection.
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• Luke 20, 27: The ideology of the Sadducees. The Gospel today begins with the following affirmation: “The Sadducees affirm that there is no resurrection”. The Sadducees were an elite type of great landowners or large estates and traders. They were conservative. They did not accept faith in the resurrection. At that time, this faith was beginning to be valued, appreciated by the Pharisees and by popular piety. This urged the people to resist against the dominion of the Romans and of the priests, of the elders and of the Sadducees; the Messianic Kingdom was already present in the situation of well being which they were living.
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They followed the so called “Theology of Retribution” which distorted reality. According to that Theology, God would pay with riches and well being those who observed the law of God and would punish with suffering and poverty those who do evil. Thus, one can understand why the Sadducees did not want any changes. They wanted religion to remain just as it was, immutable like God himself. And for this, to criticize and to ridicule faith in the resurrection, they told fictitious cases to indicate that faith in the resurrection would have led people to be absurd.
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• Luke 20, 28-33: The fictitious case of the woman who married seven times. According to the law of the time, if the husband died without leaving any children, his brother had to marry the widow of the deceased man. And this was done in order to avoid that, in case someone died without any descendants, his property would go to another family (Dt 25, 5-6). The Sadducees invented the story of a woman who buried seven husbands, brothers among themselves, and then she herself also died without children. And they asked Jesus: “This woman, then, in the resurrection, whose wife will she be? because the seven of them had her as wife”. This was invented in order to show that faith in the resurrection creates absurd situations.
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• Luke 20, 34-38: The response of Jesus which leaves no doubts. In the response of Jesus there emerges irritation of one who cannot bear pretence or deceit. Jesus cannot bear hypocrisy on the part of the elite which manipulates and ridicules faith in God to legitimize and defend its own interests. The response contains two parts: (a) you understand nothing of the resurrection: The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead, do not marry, because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection, they are children of God” (vv. 34-36).
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Jesus explains that the condition of persons after death will be totally diverse from the actual condition. After death there will be no marriages, but all will be like angels in heaven. The Sadducees imagined life in Heaven the same as life on earth; (b) you understand nothing about God: “For the dead will rise, Moses has also indicated this in regard to the bush, when he calls the Lord: the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not God of the dead, but of the living, because all live in him”. The disciples are attentive and learn! Those who are on the side of the Sadducees find themselves on the opposite side of God!
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• Luke 20, 39-40: The reaction of others before the response of Jesus. “Then some of the Scribes said: “Master you have spoken well. And they no longer dared to ask him any more questions”. Most probably these doctors of the law were Pharisees, because the Pharisees believed in the resurrection (cf. Ac 23, 6).
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Personal questions
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• Today, how do the groups which have power imitate the Sadducees and prepare traps in order to prevent changes in the world and in the Church?
• Do you believe in the resurrection? When you say that you believe in the resurrection, do you think about something of the past, of the present or of the future? Have you ever had an experience of resurrection in your life?
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Concluding prayer
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This I believe: I shall see the goodness of Yahweh,
in the land of the living.
Put your hope in Yahweh, be strong, let your heart be bold,
put your hope in Yahweh. (Ps 27,13-14)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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VAIN SPECULATION 

SCRIPTURE READINGS: REV 11:4-12; PSALMS 144:1, 2, 9-10; LUKE 20:27-40
http://www.universalis.com/20141122/mass.htm

In the gospel today, we read of the Sadducees approaching Jesus with an enigma regarding the woman who married seven brothers of the same family.  For “at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?”  It is significant that Jesus did not allow them to sidetrack the real issue, which was faith in the resurrection. The apparent conundrum presented by them was just a trick to discredit the doctrine of the resurrection.  Explaining that life in the next world is quite different from earthly life, Jesus underscored that faith in the resurrection is authenticated by the very fact that “Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.”

