Monday, January 21, 2008

St. Agnes

Today's saint captivated the imagination of the early Church. Agnes is the prototypical virgin martyr, but it is her chastity that is her predominant attribute--at least, it is this aspect of her Christian witness (martyrdom!) that has had the greatest impact on the Church. In fact, much of the symbolism and language used throughout Church history to speak of consecrated chastity draws upon the story of St. Agnes. Even in the Liturgy of the Hours, the common prayers for a virgin saint come from the story of this young martyr.
Her intention to preserve her chastity for the Lord was as much a "witness" as her bloody martyr's death. The stories of her "passio" (suffering) highlight this determination of hers by telling of how she was thrown into a brothel to be the plaything of that discriminating clientele. There was something about her decision for chastity that unsettled the powers of the age, and they were determined to undermine her decision. The stories emphasize the miraculous in order to show that they were unsuccessful in compromising her will.
St. Ambrose commented that Agnes, twelve years old, was not of legal age to testify to anything before the courts of her time, and yet she was capable of testifying to the Lord in a harsh and extended martyrdom. The site of the assault on her purity, at the ancient racetrack now famous as Rome's "Piazza Navone," is the Church of St. Agnes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Many and many a year ago, I read St. Agnes Eve by John Keats, never realizing that she was martyred at the age of twelve. Thank you for that edifying spot.