Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Feast of All Saints: The Martyrs

From the Breviary according to the use of the Roman Curia, 1529, the continuation of a Carolingian homily commonly read on the feast of All Saints in the Middle Ages.
(After the Apostles) is added the triumphal title of the Martyrs, who through diverse sorts of torments imitated the passion of Christ, offering no provocation in their minds or hearts. Some were killed with the sword, some burnt, some beaten, some pierced with bolts, some crucified, … it is they that celebrate the triumph, and are the friends of God, who, defying the orders of criminal rulers, are now crowned, and receive the reward of their labors, because they were founded upon the firm rock, that is, Christ. … The blessed Gregory says of the warriors of this sort, in his explanation of one of the Gospels, “Behold, the elect of God subdue the flesh, strengthen the spirit, gain mastery over the devils, shine brightly with virtues, despise the present world, and speak of the eternal fatherland in their words and in their manners. And even as they die, they love, and so they come there through their torments. They can be killed, but they cannot be bent, “and though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality. Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace he hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust he hath received them.” Now therefore, we have heard of the contests and victories of the martyrs of Christ. To them, certainly, we hold this day to be sanctified, insomuch as they did not cease to labor within themselves, that they might be sanctified through their sufferings.

The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, by Titian, 1567, from the Spanish Royal Monastery of the Escorial.

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