Similarly when Christians read the book of Revelation, they like to speculate on the images and symbols used by the author of Revelation as if they are ciphers on the future of the world.   Many have tried to link the figures and symbols with current events and world leaders of our times.  Of course, one can always read into the symbols and come out with all kinds of vain predictions about the future of humanity and the world.  By so doing, they miss out the real message of what the author wants to convey to his readers.   In truth he was not giving us predictions of events in the future.  Rather, he was writing at a time when the Church was under the persecution of the Romans.  This also explains why he had to use a literary form which we call apocalyptic language which employs biblical and historical imagery familiar to the readers at that time.

Simply put then, the message he wanted to assure his fellow Christians who were suffering for their faith under the Romans was that they would not die and even if they did, they would be given eternal life.  They would be raised to life and evil would eventually be conquered.  “After the three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified; then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here’, and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud.”  The three-and-a-half days refer to the trials of life but they too would share in the resurrection of Christ as reiterated in the gospel.  The enemies would eventually come to realize that they could not destroy the Church and the witnesses of Christ, for God is the ruler over all.

The responsorial psalm joyfully declares that God is the Rock.   He is “my mercy and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, my shield, in whom I trust, who subdues my people under me.”  It is He “who give victory to kings, and deliver David, your servant from the evil sword.”  Indeed, the 1260 days (that is, three-and-a-half years) signifying the time of trials of the Church, will be overcome by Christ.  The Church will not be vanquished by the forces of evil.  Rather the Church and the saints of God and the martyrs will be victorious at the end.

In the light of this message of hope, we must therefore take into account that Christianity is not meant for the weak and for cowards.  Christ has come to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.  A Christianity that is too comfortable, where everything is smooth sailing, where there are no trials, no challenges, where the status quo remains all the time, and everything is institutionalized, is no longer the Church that Jesus came to establish.  The stark reality is that the gospel cannot but become a conscience of society, a pain to those who do not want to hear the truth and a nuisance to a secular world that proclaims a freedom without authentic freedom but a new form of slavery.

Isn’t this what the author warned us Christians when he wrote, “When they have completed their witnessing, the beast that comes out of the Abyss is going to make war on them and overcome them and kill them … Men out of every people, race, language and nation will stare at their corpses, for three-and-a-half days, not letting them be buried, and the people of the world will be glad about it and celebrate the event by giving presents to each other, because these two prophets have been a plague to the people of the world.”

Yes, the world is very hostile towards Christianity, especially Catholics, because of our stance against the secular values that promote a culture of death in all its forms, a permissive culture that does not respect the dignity of the person, especially of women and the young, the ethics of business and science, the rights of the marginalized, the poor and the migrants.   Besides the global dimension of persecution, as individual Catholics, we too face persecution in terms of trying to live a life according to the gospel values.  Whether at home, in the office or even in Church, we know how difficult it is for us to be true to what we believe in as temptations are many. Striving to grow in holiness and live a life of integrity is our constant trial as we fight against the temptations and the seductive ways of the Evil One.

In our discouragement, let us take heart that we have the prophets and Christian martyrs before us who showed the way.  The two olive trees and the two lamps refer to the witnesses of the gospel.  In the Old Testament we have of course Moses and Elijah.  The author recalls the powers that were given to both of them when he reminiscences that “Fire can come from their mouths and consume their enemies if anyone tries to harm them; and if anybody does try to harm them he will certainly be killed in this way. They are able to lock up the sky so that it does not rain as long as they are prophesying; they are able to turn water into blood and strike the whole world with any plague as often as they like.”  These miracles were of course worked by both Moses and Elijah, the greatest prophets of the Old Testament era.  Moses was the one who could “turn water into blood and strike the whole world with any plague” as often as he liked. Elijah brought about drought when King Ahab refused to obey the voice of God.

In the Christian dispensation, the two witnesses would personify the Christian apostles, Peter and Paul, both were killed in the Great City of Rome and many other apostles like St Stephen were killed in Jerusalem.  “Their corpses will lie in the main street of the Great City known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt, in which their Lord was crucified.”  Jerusalem was therefore likened to Sodom because of its immorality and Rome to Egypt because of its worldliness.

