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The Memorial of Saint Cecilia


“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” ~ Plato

When one thinks of apocalyptic scripture passages, as we do in these final days of the liturgical year, the Book of Revelation and perhaps even the Book of Daniel are most likely the first to come to mind. In fact today in our 1st Reading we revisit one of the more dramatic passages in Revelation (14:14-19), wherein “the grapes are ripe” and the “earth’s vintage” is poised for its rendezvous with the mighty sickle of judgment

But today we are reminded that in matters pertaining to end times prophecy, the Gospels deliver as well. Case in point: today’s passage from Luke (21:5-11). As many on hand marveled over the temple, Jesus uses the opportunity to foreshadow its destruction. The temple was indeed a remarkable structure, splashed with gold and massive white stones which adorned the perimeter, some measuring upwards of 40 feet in length. It was certainly a structure that exuded permanence.

But Jesus tells them that it will not last. That there will come a day “when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:6). This prophecy would come to fruition in the year 70 A.D. but we still of course await our Lord’s second coming. The upcoming Advent Season is one of dual preparation, where we await the birth of our Savior while simultaneously reflecting upon his second coming.

To win the battle, to persevere, to be ready when Jesus returns or when we stand before him and judgment, which ever comes first, requires vigilance. In today’s passage, our Lord reminds us that wars and insurrections will precede his second coming, but that we should not be alarmed by this. I refer once again to Revelation (2:10) where we are encouraged in such a way. “Do not fear what you are about to suffer… Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10).

Saint Ambrose tells us that “There are also other wars which the Christian wages. The struggles of different lusts and the conflicts of the will and domestic foes are far more dangerous than foreign.” He knew full well that the interior or spiritual battle is not only the most important battle we will ever fight, it is the most difficult one. In this battle for the immortal soul, we must fight that fight and pray for final perseverance, for our Lord promises us that those who persevere until the end will be saved.

“Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia…” These are the Virgin Martyr Saints whose names are proclaimed during the Canon of the Mass by way of Eucharistic Prayer #1. They are amongst the very bravest who persevered. Today we celebrate one of these intrepid martyrs in the great Saint Cecilia, the Patron Saint of.sacred music and musicians. She is the inspiration behind the selection of the quote that kicks off today’s Reflection.

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Saint Cecilia is someone whom we know very little about. Her story is based largely on legend. She is believed to have been killed in the late second or early third century. As a Christian convert, Cecilia was said to have taken a vow of virginity, but her parents desired to marry her off to a pagan nobleman named Valerian. During the wedding ceremony, she is reported to have begun singing to God in her heart.

After the ceremony, she convinced her new husband to respect her vow of virginity, going so far as to explain that an angel of the Lord was watching over her and would punish him if he did not. Befuddled and understandably full of doubt, Valerian asked Cecilia to see this angel, Cecilia told him that he would see the angel under the condition: he had to convert to Christianity. On the heels of his conversion and baptism, Valerian did indeed see an angel of the Lord standing next to his wife. The couple were later martyred for refuting to worship idols, along with Valerian’s brother who also achieved the heavenly crown of martyrdom on that fateful day.

On the topic of crowns, this past Sunday we commemorated and celebrated He who wears the crown of King of the Universe, Jesus Christ Today and tomorrow for that matter in Saint Clement I we venerate those who wear the heavenly crown of martyrdom. In the case of Saint Cecilia, she is one of those very rare Saints who, by virtue of her virginity, is “doubly crowned.”

Let us today pray for the perseverance and fortitude to gain our heavenly crown, calling upon the intercession of Saint Cecilia and the entire Heavenly Court, with eyes fixed squarely on he who is perseverance and fortitude personified, Jesus Christ. For in the words of Saint Augustine, “Venerate the martyrs, praise, love, proclaim, honor them. But worship the God of the martyrs.”

“Oh God, who bestowed on blessed Saint Cecilia a crown among the Saints for her twofold triumph of virginity and martyrdom, grant, we pray, through the power of her intercession, that, bravely overcoming every evil, we may attain the glory of heaven. Through Christ our Lord.”

~ Amen

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