Monday, January 21, 2013

Some Texts for St. Agnes

St. Agnes by José de Ribera.
Today's texts for the feast of St. Agnes, perhaps the virgin martyr of virgin martyrs, are some of my favorites because of the beautiful way they tell the saint's story, catching both her innocence and the fortitude that was beyond her years.

* * *

Son of a Virgin, fashioning, Thy Mother,
Virgin, she bore Thee, Virgin still remaineth;
Now, as a Virgin’s triumph we are chanting,
Hear our devotion.

This holy Virgin gained a double blessing
Striving to master frailty of her nature,
With her weak body strongly overcoming
All this world’s fierceness.

Death , and the friends of death, the rending tortures,
With their fierce raging, in no wise dismayed her.
She by the shedding of her life-blood entered
* Holiest heaven.

By her protection, gracious God, O spare Thou
All our offences, all our faults remitting,
So that with hearts made pure to sing Thy praises,
We too may hymn Thee.

Thou the all Father, Thou the One-Begotten,
Thou, Holy Spirit, Three in One co-equal,
Glory be henceforth Thine through all the ages,
Wolrd without ending. Amen.
Virginis Proles (Son of a Virgin)
Hymn of St. Agnes for Vigils

LET US CELEBRATE the festival of this most saintly maiden, let us call to mind the passion of Blessed Agnes: in her thirteenth year she conquered, losing death and finding life:

* Because she loved the Author of life and him alone.

V. Reckoned but a child in this world, she was wiser than the aged.

* Because she loved the Author of life and him alone.

-First Responsory for the Feast of St. Agnes

Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It is the birthday of a martyr; let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear witness. There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Though she could scarcely receive the blow, she could rise superior to it. Girls of her age cannot bear even their parents' frowns and, pricked by a needle, weep as for a 'serious wound. Yet she shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners.

She stands undaunted by heavy, clanking chains. She offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord in the midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains, but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs.

A new kind of martyrdom! Too young to be punished, yet old enough for a martyr's crown; unfitted for the contest yet effortless in victory, she shows herself a master in valor despite the handicap of youth. As a bride she would not be hastening to join her husband with the same joy she shows as a virgin on her way to punishment, crowned not with flowers but with holiness of life, adorned not with braided hair but with Christ himself. In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. The crowds marvel at her recklessness in throwing away her life untasted, as if she had already lived life to the full. All are amazed that one not yet of legal age can give her testimony to God. So she succeeds in convincing others of her testimony about God, though her testimony in human affairs could not yet be accepted. What is beyond the power of nature, they' argue, must come from its creator.

What menaces there were from the executioner, to frighten her; what promises made, to win her over; what influential people desired her in marriage! She answered: “To hope that any other will please me does wrong to my Spouse. I will be his who first chose me for himself. Executioner, why do you delay? If eyes that I do not want can desire this body, then let it perish." She stood still, she prayed, she offered her neck.

You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the one condemned; his right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw the girl's peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a twin martyrdom, to modesty and to religion; Agnes preserved her virginity, and gained a martyr's crown.

-From a treatise On Virgins by St. Ambrose

I LOVE CHRIST to him alone do I commit myself, whose Mother is a Virgin and whose Father knows not a woman. The instruments of his music sound sweetly in my ears.

* When I love him I am chaste: when I touch him I am pure: when I possess him I am a virgin.

V. Blessed Agnese said: he has betrothed me with his ring of faith, and adorned me with precious jewels.

* When I love him I am chaste: when I touch him I am pure: when I possess him I am a virgin.

V. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

* When I love him I am chaste: when I touch him I am pure: when I possess him I am a virgin.

-Second Responsory for the Feast of St. Agnes

Surrounded by flames, * Saint Agnes stretched out her hands and prayed: * I call upon You Father, worthy of our fear. * Your Son has brought me safe and innocent through all the sacrilegious tyrant threatened. * And now I come to You- * You Whom I have loved, Whom I have sought, * Whom I have ever chosen.

-Antiphon for Lauds of St. Agnes