Monday, December 25, 2017

Something Unusual For Christmas Day! St Anastasia, a Saint of the Roman Canon

Just as with someone whose birthday is on Christmas Day, St Anastasia is not often commemorated, even though it is her feast too. So as something slightly different for today, here is a feature on her, one of the saints of the Roman Canon, to complement your consideration of Our Lord’s Nativity.

Since a separate Mass for her cannot be said on December 25th, I suggest something else that could be done liturgically to revive her memory. Perhaps we could find a way of adding a veneration to her without distracting from the Nativity, through the addition of her name to the prayers of the day in the Mass or the Divine Office, or through a veneration of her icon in the processions, in a way that supports, rather than distracts from, the main focus of the day. We could take a lead from the Eastern Church, which often commemorates the Saints of the day even in the Sunday liturgy, by singing more than one troparion of the day at the appropriate juncture.

In regard to St Anastasia, not much is know about her, except that she was a Roman by birth who was martyred at Sirmium in modern-day Serbia, during the persecution of the Emporer Diocletian.

You can read about her at New Advent here. This Western depiction of her shows her with the idealized features of a Greek goddess, as would have been the norm in the classicizing art of the High Renaissance or the early 19th century.

Her liturgical title in the Byzantine liturgy is “Φαρμακολυτρία - Deliverer of Potions”, i.e., one who delivers people from the harmful effects of potions and poisons; Eastern icons therefore show her with a bottle in her hands, which symbolising the power of her prayers to cure the sick.

This is one of a series of articles written to highlight the great feasts and the saints of the Roman Canon. All are connected to a single opening essay, in which I set out principles by which we might create a canon of art for Roman Rite churches, and a schema that would guide the placement of such images in a church. (Read it here.) In these, I plan to cover the key elements of images of the Saints of the Roman Canon - Eucharistic Prayer I - and the major feasts of the year. I have created the tag Canon of Art for Roman Rite to group these together, should any be interested in seeing these articles as they accumulate. For the fullest presentation of the principles of sacred art for the liturgy, take the Master’s of Sacred Arts, www.Pontifex.University.

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