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Friday, November 22, 2013
Feast of St. Cecilia
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Double (1955 Calendar): November 22

Today is the Feast of St. Cecilia, the illustrious virgin and martyr who died at Rome. She is the patroness of Church music. In honor of her feast day and to spread awareness of her life, I present the following excerpt from The Catholic Encyclopedia available on New Advent.

This saint, so often glorified in the fine arts and in poetry, is one of the most venerated martyrs of Christian antiquity. The oldest historical account of St. Cecilia is found in the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum"; from this it is evident that her feast was celebrated in the Roman Church in the fourth century. Her name occurs under different dates in the above-mentioned martyrology; its mention under 11 August, the feast of the martyr Tiburtius, is evidently a later and erroneous addition, due to the fact that this Tiburtius, who was buried on the Via Labicana, was wrongly identified with Tiburtius, the brother-in-law of St. Cecilia, mentioned in the Acts of her martyrdom. Perhaps also there was another Roman martyr of the name of Cecilia buried on the Via Labicana. Under the date of 16 September Cecilia is mentioned alone, with the topographical note: "Appiâ viâ in eâdem urbe Româ natale et passio sanctæ Ceciliæ virginis (the text is to be thus corrected). This is evidently the day of the burial of the holy martyr in the Catacomb of Callistus. The feast of the saint mentioned under 22 November, on which day it is still celebrated, was kept in the church in the Trastevere quarter at Rome, dedicated to her. Its origin, therefore, is to be traced most probably to this church. The early medieval guides (Itineraria) to the burial-places of Roman martyrs point out her grave on the Via Appia, next to the crypt of the Roman bishops of the third century (De Rossi, Roma sotterranea, I, 180-181). De Rossi located the burial-place of Cecilia in the Catacomb of Callistus in a crypt immediately adjoining the crypt or chapel of the popes; an empty niche in one of the walls contained, probably, at one time the sarcophagus with the bones of the saint. Among the frescoes of a later time with which the wall of the sepulchre are adorned, the figure of a richly-dressed woman appears twice and Pope Urban, who was brought personal into close relation with the saint by the Acts of her martyrdom, is depicted once.

The ancient titular church of Rome, mentioned above was built as early as the fourth century and is still preserved in the Trastevere. This church was certainly dedicated in the fifth century to the saint buried on the Via Appia; it is mentioned in the signatures of the Roman Council of 499 as "titulus sanctae Caeciliae" (Mansi, Coll, Conc. VIII, 236). Like some other ancient Christian churches of Rome, which are the gifts of the saints whose names they bear, it may be inferred that the Roman Church owes this temple to the generosity of the holy martyr herself; in support of this view it is to be noted that the property, under which the oldest part of the true Catacomb of Callistus is constructed, belonged most likely, according to De Rossi's researches, to the family of St. Cecilia (Gens Caecilia), and by donation passed into the possession of the Roman Church. Although her name is not mentioned in the earliest (fourth century) list of feasts (Depositio martyrum), the fact that in the "Sacramentarium Leoniam", a collection of masses completed about the end of the fifth century, are found no less than five different masses in honour of St. Cecilia testifies to the great veneration in which the saint was at that time held in the Roman Church ["Sacram. Leon.", ed. Muratori, in "Opera" (Arezzo, 1771), XIII, I, 737, sqq.].

Her church in the Trastevere quarter of Rome was rebuilt by Paschal I (817-824), on which occasion the pope wished to transfer thither her relics; at first, however, he could not find them and believed that they had been stolen by the Lombards. In a vision he saw St. Cecilia, who exhorted him to continue his search, as he had already been very near to her, i.e. near her grave. He therefore renewed his quest; and soon the body of the martyr, draped in costly stuffs of gold brocade and with the cloths soaked in her blood at her feet, was actually found in the Catacomb of Prætextatus. They may have been transported thither from the Catacomb of Callistus to save them from earlier depredations of the Lombards in the vicinity of Rome. The relics of St. Cecilia with those of Valerianus, Tiburtius, and Maximus, also those of Popes Urbanus and Lucius, were taken up by Pope Paschal, and reburied under the high altar of St. Cecilia in Trastevere. The monks of a convent founded in the neighbourhood by the same pope were charged with the duty of singing the daily Office in this basilica. From this time the veneration of the holy martyr continued to spread, and numerous churches were dedicated to her. During the restoration of the church in the year 1599 Cardinal Sfondrato had the high altar examined and found under it the sarcophagi, with the relics of the saints, that Pope Paschal had transported thither. Recent excavations beneath the church, executed at the instigation and expense of Cardinal Rampolla, disclosed remains of Roman buildings, which have remained accessible. A richly adorned underground chapel was built beneath the middle aisle, and in it a latticed window, opening over the altar, allows a view of the receptacles in which the bones of the saints repose. In a side chapel of the church there have long been shown the remains of the bath in which, according to the Acts, Cecilia was put to death.

The oldest representations of St. Cecilia show her in the attitude usual for martyrs in the Christian art of the earlier centuries, either with the crown of martyrdom in her hand (e.g. at S. Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, in a sixth-century mosaic) or in the attitude of prayer, as an Orans (e.g. the two sixth and seventh-century pictures in her crypt). In the apse of her church in Trastevere is still preserved the mosaic made under Pope Paschal, wherein she is represented in rich garments as patroness of the pope. Medieval pictures of the saint are very frequent; since the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries she is given the organ as an attribute, or is represented as playing on the organ, evidently to express what was often attributed to her in panegyrics and poems based on the Acts, viz., that while the musicians played at her nuptials she sang in her heart to God only ("cantantibus organis illa in corde suo soi domino decantabat"); possibly the cantantibus organis was erroneously interpreted of Cecilia herself as the organist. In this way the saint was brought into closer relation with music. When the Academy of Music was founded at Rome (1584) she was made patroness of the institute, whereupon her veneration as patroness of church music in general became still more universal; today Cecilian societies (musical associations) exist everywhere. The organ is now her ordinary attribute; with it Cecilia was represented by Raphael in a famous picture preserved at Bologna. In another magnificent masterpiece, the marble statute beneath the high altar of the above-mentioned church of St. Cecilia at Rome, Carlo Maderna represented her lying prostrate, just as she had received the death-blow from the executioner's hand. Her feast is celebrated in the Latin and the Greek Church on 22 November. In the "Martyrologium Hieronymainum" are commemorated other martyrs of this name, but of none of them is there any exact historical information. One suffered martyrdom in Carthage with Dativus in 304.

Prayer:

We are made happy, O God, by the annual feast of Your blessed virgin martyr Cecilia. May we be inspired by the example of Your saint, as we honor her in this Mass. Through Our Lord . . .

Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal


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