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The Acts of Saint Cecilia

The Acts of Saint Cecilia


Cecilia, the holy martyr, and those with her, SS. Valerian and Tiburtius, contested in Rome during the reign of Emperor Alexander Severus (222-235). Cecilia was born in Rome of noble and distinguished parents, though they were idolaters. However, the maiden, from her youth, revered Christ, because, by nature, she was prudent, sensible and wise. She understood that the soulless idols were not only foolishness, but a cunning contrivance for deceiving and catching souls. Thus, loathing them as useless and disgusting, with all her soul she desired and loved Christ as the true Benefactor and Savior of all. At every possible moment, the ever-memorable one would fast, make prostrations, pray secretly, lavish alms, and perform other virtuous acts. Moreover, she donned a coarse hair-shirt close to her skin that she might subdue the movements of the flesh and subject it to the spirit.


Cecilia’s parents, unaware of her piety and divine knowledge, decided to betroth her to a wealthy idolater, Valerian. Though she did not desire the marriage, she hoped that she could bring him to Christian piety. Thus, she consented to the marriage.


However, her mind and heart were not at the wedding. While the others sang and danced, as is the custom in the world, she, ofttimes, entered her chamber. Alone inside, she prostrated herself to the ground and, with tears, prayed unto the Master Christ to grant her the grace and strength to preserve her virginity unsullied. She also entreated that her husband come to the Faith. The Lord, Who ever desires the salvation of man and that all come to the knowledge of the truth, dispensed, in His economy, all that the maiden desired.
When the wedding guests departed, Valerian and Cecilia were alone in the bridal-chamber. As he was preparing to retire, the all-wise maiden said, “Vow to me that you will not divulge what I shall tell you, and then I shall reveal to you a great secret.” He then swore that he would tell her secret to no one. Continuing, she uttered, “Know that I have a fearful and wonderful angel of God Who diligently guards my body, so that no man might defile me. Now if he sees that you desire to touch me out of carnal desire, he shall become angry and shall slay you instantly. Thus, you shall lose the flower of your youth. However, if he sees that you love me in a clean and pure fashion, as your sister, he shall love you as me, and shall reveal himself to you!”


The youth marveled at her words, and said, “If you would have me believe you, show me the heavenly protector. If, in truth, he is an angel, I shall do whatever you command from now and henceforth.” She replied, “If you will not first cleanse yourself from the defilement of idols, and then be baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and of the Holy Spirit – and believe in the One and Tri-Hypostatic God, then you will not be granted to behold his fiery angels.” Valerian then asked, “And who is able to cleanse me?” The maiden answered, “Go out of the city, nearby the third milestone of the Via Appia, in that terrible place of suffering where the indigent abide. When certain of the poor seek alms from you, then ask them on my behalf, since they know me as having given them alms frequently, to show you to Archbishop Urban. You may disclose to him the secret, and he shall perform whatever is needed. Then, you will behold the holy angel.”


Therefore, Valerian went to the hierarch and explained the matter in detail to him. The bishop received Valerian joyfully. Then, bending his knees, the bishop prayed with tears to the Lord, saying, “I thank Thee, O Master Jesus Christ, the Sower of purity, Who has enlightened Thy servant Valerian. He who formerly was as a wild lion has been instructed by Thy blameless bride, Cecilia, and has become as a meek lamb.”
After finishing his prayer, an elder of a goodly aspect appeared, clad in brilliant raiment, holding in his hands a book with gold lettering. Valerian, out of fear, then fell prone to the floor, as one dead. The elder then raised him up, saying, “Read this book and tell me whether you believe what is written is the truth.” The following words were written in the book: “One is true God. One is the Faith of the Christians. There is one holy and true Baptism.” Upon reading these words, the youth was astonished, and in a loud voice cried out, “I believe these things with all my heart!” Then the elder disappeared. With joy, the young Valerian received holy Baptism at the hands of the bishop.


The newly-illumined Valerian, on returning to Cecilia, found her conversing with a holy angel. The angel brought with him from Paradise two crowns of redolent 3 roses and lilies. Upon giving one to Valerian and one to Cecilia, he said, “Preserve, without defilement of soul and body, these elect and wonderful crowns which are sent to you by the Master Christ from Paradise. As an unfeigned sign that these are heavenly crowns and not earthly ones, their scent shall never diminish, nor shall their leaves wither. Moreover, no one, save those who guard prudence and wisdom, and believe in Christ, such as yourselves, may behold these crowns.


