'Tis a warmer morning, although the Sun hasn't begun...

His progress across the eastern sky; the weather apps are telling me that we should have some rain before too much longer. January indeed; it had been predicted to remain cold and I was looking forward to the possibility of the annual snow but I think that's off the agenda for the week. Holy Mass from Saint-Eugène later on is a Solemn Requiem at the catafalque offered for the repose of the soul of the martyred king Louis XVI but it is the feast of Saint Agnes, glittering jewel and glory of the Roman Church, Virgin and Martyr (CE, Introibo, Wiki).

Cardinal Schuster in his Liber sacramentorum; the quotation is from Saint Jerome's Epistle CXX ad Demetriadem.

In ancient times the station was held in the Basilica of St Agnes on the Via Nomentana, where on the occasion of this feast St Gregory preached one of his forty celebrated homilies on the Gospel. The Fathers of the Latin Church, Jerome, Ambrose, Damasus, and Prudentius all join in singing the praises of this virginal 'Lamb' who fearlessly faced the sword and the stake of idolatrous Rome, and generously shed her blood for him who had consecrated her with his own. Omnium gentium litteris atque linguis, praecipue in Ecclesiis, Agnetis vita laudata est. Her body was laid originally in a small property on the Via Nomentana, in agello suo, not far from the coemeterium maius, where, according to ancient Roman tradition, St Peter had baptized....

That is the hymn Agnes beatae virginis (I already used it for the earlier 'today's collecta' post, ahem-- there is not much at YouTube of the Office of Saint Agnes, alas). It's in the Liber hymnarius (albeit with some textual alterations) for use in the Roman Rite at Vespers and Lauds but properly belongs to the Ambrosian. 

The three lessons of the second nocturn at Matins by Saint Ambrose, from the first book of his De Virginibus. I'm not going to amend and ameliorate and et cetera the translation, which is what is provided at Divinum Officium.

Hodie natális est Vírginis, integritátem sequamur. Natalis est Mártyris, hóstias immolemus. Natalis est sanctæ Agnetis, miréntur viri, non despérent párvuli, stupeant nuptæ, imiténtur innuptæ. Sed quid dignum ea loqui póssumus, cujus ne nomen quidem vacuum laudis est? Devotio supra ætátem, virtus supra natúram: ut mihi videátur non hóminis hábuisse nomen, sed oraculum Mártyris, quod indicávit, quid esset futura. Nomen Vírginis titulus est pudoris. Appellábo Mártyrem: prædicávi satis. Prolixa laudátio est, quæ non quæritur, sed tenétur. Nemo est laudabílior, quam qui ab ómnibus laudari potest. Quot hómines, tot præcones, qui Mártyrem prædicant, dum loquúntur. 

This is a virgin's birthday; let us then follow the example of her chastity. It is a Martyr's birthday; let us then offer sacrifices. It is the birthday of the holy Agnes; let men then be filled with wonder, little ones with hope, married women with awe, and the unmarried with emulation. But how shall I set forth the glory of her whose very name is an utterance of praise? It seemeth to me that this being, holy beyond her years, and strong beyond human nature, received the name of Agnes, not as an earthly designation, but as a revelation from God of what she was to be. For this name Agnes is from the Greek, and being interpreted, signifieth Pure. So that this saintly maiden is known by the very title of Chastity and when I have added thereto the word Martyr, I have said enough. She needeth not the praise which we could utter, but do not. None is more praiseworthy than she for whose praise all mouths are fitted. As many as name her, so many praise her, by the noble title of martyr.

Hæc tredecim annórum martyrium fecisse traditur. Quo detestabílior crudelitas quæ nec minúsculæ pepércit ætáti; immo magna vis fidei, quæ étiam ab illa testimónium invénit ætate. Fuitne in illo corpúsculo vúlneri locus? Et quæ non hábuit quo ferrum reciperet, hábuit quo ferrum vinceret. Hæc inter cruentas carnificum impávida manus, hæc stridéntium gravibus immobilis tractibus catenárum, nunc furentis mucroni militis totum offerre corpus, mori adhuc nescia, sed parata, vel si ad aras invita raperétur, téndere Christo inter ignes manus, atque in ipsis sacrílegis focis trophæum Dómini signare victoris: nunc ferrátis colla manusque ambas insérere néxibus. Sed nullus tam tenúia membra poterat nexus includere. Novum martyrii genus! Nondum idonea pœnæ, et jam matúra victóriæ; certare difficilis, facilis coronári: magistérium virtútis implévit, quæ præjudícium vehebat ætátis. 

