Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Saint Cecilia

Sainte Cécile, by Adolphe Lalyre.

Cecilia was the daughter of a senator, and a Christian. She was married by her family to Valerianus, a virtuous pagan. On her wedding night, however, she told him that she was betrothed to an angel who would guard her body and virginity. Her husband, probably frustrated by this, because Cecilia was very beautiful, and also probably wondering whether Cecilia was entirely sound or not, reasonably asked to see the angel. Cecilia told him to go to a certain street, and he obeyed. There he met the Bishop Urbanus, who converted and baptized him. Maybe Valerianus hoped this would satisfy the angel and he'd be able to sleep with his wife. However, he returned to Cecilia and an angel, perhaps Cecilia's betrothed (but perhaps not), appeared to them and crowned them with roses and lilies. Valerianus never slept with her. Cecilia remained a virgin. Instead, Valerianus and his brother, who was also converted and baptized, dedicated themselves to Christian service, supporting the poor and burying martyrs. This of course attracted the wrong attention, and Valerianus and his brother were arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. However, and this must have infuriated their persecutors, they converted their executioner, who instead of killing them decided to die with them. The three of them were martyred together, and Cecilia buried all three in a single grave. With her husband and brother-in-law dead, Rome came after the virgin herself. She was arrested. She made a glorious confession of her faith. She was sentenced to death. She was to be suffocated by steam in her own bathroom. But though they super-heated the room beyond what is humanly endurable, she was not hurt. She did not die. She sang. Terrified and enraged, they sent in an executioner to cut off her head with a sword. Perhaps he was too scared to do it properly; perhaps no amount of strength would have been enough. But the executioner attempted three times to cut off her head. Three times he sunk his sword into her neck; three time he was unable to sever her head from her body. Terrified, he left the virgin drenched in her own blood (he had cut her, after all; he had mortally wounded her; but he couldn't cut off her head) and fled. They didn't try to kill her again. She lived three days. She saw her family and friends--they came to visit her and comfort her as she died. She sang. I imagine it was very quiet singing, whispered maybe, a trembling song falling from her lips in perfect harmony with her faith. She dedicated all her money to the poor. She left her house, where she had received her martyrdom, to be a church. She finally opened her eyes for the last time, looked at her friends and family, closed them, whispered one last trembling song of faith, and was translated to heaven. Urbanus buried her with the bishops and the confessors because they knew she was a saint. They could see. Much later, when her remains were discovered and removed as relics to the church dedicated to her, it is said that she held out three fingers on one hand, and one on the other, three in one, a confession of the Trinity. Because she sang, she is the patron saint of musicians and is often depicted playing an instrument.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for posted the beautiful and bravely story of Saint Cecilia. We pray to Her to protect our faith and our voices to serve our God with His True Faith in a confuse world today. Amen.