“Now you, O Valerian, ask whatever favor you wish, since you have believed the soul-benefiting counsel of your spouse.” Valerian answered the angel, saying, “I desire and thirst for nothing more than my brother to believe in the Master Christ, so that he might partake of this grace.” The angel responded, “This, also, the Master Christ desires. He shall fulfill your request, so that together you might come quickly to Paradise.”
Behold, that very hour, Tiburtius, the brother of Valerian, entered the chamber where Valerian and Cecilia were conversing. He sensed the sweet and delightful fragrance, and marveled. He then asked Valerian, “What is that extraordinary scent which smells like nothing earthly?” Valerian answered, “I made an entreaty to God. If you will believe in Him as we do, you shall also be allowed to behold two beautiful and fragrant crowns of flowers which were brought from Paradise this day.” Tiburtius said, “How is it possible that they should bring gifts to you from Paradise?” Valerian replied, “Believe me, my beloved brother, till now we were blind and ignorant, worshiping deaf and senseless idols, the works of demons and vain abominations. The true God is on high, in the heavens, Who made all the world and governs all things, visible and invisible."”
Tiburtius then inquired, “How have you learned such wondrous and hidden mysteries?” Valerian answered, “An angel of the Lord revealed them to me through the purity and goodness of Cecilia. He too will grant you to behold him, if you will be baptized in the name of Christ Who was crucified for sinners. Moreover, you must also despise the evil and empty idols.” Yet, Tiburtius responded, “I am unable to understand your words.”


Cecilia then said, “I marvel greatly how you do not know that the idols are as dead and motionless bodies, though they appear to have limbs, they can neither labor nor feel.” This and much more was spoken by the holy maiden which led Tiburtius to piety, so that he too confessed Christ as true God. Cecilia then embraced him and kissed him on the forehead, saying, “Now I shall acknowledge you as my true relative, since you believe in the true God, and spurn the false and foolish idols. Therefore, go with your brother to find Archbishop Urban, that he may confer on you divine Baptism.”


Tiburtius then said to her, “I heard the eparch speak when he commanded that Urban be found, so they might give him over to a harsh death. Therefore, I am afraid that if we are found in his company, they shall imprison and slay us along with him!” The maiden said, “If there were no life after death, we would be justified to desire this present one as our only one. However, since we are going to another life, to be glad and rejoice with the Master forevermore, it is not fitting that we should cower at temporal death.” Tiburtius then replied, “Never have I heard of another life.” The virgin remarked, “This present life is replete with afflictions, pains and troubles. Thereafter, follows inevitable death which translates the undying soul of the righteous unto joy unending. The sinner, however, is carried off to inexorable afflictions and unceasing torment.”


Tiburtius then asked, “Have any of the dead risen and brought this wonderful good news to the living?” Cecilia replied, “The almighty God and Maker of all sent His Son to the world. He was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and became man, taking flesh from the all-immaculate Virgin Mary. He wrought remarkable miracles, raising the dead, healed the paralytics, and cured every other sickness. He walked on the water as on dry land; He gave light to the blind, and other more marvelous works did He do by His divine and almighty power.” Cecilia then spoke of all the other great works of the Master until His Ascension.
In closing, the all-wise maiden said to Tiburtius, “If you will believe these things with all your heart, and disdain what is temporal, then you will inherit those good things and abide eternally, rejoicing in the heavenly Kingdom with the Master Christ. If you prefer temporal pleasures, empty glory, and corruptible wealth, tomorrow you will die and go to unending torment.”


Tiburtius then fell before the feet of the holy maiden and, weeping, said, “I perceive that your words are not from man, but angelic utterances. Let us be off, brother Valerian, to that holy man, so he may baptize me the sooner, so I might inherit eternal life!” The brothers went to the hierarch and announced the matter to him. Bishop Urban then baptized Tiburtius, who was given many spiritual gifts with holy Baptism, including beholding the angel.


At that time, in Rome, there was a harsh and savage eparch, named Dalmatius. He submitted the Christians to diverse chastisements and torments. He would then put them to a merciless death, casting their relics out into the open square, not giving leave for their burial. He used these inhuman measures to instill fear among the Christian faithful, so they might not confess the all-august name of Christ.
Undaunted, Valerian, Cecilia and Tiburtius, by night, buried the relics clandestinely. The holy threesome also bestowed alms abundantly on the Christians who, for fear of the idolaters, went into hiding. Many nights passed as they interred the relics, but one night they were seen and reported to the eparch. Dalmatius ordered the jailing of the brothers. They were remanded to Maximus, an imperial official, who was instructed to guard them carefully.


In the morning, Cecilia went to the prison to encourage them, and said, “Now, O Soldiers of Christ, the hour has come to exhibit your courage. Therefore, do not shrink back before temporal death, but contest lawfully to receive the unfading crown from the hand of the Lord.”


At that same moment, Maximus was commanded by the eparch to lead the prisoners outside the city, to a certain temple of the idols. If the brothers refused to fall down before the idols, Maximus was to strike off their heads. Arriving at the temple, Tiburtius and Valerian sneered at the idols, saying, “These are not gods, but demons. Therefore, we shall not worship the works of men’s hands, but only Jesus Christ, the true God Who made heaven and the rest of creation.”