We learn by tradition that this holy martyr testified in the thirteenth year of her age. We will pass by the foul cruelty which did not spare her tender years, to contemplate the great power of her faith, whereby she overcame the weakness of childhood, and witnessed a good confession. Her little body was hardly big enough to give play to the instruments of their cruelty, but if they could scarce sheathe their swords in her slight frame, they found in her that which laughed the power of the sword to scorn. She had no fear when she found herself grasped by the bloody hands of the executioners. She was unmoved when they dragged her with clanging chains. Hardly entered on life, she stood fully prepared to die. She quailed not when the weapons of the angry soldiery were pointed at her breast. If they forced her against her will to approach the altars of devils, she could stretch forth her hands to Christ amid the very flames which consumed the idolatrous offerings, and mark on the heathen shrine the victorious Cross of the Lord. She was ready to submit her neck and hands to the iron shackles, but they were too big to clasp her slender limbs. Behold a strange martyr! She is not grown of stature to fight the battle, but she is ripe for the triumph; too weak to run in the race, and yet clearly entitled to the prize; unable from her age to be aught but a learner, she is found a teacher.

Non sic ad thálamum nupta properaret, ut ad supplicii locum, læta successu, gradu festina Virgo processit. Flere omnes, ipsa sine fletu. Mirari plerique, quod tam facile vitæ suæ pródiga, quam nondum hauserat, jam quasi perfuncta donaret. Stupére univérsi, quod jam divinitátis testis exsísteret, quæ adhuc árbitra sui per ætátem esse non posset. Quanto terróre egit carnifex ut timerétur, quántis blanditiis ut suadéret, quantórum vota, ut sibi ad nuptias proveníret! At illa: Et hæc Sponsi injuria est, inquit, exspectáre plácituram. Qui me sibi prior elégit, accípiet: quid, percussor, moraris? Pereat corpus, quod amari potest óculis, quibus nolo. Stetit, orávit, cervicem infléxit. Cérneres trepidare carnificem, quasi ipse addictus fuísset, trémere percussoris déxteram, pallére ora alieno timentis periculo, cum puella non timéret suo. Habetis ígitur in una hóstia duplex martyrium, pudoris et religiónis. Et virgo permansit, et martyrium obtinuit. 

She went to the place of execution a virgin, with more willing and joyful footsteps than she would have gone with to the nuptial chamber as a bride. The spectators were all in tears, and she alone did not weep. They beheld her with wonder, laying down that life of which she had hardly begun to taste the sweets, as freely as though she had drained it to the dregs and was weary of its burden. All men were amazed when they saw her whose years had not made her her own mistress, arise as a witness for the Deity. Consider how many threats her murderer used to excite her fears, how many arguments to shake her resolution, how many promises to bribe her to accept his offers of marriage. But she answered him It is an insult to Him Whom I have wedded to expect me to comply. He That first chose me, His will I be. Headsman, why waitest thou? Perish the body which draweth the admiration of eyes from which I would turn away. She stood, prayed, and then bent her neck for the stroke. Now mightest thou have seen the murderer trembling as though he himself were the criminal, the executioner's hand shake, and the faces of them that stood by turn white at the sight of her position, and all the while herself remain without fear. This one victim brought God a double offering, that of her purity, and that of her faith. She preserved virginity and achieved martyrdom.

Post Tertiam. Pater Jean-François Thomas SJ is celebrant of the Mass this morning. He delivered this prône at la Place Royale (called in these latter days la Place de la Concorde)... at some point this morning, I suppose; at the hour when Louis XVI was put to death. The Requiem of Claudio Casciolini was sung and the Domine salvum fac regem from the Mass Gaudete in Domino semper composed by François Giroust for the Sacre of Louis XVI at Reims on 11th June 1775, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. The Testament of King Louis, signed on Christmas Day in 1792, was read prior to the absolutio at the catafalque-- I don't recall this being done in the past but my memory isn't particularly reliable. Friday morning. The text of Pater Thomas's sermon is here

I notice that Dom Prosper Guéranger includes a sequence for today's feast by the venerable Adam of Saint-Victor ("one of his finest") in l'Année liturgique that doesn't appear in Dr Mousseau's edition (following Pater Blume SJ's critical edition) but I think I'll put the first strophes here-- it is too lengthy for me to type out the entire poem.

Animemur ad agonem,
Recolentes passionem
Gloriosae virginis.

Contrectantes sacrum florem,
Respiremus ad odorem
Respersae dulcedinis. 

Pulchra, prudens et illustris,
Iam duobus Agnes lustris
Addebat triennium....

Let us gain courage for our own battle by honouring the martyrdom of the glorious virgin Agnes. Let us look at this sweet flower of our feast, and inhale into our souls the virtues of its fragrance. Agnes was fair, and wise, and rich, and had reached her thirteenth year.

A triennium added to two lustra, of five years each. I puzzled over that briefly but it is wonderful how the memory works. 

Friday. I noticed this post of Dr DiPippo's at New Liturgical Movement only this morning; the antiphon Beata Agnes set by Peter Phillips is lovely and I wish I'd thought of it yesterday. I'll likely include it again on the second feast of Saint Agnes on the 28th-- presumably someone thought to institute a 'quasi-octave'; I'm sure Dom Prosper and Dom Ildefonso have a page or two for us on this subject. I don't understand how it is embedded at NLM but I can't manage to do so, tsk; anyway, the link is here.