St. Cecilia, Virgin Martyr
Father ShannonM. Collins, CPM
"The Bridegroom is here" (Matthew). Feast of St Cecilia —Virgin Martyr Nov. 22.
i. W.C. Fields' comment — "just looking for loopholes." Seeking to escape the grim reaper and bypass the judgment to come.
ii. No loopholes in the spiritual life — no sneaking into heaven — when the Bridegroom comes for us — and come He will — He will look for grace in our soul — do we have a participation in the divine nature? A share in God's Life? In the story of the 10 Virgins, we are given an idea of just how salvation will be worked out. Our dear Lord — the Groom — will come looking for appropriate spouses, virgins who are ready to be espoused and to join the Wedding Feast of Heaven. He may delay His coming, so the Christian must always be prepared — the true Christian must be a wise virgin whose lamp has oil, i.e. grace in the soul. The foolish virgins are those Christians who are empty of grace and therefore have no life, no fire. They have not the Light of the World. Their end will be the divorce of hell — an eternal separation from God.
iii. Damnation — the Loss of God — one can lose their wallet, watch, jewelry, best friend, even one's spouse — but to lose God the only Individual Who can truly satisfy our hunger for love — this loss is unimaginable. In the cloistered life of a monastery, the nuns anticipate that wedding feast on earth and they seek to keep the flame of supernatural life alive. While all Catholics are bound in soul to the good Lord at Baptism, the religious, the nuns have given their bodies to Christ as well. Sealed fountains, they will admit no other lover. Possessed in Body and Soul, they will stay within an enclosure, for keeping company with the world, flirting with the outside would be nothing short of adultery. In marriage, spouses have rights over one another, including bodily rights. The good Lord had such rights over these His spouses. He has allured them into the desert of the cloister.
iv. But with the cloistered nun having embraced this Divine Spouse, she learns to love evermore as Christ does. Isn't it true that spouses in the world become evermore complementary — they belong together — many even begin to resemble each other. Well in the religious life the same is true and more. Religious should begin to resemble Christ more fully. One's love can be more universal — with no individual natural spouse nor individual family, the religious woman should be evermore expansive in her love — her natural instinct to give, to nurture, to mother, to be the Bride should grow in its capacity until it is truly Christ-like. Such a woman was the 3rd Century Virgin Martyr, St. Cecilia, who is one of the seven saintly women mentioned in the great Roman Canon.
v. Even when promised in marriage to a pagan named Valerian, she remained true to her Divine Spouse. On the evening of their wedding day, Cecilia told Valerian that she had an angel guarding her virginity — an angel that would cause him suffering if he was to violate her. Being of good will Valerian said "Show me this angel ... if he be of God, I will refrain as you wish." Ever the evangelizer, Cecilia, stated that her husband would only see the angel if he was enlightened and illumined by the Sacrament of Baptism. Pope Urban I administered the Sacrament, upon which Valerian saw the heavenly guardian. Cecilia's house would become a local church in which hundreds during her life would receive new life with the Sacrament of Faith.
vi. And when one is in love, he often sings. St. Francis and his companions would sing to the glory of God. And when Francis was truly happy, he would sing in French. On the day of her wedding, Cecilia sang in her heart to the God she loved. She sang sacred music, of which she is the patroness, for such music is set aside for the divine. This is why St. Cecilia is often pictured next to an organ. An organ is the most perfect and the most preferred musical instrument in the church for it most closely imitates the human voice — yes the human voice the most perfect instrument of all for it vocalizes the love within the soul. People often quote St. Augustine, Church Father and doctor, as saying singing is praying twice — actually he said singing well is praying twice. I sometimes emphasize this with the brother knights.
vii. Love desires union with the beloved — for Cecilia it was to be united with Christ in His perfect continence — His perfect, physical virginity and yes, to be united in His death — His martyrdom. Having sought to bury her husband and his friend, who were martyred for the Faith, Cecilia was executed in her own home. At first, the executioners sought to suffocate her in a room set aside for vapor baths. Feeding the furnace with seven times more fuel than normal, Cecilia remarkably remained alive for a day and a half without any harm. Like the three young men Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael. Then having failed in this manner of execution, a soldier sought to behead her in the same room. Unable to accomplish fully the task after three blows with a sword — for the law allowed no more blows — Cecilia was left with her head half severed for three days — and how she sang the praises of God as Christians flocked to her side. At her death, she held out three fingers on her right hand and one on her left to show her faith in the Holy Trinity — Three Persons in one God.
viii. Under the altar of the Basilica of St. Cecilia, this virgin martyr is buried. A famous statue that shows the position of her body at death marks the spot. Also, it is said the marble used for the altar stone in the Church is the very marble upon which St. Cecilia was martyred. As is most appropriate for this virgin whose lamp was well lit with grace, her body was exhumed more than 1300 years after its burial and was found incorrupt.