Since they refused to fall down before the idols, Maximus beheaded them. Whereupon, the souls of Saints Valerian and Tiburtius were borne aloft by holy angels chanting into the heavens. This heavenly phenomenon was viewed by

Maximus and the other Greek pagan spectators who happened to be present. Thus, certain of their number came to believe in Christ and were baptized.
When night fell, secretly, Cecilia, with as many Christians as possible, gathered the relics reverently. The Christians then buried the holy brothers with much honor, as was meet.


Not much time passed when Dalmatius sought to find and take charge of the possessions and property of Valerian and Tiburtius. It was then that he learned that Cecilia was a Christian. He advised her to renounce Christ and to worship the idols. Fearlessly and openly, she declared, “I have never worshiped demons!” Dalmatius then bid his ministers to inflict upon her diverse punishments. She was then to be shut up in a house until the second examination.


Whereupon, as the executioners were torturing her, she said, “I, my brothers, rejoice for the love of my Christ amid these dread chastisements. I am only sorry for you because you submit yourselves to evil and heartless rulers, and provoke your Creator and Savior, the all-good and most compassionate One, Who can bestow on you life eternal.” The executioners, pitying her during the cudgeling, said, “May it not be, most noble maiden, that you should die thus, ignobly and shamed, as some criminal and chief robber, losing life which is most desirable.”


The saint replied, “O thoughtless ones! This is not to be reckoned as a loss of life, but rather a wise exchange, because I am giving dishonorable clay and will receive precious gold. In return for this temporal and short death, I shall receive life unending; and for small torments, instead, I shall receive eternal glory.”
These and many other soul-saving utterances were made by the saint bringing the guards and other bystanders to believe in Christ; and they said, “We, too, are Christians through thy veritable and holy words.” At night, the holy bishop went to the house where the maiden was kept in custody. After baptizing 400 souls, they kept vigil all that night, offering thanks to the Lord. The following day, when Dalmatius learned of the proceedings of the night before, he was wroth and said to the martyr, “Do you not yet know that, by my great

power, I can slay as many Christians as I can find in my district? Yet do you dare to turn my ministers to a different way and spurn the imperial decrees which command the Christians to renounce Christ and venerate the idols?”


Christ’s athlete, having no fear, answered, “Your power and your gods are as leather balls, filled with air. When one pricks it with a pin, it is rendered useless.” In reply, the eparch said, “Leave off uttering nonsense, O impudent woman. Either venerate the gods or I shall quickly administer a harsh and painful death, because you, O most daring one, have made fools of your husband and Tiburtius, and ushered in their untimely death.” The martyr responded, “Administer as many punishments as you desire. The more you torment me, the more delight and joy you give me.” He countered, saying, “Why do you speak with such arrogance, O proud one?” She said, “Pride, which is a sin, is one thing, but valiant conduct is another, which, much rather, is a virtue and not a defect. This is because whoever does not fear death and, moreover, has love toward Christ, the only God, that one is not called proud, but courageous and brave.”
Hearing this, the tyrant bid that she be placed inside a cauldron of boiling water. Below the cauldron, his attendants piled as much wood as they could, causing the flames to rise. However, in vain they labored, because the holy maiden remained unscathed while the water bubbled violently. Indeed, the scalding water was as dew to her. When the foolish and insensitive eparch beheld that his ministers kept the fire going for one day and night, and that Cecilia stood rejoicing and chanting, he supposed that magic was at work. Thus, he ordered that she be slain in the cauldron.


Whereupon, the executioner hastened and struck her three times with a dagger. Leaving her for dead, the spectators at the amphitheater departed. At night, the Christians went to take up her relics covertly. However, when they found her alive and praying, she said to them, “I asked a favor of the Lord that I not yet die until I make my house a church, dedicated to the Master Christ, and that I preach the truth.”
The faithful, beholding this extraordinary wonder, soaked up her holy blood which ran from her wounds. They desired to have this as a remedy for sicknesses of body and soul. The venerable martyr lived for another three days, preaching the Faith to whomever she beheld, thus converting many Greek pagans.
Meanwhile, the holy Archbishop Urban, went by night and, before the saint, dedicated her home. This structure, located in Rome, became revered by all. Saint Cecilia then taught the faithful not to betray the truth, but to preserve the Faith to the shedding of their blood. She exhorted them to disdain this present world, as vain and fleeting, that they might enjoy life unending in the heavens. Having instructed them sufficiently, and accomplishing all she desired according to God, the far famed Cecilia surrendered her blessed soul on the 22nd of November.


The archbishop, together with the clergy, interred her august relicts in her house with a great devotion and reverence. The dwelling of St. Cecilia, having been made into a holy shrine, has been visited for centuries by thousands of pilgrims. Her relics, incorrupt and intact for generations, are correctly reputed to perform miracles to the glory of God. She is also considered as one of the patronesses of Church music. Amen.

 
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