Cecilia was born in Rome of wealthy and eminent parents. She had great faith in Christ the Lord and a great zeal for the Faith. Vowing life-long virginity to God, St. Cecilia wore a coarse hair shirt beneath the costly raiment that her parents gave her. When her parents coerced her into marriage with Valerian, a pagan, Cecilia counseled her bridegroom on their wedding night to go to Bishop Urban to be baptized, and then live in chastity. Accepting the Christian Faith, Valerian also converted his brother Tiburtius. Soon after, both brothers were condemned to death for their faith. But their faithfulness did not falter, even in the face of death. Led to the place of execution, these wonderful brothers also succeeded in converting the captain of the guard, Maximus, to the Faith. Then all three suffered together for Christ the Lord. St. Cecilia buried their bodies together. Cecilia was then brought to trial, for she tirelessly won pagans over to the Christian Faith. In only one evening, she won over four hundred souls. When the judge asked her from whence such boldness came, she answered: ``From a pure conscience and undoubting faith.'' After cruel torture, Cecilia was condemned to beheading. The executioner struck her three times on the neck with the sword, but he was unable to kill her. She was only wounded, and blood flowed from her wounds, which the faithful collected in handkerchiefs, sponges and bowls for the sake of healing. Three days after this, the martyr and virgin of Christ gave her soul to her Lord, with Whom she eternally rejoices. St. Cecilia suffered with the others in about the year 230. Her relics lie in Rome, in the church dedicated to her. In the Western Church, St. Cecilia is regarded as the patroness of church singing and music.
Callistus is called ``Xanthopoulos'' after the cell of that name on Mount Athos, where he lived for a long time in asceticism with his companion, Ignatius. With this same Ignatius, St. Callistus wrote in one hundred chapters of his personal experience of a life of stillness. This work occupies a very prominent place in ascetical literature. Callistus was greatly influenced by his teacher, St. Gregory of Sinai, and wrote his Life. Having become Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Callistus became ill and reposed while on a journey to Serbia. Before he undertook his journey this was prophesied to him by St. Maximus of Kapsokalyvia of the Holy Mountain.
Menignus was born on the Hellespont. He worked as a linen-bleacher, for which he was called ``the Fuller.'' At the time of Emperor Decius, he tore up the imperial decree declaring a persecution of Christians. For this, he was thrown into prison, where the Lord Himself appeared to him and encouraged him, saying: ``Be not afraid, I am with thee.'' At that moment his chains melted like wax, the prison opened of itself, and he went out. He was arrested again and tried. They tortured him inhumanly, severing his fingers and toes and beheading him. At night, his severed head glowed like a lamp.
Michael was a Bulgarian by birth. With his companions, he fought in the Greek army against the Hagarenes and Ethiopians, where he displayed marvelous fearlessness. He killed a terrible serpent and freed a maiden. Soon afterward, this righteous man took up his abode in eternal life. He lived and reposed in the ninth century. He was first buried somewhere in Thrace, but Emperor Kalo-John translated his relics to Trnovo in 1206.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Martyr Cecilia
Cecilia-strong in faith, rich in faith-
Her faith is more beautiful than the stars, more precious than gold.
She nailed herself to the Lord, as to the Cross,
And sacrificed youth, joy, marriage and honor for Christ!
The cruel demon could steal nothing from her;
And when only her body remained, she gave it to Christ.
For the love of Christ, she gave the whole world-
Even two worlds: her body and her pure soul.
Thus does the flame of faith burn, and the flame of love,
And by that flame, Cecilia glorified herself.
Every effort of learning is in vain without the effort of attaining purity of faith and life. The heavenly world is revealed not to the learned but to the pure. When St. Cecilia was led to the bridal chamber with her bridegroom Valerian on the first night, she said him: ``I want to tell you a mystery: standing here is an angel of God, the guardian of my virginity, whom you do not see. He stands ready to protect me, his handmaid, from assault. If you only touch me, he will kill you.'' Valerian begged Cecilia to show him the angel, so that he could see it, too. The virgin replied: ``You are a man who knows not the true God. You cannot see the angel of God until you cleanse yourself of the foulness of your unbelief.'' When Valerian was baptized, he saw the angel in great light and ineffable beauty. So, too, when Valerian's brother Tiburtius changed his life from impurity to purity in baptism, he saw holy angels and spoke with them. Maximus their fellow sufferer as well, when the two brothers were beheaded, vowed with a great oath before the executioners and the people, saying: ``I see angels of God shining like the sun, taking the souls of these martyrs from their bodies like beautiful virgins from the bridal chamber, and leading them to heaven with great glory.'' But that which he saw, none of the impure unbelievers were able to see.
Contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 2):
1. How God planted a paradisal garden in Eden and placed man there;
2. How God made trees in Paradise, beautiful to look at and good for food;
3. How God brought all the animals before man and he named them.
on that which constitutes the unity of the faithful
… One Lord, one Faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:5-6).
Here is the all-important and extremely obvious reason for all Christians to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3) and be one body and one spirit (Ephesians 4:4). For the One Lord Jesus Christ is our Creator, Redeemer and Resurrector. There are not two true Christs, that there should be division among us. One and the same blood was shed upon the Cross for us all, just as one and the same mouth prayed for us all in Gethsemane. We have one Faith in the Holy Trinity, undivided and life-creating-the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one in Essence and three in Persons-the Unbegotten Father, the Begotten Son and the Spirit proceeding from the Father. We have one Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This Baptism is by threefold immersion in water, for death to sin and the devil, and for the resurrection and life in Christ the Lord. One God and Father of all-the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, Who through Christ and because of Christ adopts us and gives us the right to say to Him, Our Father.
Do you see, my brethren, how strong are the bonds that unite us? Not even the stars themselves are bound by stronger bonds, nor the water to the earth, nor fire to the air. Do you see the overwhelming reasons that we have for unity? Everything else that, from the left hand, would urge us to division is inconsequential compared to these reasons, like a grain of sand compared to the high mountains. The devil cannot destroy our unity if we do not help him. The devil can never conquer us if we do not surrender ourselves to him.
O Lord Jesus, sweet and gracious, how firmly Thou hast bound us for eternal good! Keep us, we pray, in this bond.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.