Indeed, we are called to be like the apostles, to be courageous in the face of persecution when we proclaim the truth about God and the sin of the world.  Like them, as the olive trees of God, that is, precious in His sight, God will see us through in all our trials and win the victory for us.  We must remain focused and have our sights not just on this world but in the final victory that will be won by Christ Himself.  The New Heaven and the New Earth will eventually be realized and be brought about by Christ Himself.

Let the symbol of the three-and-a-half years, that is, half of seven, which therefore means incompleteness, teach us patience.  We must be patient especially when we see how the Church is suffering today, especially from all the scandals and sins in the Church and not just without.  It is a blessing in disguise for once again the Church under persecution is being purified of her sins.  She will in time to come be truly a bride for Christ, pure, holy and spotless.  So we must not be discouraged in the meantime but struggle on in the proclamation of the gospel.  With faith and confidence like the prophets and the apostles before us, God assures us that we would not be killed until we have finished our work.  God is faithful to us.  And even if we are killed in our body, He will raise us to everlasting life with Him forever.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/22-november-2014-saturday-33rd-week-in-ordinary-time/#sthash.UuipK3bF.dpuf

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The Crypt of Saint Cecilia (Catacombs of Saint Callixtus).
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St. Cecilia
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Valerian took the Appian Way, as his bride had instructed him, and found paupers who knew Saint Cecilia well, for she often gave them alms. They took him to Bishop Urban, who was hiding from his persecutors in graveyards, caves, and deserted temples. When Valerian told him what the holy virgin had said, the Bishop was filled with joy. Falling to his knees and lifting his hands unto heaven, Urban wept and said, “Verily, 0 Lord, Thy handmaiden is like a labour-loving bee that bringeth nectar to Thy Church! This youth entered her chamber like a lion, but she hath sent him to me a meek lamb. Had he not believed her words, he would never have come here. Wherefore, 0 Lord, open his heart to know Thee and to renounce Satan and his works.”

After Urban had prayed thus, a venerable elder appeared, clad in a robe white as snow and holding a book in his hand. The elder stood before Valerian and opened the book for him to read. Overcome by the vision, Valerian fell to the ground. Then the honorable elder raised him up and said, “Read what is written in this book, my son, and you shall be granted cleansing and behold the angel that your bride promised to show you.”

Valerian looked at the book and read these words, written in letters of gold, “One Lord, one faith, one Baptism; one God and Father of all, Who is above all and through all and in you all. Amen.”

The elder then asked him, “Do you believe, child, that these things are true, or do you still doubt?”

Valerian answered with a mighty voice, “Truly, there is nothing beneath heaven more certain than this confession!”

Immediately, the elder disappeared. Then the blessed Bishop Urban began to instruct Valerian, expounding upon those words. After baptizing him, the Bishop sent the young man back to his holy bride.

Valerian found Cecilia at prayer, and beheld a most radiant angel of ineffable beauty standing beside her. The angel held in his hand two garlands made of red roses and white lilies, from which came a fragrance surpassing description. He placed one garland on the maiden’s head, the other on Valerian’s, and said, “Guard these wreaths by keeping your hearts pure and your bodies undefiled. I have brought them to you from God’s paradise. They never wither, nor do they lose their fragrance, and no one can see them save those who, like you, are lovers of chastity. It is because you have agreed to guard your purity that God has sent me to you, Valerian. He wishes you to have your desire.”

Valerian bowed down before the angel and said, “There is no one in the world so dear to me as my brother Tiburtius. Therefore, I entreat the Lord to deliver him from demonic perdition and to convert him as He did me. May He grant us both to attain perfection in the confession of His holy name!”

“Your request is pleasing to God,” said the angel, his face radiant, “and He will grant you the desire of your heart. The Lord will save your brother Tiburtius through you, as you were saved through the maiden, and together you shall undergo martyrdom.”

After saying this, the angel became invisible. The blessed Valerian and the holy maiden rejoiced in Christ and continued to meet and converse about things profitable to the soul.

