The liturgical calendar of the past week has been filled with the celebration of martyrs: Bl. Benedict Daswa on February 1st, St. Blaise on February 3rd, St. Agatha on the 5th (hidden under the Sunday liturgy) and St. Paul Miki and Companions on the 6th. (The newest of these pronounced martyrs by the Church is Bl. Benedict, who was killed for the faith in South Africa in 1990. He was declared a blessed in 2015.) The liturgy reminds us of the immense trials they underwent to become martyrs, or witnesses, of Christ. We, in turn, are encouraged to strengthen our faith in order to stand firm in the face of opposition, which comes at some point in the life of every Christian. Perhaps this beautiful hymn written in honor of St. Agnes, attributed to St. Ambrose will be another means to strengthen us!
Agnes beatae virginis (att. St. Ambrose)
The blessed virgin Agnes flies
back to her home above the skies,
and she is born in heav’n above
because she gave her blood in love.
Mature enough to give her life,
though still too young to be a wife,
what joy she shows when death appears
that one would think: her bridegroom nears!
Her captors lead her to the fire
but she refuses their desire,
“For it is not such smold’ring brands
Christ’s virgins take into their hands.”
“This flaming fire of pagan rite
extinguishes all faith and light.
Then stab me here, so that the flood
may overcome this hearth in blood.”
And she was stabbed, and she was brave,
and dying, further witness gave,
for as she fell on bended knee
she wrapped her robes in modesty.
O Virgin-born, all praises be
to You throughout eternity.
and unto everlasting days
to Father and the Spirit, praise.