The Third Sunday after Epiphany is only commemorated today because of St Agnes’ feast. Next Sunday is Septuagesima, so today is also the last Sunday that the Alleluia will be sung as we enter into the pre-Lenten season of Gesimatide, in some places after None the symbolic ceremonial known as “Burying the Alleluia” takes place.
Martyred for her faith at the early age of twelve, Saint Agnes was one of the youngest-known named martyrs in the Communion of Saints. She was born into a wealthy Roman aristocratic family and was remarkable for her beauty as a child. But the true beauty was interior and as a youth she vowed to live a life of purity and chastity, consecrating herself as a virgin.
Even though she was not yet a teen, Roman suitors courted her trying to seduce her but she refused all advances. Word reached the Roman Emperor Diocletian who was relentless in his persecution of Christians. Rather than killing her right away, Diocletian’s men sought to discredit her by making her a prostitute and that would further discredit Christianity and dissuade others from becoming Christians. Naturally Agnes rejected all advances and refused to give in to the sins of the flesh. This further infuriated Diocletian and his cohorts who dragged her before the governor. He ordered that she be thrown into the fire. God preserved her beauty inside and out by allowing her to emerge unscathed. The governor then ordered that she be beheaded in a public display but even this the executioner botched, stabbing her in the throat where she died professing her undying loyalty to her One, True God in 304.
She was buried on the Via Nomentana where a cemetery stands in her name. Over the centuries Agnes, which means “chaste” in Greek, has become the standard for chastity, purity and virginal innocence and she is always depicted with a lamb – the Lamb of God – Agnus Dei. She (Agnete) is forever commemorated in the Nobis quoque peccatoribus – the Invocation of Saints in the Canon of the Holy Mass.
Of Sunday III Post Epiphany: Jesus, our Redeemer, is God. He works wonders and the Angels of Heaven adore Him. Jews and Gentiles will be obliged to recognize His royal Divinity. All the world is obliged to recognize the Social Kingship of Christ as King of all nations. The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans encourages us to make acts of faith in the divinity of Christ, that we may enter His Kingdom which prompts us to extend charity to all men for the sake of our love for God. This is manifested in the Gospel today by the two miracles our Lord performed. Just a word from our Savior cleanses the leper, whose cure, officially verified by the priests, “serves for a testimony of the divinity of the Christ”. Then we have the heathen, a Roman centurion, who obtains by his confidence, a great miracle: he testifies with humility that Christ is God. So great is this humility that the very words of the centurion have been employed by Holy Mother Church in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the Domine non sum dignus at Communion time.
INTROIT Psalm 118. 95, 96
The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I have understood Thy testimonies, O Lord: I have seen an end of all perfection: Thy commandment is exceeding broad (Ps. 118: 1) Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Repeat The wicked have waited for me…
O Almighty God and everlasting God, Who choosest the weak things of the world to confound the strong: mercifully grant that we who keep the solemn feast of blessed Agnes, Thy Virgin and Martyr, may experience the benefit of her pleading with Thee. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever. R. Amen.
Commemoratio Dominica III Post Epiphaniam
Almighty and everlasting God, look with favor upon our weakness, and stretch forth the right hand of Your majesty to help and defend us. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
EPISTLE Ecclesiasticus 2: 1-8, 12 (Wisdom 51: 1-8, 12)
Lesson from the Book of Wisdom. I will give glory to Thee, O Lord, O King, and I will praise Thee, O God my Savior. I will give glory to Thy name: for Thou hast been a helper and protector to me, and hast preserved my body from destruction, from the snare of an unjust tongue, and from the lips of them that forge lies: and in the sight of them that stood by Thou hast been my helper. And Thou has delivered me, according to the multitude of the mercy of Thy name, from them that did roar prepared to devour; out of the hands of them that sought my life, and from the gates of afflictions which compassed me about: from the oppression of the flame which surrounded me, and in the midst of the fire I was not burnt: from the depth of the belly of hell, and from an unclean tongue, and from lying words, from an unjust king, and from a slanderous tongue. My soul shall praise the Lord even to death: because Thou, O Lord our God, deliverest them that wait for Thee, and savest the out of the hands of the nations.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Ps 44:8
Grace is poured out upon your lips; thus God has blessed you forever. V. In the cause of truth and mercy and for the sake of justice; may your right hand show you wondrous deeds. Alleluia, alleluia. Matt. 25:4; 25:6 The five wise virgins took oil in their vessels with the lamps; and at midnight a cry arose, Behold the bridegroom is coming, go forth to meet Christ our Lord. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Matthew 25: 1-13
At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples this parable: ‘The kingdom of Heaven shall be like to ten virgins, who taking their lamps went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride. And five of them were foolish, and five wise; but the five foolish having taken their lamps, did not take oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with the lamps. And the bridegroom tarrying, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made; Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise: Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. The wise answered, saying: Lest perhaps there be not enough for us and for you, go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. Now, whilst they went to buy, the bridegroom came: and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. But at last came also the other virgins, saying: Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answering said: Amen I say to you, I know you not. Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour.’
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalm 44:15-16
Behind her the virgins of her train are brought to the King. They are borne in to You with gladness and joy; they enter the palace of the Lord, the King.
Graciously accept, O Lord, the sacrificial gifts we offer You and by the intercession of blessed Agnes, Your Virgin and Martyr, loose our sins. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son. Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R.Amen.
Commemoratio Dominica III Post Epiphaniam
May this offering, O Lord, we beseech You, wipe away our transgressions, and make holy the minds and bodies of Your servants for celebrating this sacrifice. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Holy Trinity
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God; Who, together with Thine only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, art one God, one Lord: not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance. For what we believe by Thy revelation of Thy glory, the same do we believe of Thy Son, the same of the Holy Ghost, without difference or separation. So that in confessing the true and everlasting Godhead, distinction in persons, unity in essence, and equality in majesty may be adored. Which the Angels and Archangels, the Cherubim also and Seraphim do praise: who cease not daily to cry out, with one voice saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Matt 25:4, 6.
The five wise virgins took oil in their vessels with the lamps; and at midnight a cry arose, Behold the bridegroom is coming, go forth to meet Christ our Lord.
Filled with heavenly food and drink, we humbly pray You, our God, that we may be helped by the prayers of her in whose memory we have received Your sacrament. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.
Commemoratio Dominica III Post Epiphaniam
O Lord, as You grant us to use this great sacrament, deign, we beseech You, to make us truly worthy of its fruits. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
PROPER LAST GOSPEL (Sunday III Post Epiphany) Matthew 8:1-13
At that time, when Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed Him. And behold, a leper came up and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if You will, You can make me clean. And stretching forth His hand Jesus touched him, saying, I will; be made clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a witness to them. Now when He had entered Capharnaum, there came to Him a centurion who entreated Him, saying, Lord, my servant is lying sick in the house, paralyzed, and is grievously afflicted. Jesus said to him, I will come and cure him. But in answer the centurion said, Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, and have soldiers subject to me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it. And when Jesus heard this, He marveled, and said to those who were following Him, Amen I say to you, I have not found such great faith in Israel. And I tell you that many will come from the east and from the west and will feast with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be put forth into the darkness outside; there will be the weeping, and the gnashing of teeth. Then Jesus said to the centurion, Go your way; as you have believed, so be it done to you. And the servant was healed in that hour.
R. Thanks be to God.