Shortly thereafter, Tiburtius came to Valerian and said to him, “I smell the fragrance of roses and lilies here. Where does this wonderful smell come from? I find it so delightful that my soul seems somehow renewed!”

“You can perceive this sweet fragrance, my beloved brother,” said Valerian, “because I have prayed to God for you, asking that you be deemed worthy to receive an unfading crown and come to love Him Whose blood is like a red rose and Whose flesh like a white lily.”

“Am I dreaming, or are you truly speaking with me, brother?” asked Tiburtius.

Valerian replied, “Until now, we lived as though in a dream, worshipping false gods and unclean demons; but now we walk in the truth and the grace of God.”

Tiburtius asked, “Who taught you these things?”

Valerian answered, “It was an angel of God that taught me. You will also see him, if you cleanse yourself of the defilement of idolatry.”

Tiburtius wished to see the angel, but Valerian told him it was necessary for him first to believe in the one, true God and to receive Holy Baptism, and that after this he could expect the angel to appear. The holy virgin Cecilia began to instruct Tiburtius in the holy faith, demonstrating to him that the gods of the pagans are false and their lifeless idols impotent, and revealing to him the might of the true God, our Lord Jesus Christ. So powerful was the divinely wise teaching of the holy virgin that Tiburtius straightway turned from unbelief and cried, “I believe there to be no God other than that of the Christians! From this time forth I desire to labor for Him alone.”

When she heard this, the maiden was filled with ineffable joy and instructed Tiburtius with even greater zeal, telling him of the Incarnation of the Son of God and of His miracles, Passion, and death, which He endured out of love for the race of man. Hearing her speak of these things, Tiburtius’ heart grew contrite and was set afire with love for the Lord. Sensing the warmth of his faith, the virgin said to him, “If you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, go with your brother to our Christian Bishop and be baptized by him. Then, cleansed of your sins, you will be worthy to behold the angel.”

Tiburtius looked at his brother in amazement and asked, “To whom do you wish to take me?”

“Let us go to the man of God, Urban,” Valerian replied. “He is the Bishop of the Christians, an old, wise, and righteous man. His face is like that of an angel, and he speaks only the truth.”

“Is this the same Urban I have heard was twice condemned to death and now is in hiding, hoping to escape his sentence?” asked Tiburtius. “If we go to him and those who seek him find us with him, they will slay us also.”

Cecilia replied to Tiburtius’ words by telling him of the life eternal and unchanging in heaven that awaits those who die as holy martyrs for Christ. Then Tiburtius, burning with divine desire, said, “Let those who have been deprived of their senses love this fleeting life: I desire life eternal! Take me to the Bishop quickly, brother, so that he may cleanse me and make me a partaker of everlasting life.”

Valerian took his brother to the blessed Urban and told him everything that had occurred. Urban rejoiced greatly over Tiburtius’ conversion and gladly baptized him, keeping him for seven days to instruct him fully in the mysteries of the holy faith. After his Baptism, Saint Tiburtius was deemed worthy of such grace that he saw holy angels and conversed with them, and received everything he asked of God. He and his brother worked numerous miracles, healing the sick, and distributed their possessions among needy Christians, orphans, and widows. Many were the prisoners whom they ransomed, and they reverently buried a multitude of the holy martyrs who were slain for Christ in those days.

All these things were reported to Almachius, the Eparch of the city, who in obedience to the Emperor’s command was mercilessly shedding the blood of God’s servants, torturing and executing the faithful. The Eparch commanded that Tiburtius and Valerian be seized and brought before him. Almachius asked them, “Why do you dishonor your noble estate and give burial to those who, in accordance with the Emperor’s command, have been put to death for their numerous transgressions? So doing, you have squandered your wealth on outcasts. Can it be that you have fallen into the same error as they?”

As the elder brother, Tiburtius answered, “May God deem us worthy to be counted among His servants, who have renounced that which seems to exist but does not, and have found that which would seem not to exist but does!”

“What do you mean, speaking of what seems to exist but does not?” asked the Eparch. “I do not understand you.”

Tiburtius explained to Almachius that everything this transitory world possesses and promises merely appears to be, but in reality is nothing, because it quickly vanishes. But the life to come, which those who love this world imagine does not exist (for they cannot see it), truly exists and abides unchanging unto the ages. At the end of time the good and faithful shall receive a rich reward, but the evil and unbelieving shall inherit eternal fire and torments. The Eparch spoke with the brothers for a long time, and they offered him an explanation of the holy faith and told him the value of renunciation of the world. He did not accept their teaching, however, and demanded that they offer sacrifice to the gods.

Since the saints refused to obey his command, the Eparch ordered that Valerian be beaten mercilessly with a staff, but the saint rejoiced and said, “The time I have awaited has come! Today is my day of rejoicing!”

Meanwhile, a herald cried, “See and beware! Do not show disdain for the gods and goddesses!”

“Citizens of Rome,” the holy martyr Valerian addressed the people, “do not let the torments I suffer turn you away from the truth! Make bold to destroy the idols of wood and stone, for all who worship them shall burn in fire eternal!”

Then a senator named Tarquinius came to the Eparch and said to him in secret, “If you do not hasten to put these men to death, the other Christians will give to the poor everything they possess, and nothing will remain for you.”

The Eparch therefore ordered that both martyrs be taken to the place called Pagus, near the temple of Jupiter. If they did not consent to offer sacrifice there to Jupiter, the saints were to be beheaded. A chamberlain named Maximus was sent with the executioner and the soldiers to witness the beheading. On the way, he began to weep as he looked upon the holy passionbearers and said, “0 precious blossom of youth! 0 union of brotherly love! 0 comely pair of noble and honorable youths! Why do you voluntarily choose death, hastening as though to a great feast?”

Saint Tiburtius answered, “If we were not certain that eternal life awaits us, we would not rejoice at the thought of losing our lives in this fleeting world.”

“What sort of life follows this life?” asked Maximus.

“As our flesh is covered by clothing, so our souls are clad by flesh. After death, the body returns to dust, but in time like a phoenix it will come to life. Moreover, if the soul is holy and righteous, it is straightway translated unto the good things of paradise, there to await the resurrection in joy.”

Maximus was moved to compunction by these words and said, “If I knew for certain that I would inherit the life of which you speak, I also would renounce this fleeting life.”

Saint Valerian said to the chamberlain, “If you wish to be certain to gain life everlasting, then vow to us that you will sincerely repent, turn away from error, and be converted unto the God Whom we preach; and we promise you that when we are beheaded and depart from the body, God will open your eyes, and you shall behold the glory of the life we inherit.”

“May I be consumed by fire if from this hour I do not believe in the one God, Who grants us life eternal after this temporal life,” vowed Maximus. “I ask only that you fulfill what you have promised.”

“Order your servants not to hinder us from going to your house and remaining there for a short time, and we will attempt to bring to you someone who can enlighten your soul, so that you see clearly that which we have promised you,” said the saints.

Maximus joyfully led the martyrs to his home, for none of the soldiers dared contradict his orders. There the saints preached the word of salvation, teaching the members of his household to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. All those present listened attentively until nightfall, and Maximus, his entire household, and many of the soldiers came to believe. That night, the holy virgin Cecilia came to them, accompanied by priests. Everyone who believed was baptized, and passed the night in prayer and conversation about life eternal.

When the morning star appeared, the holy virgin said to Christ’s passionbearers, “Be brave, 0 soldiers of the Lord! Darkness has lifted and dawn has come; put on the garment of light and go forth to complete your contest. You have fought the good fight and finished your course; depart now to receive the crown of righteousness which the Lord shall bestow upon you.”

The saints hastened to the place of execution, and as they passed the temple of Jupiter, the priests sought to compel them to offer incense on the god’s altar, for no one was permitted to pass by the temple without sacrificing. All those who entered or left the city were stopped by the priests and led to Jupiter’s altar, but the martyrs refused to obey, and mocked the priests’ foolishness. Because of this, their sacred heads were promptly cut off.

Immediately after the saints’ execution, Maximus swore before everyone present, saying, “I behold God’s angels shining like the sun! They have taken the souls of the martyrs to heaven in great honor, escorting their blessed spirits to a place of repose as though they were fair maidens being led into a bridal chamber.” At this, many of the heathen believed in Christ.

The Eparch learned that Maximus had accepted the Christian faith, and commanded that he be beaten mercilessly with rods. While this was being done, the martyr surrendered his soul into the hands of the Lord. His body was taken by the holy virgin Cecilia, who buried it with the remains of the holy martyrs Tiburtius and Valerian. She had the image of a phoenix depicted on Maximus’ tomb since he had come to believe in the resurrection of the dead after hearing it likened to the rising of a phoenix.

Later, the Eparch ordered that a search be made for the possessions of Tiburtius and Valerian. Nothing was found, however, because Saint Cecilia had already distributed everything to the poor. He therefore sent his servants to seize the blessed maiden. When they came to take her away, she said to them, “Hear me, brethren: although you are servants of the Eparch, I do not think you find pleasure in his unbelief. It is my desire to suffer and die for my Christ, and I wish to have no further part in this fleeting existence, because I seek life everlasting. Take me away, so that I may depart unto heaven more quickly! Have no pity for my youth, but deliver me unto death!”

The servants felt compassion for the saint, marvelling at how such a fair, wise, and noble maiden could so desire death. They entreated her not to destroy her beauty by voluntarily accepting torments, so she said to them, “I do not destroy my youthful beauty but exchange it for something better, trading filth for gold, clay for precious stones, and the worldly habitation of the body for the most radiant palaces of heaven. Do you truly suppose this is a poor exchange? If only you would make it also!”

Cecilia spoke for a long time about the reward that awaits the righteous, and everyone who heard her was moved to compunction. Indeed, a great multitude of people, both men and women, had gathered in her house to hear her teaching. The saint then cried out to all with a loud voice, “Do you believe that everything I have told you is true?”

With one voice they replied, “We believe that the Christ Whom you preach and serve is the true God!”

The holy virgin was filled with unutterable joy and at once sent for Bishop Urban, who came to her house and baptized the four hundred men and women who had come to believe. Thus did Cecilia’s house become a church of Christ.

After these things had taken place, the unjust Eparch Almachius had Christ’s righteous handmaiden brought before his judgment seat. He began by questioning her concerning the faith and heard her preach the name of Christ. Then he said to her in a harsh voice, “Where did you acquire such boldness?”

“From a pure conscience and undoubting faith,” replied the saint.

“Do you not know, wretch, that the Emperor has given me power to destroy you or to grant you life?” asked the judge.

The saint answered, “You lie when you say that you have power to grant life. You ought to have said only that you have power to put to death, not to give life, for while you can slay, you can give life to no one!”

The judge insisted, “Sacrifice to the gods and renounce Christ, and you will be set free.”

But Cecilia declared instead that she was prepared to die for Christ, so the persecutor commanded that she be taken to her home and put to death in an overheated bathhouse. She was tormented by the flames and smoke for three days and nights, but the grace of God cooled and revived her. When Almachius learned that the martyr was still alive after remaining so long in the blazing bath, he ordered that she be beheaded by the sword. The executioner came and struck her neck thrice but failed to sever her head. Leaving her thus, he departed. The faithful gathered up her blood with a sponge and cloth, and the saint remained alive for another three days, speaking plainly and confirming the believers in the faith. Finally, while praying, she delivered her soul into God’s hands and was buried with reverence.

The original Latin text of the martyrdom of St. Cecilia relates that during her wedding, while the melodies of worldly music resounded, the Saint sang hymns of love in her heart to Jesus, her true Bridegroom. Perhaps this is why St. Cecilia is associated with music in the West, where she is considered its Patron Saint.
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