Born in Emesa, Syria at the end of the first century, he came along at a time when most of the Apostles had already died. Anicetus was of the generation of leaders who had never met any of the original leaders of the fledgling Church.
It is said that Anicetus came to Rome with St. Justin Martyr, one of the first Christian apologists. On the martyrdom of Pius I, Anicetus was elected to the bishopric of Rome. He had quite a bit to face.
First, the Gnostic heretics, Valentinian and Marcion, were still in Rome, still trying to sell their concepts of the two Gods, the tyrant of the Old Testament and the kind, loving God of the New. Valentinian, who, Tertullian says, planned to become the Bishop of Rome but never got the chance, was eventually excommunicated. There is no documentation as to who finally did the excommunication, but it seems that St. Polycarp of Smyrna may have done that. At any rate, he moved back to Asia Minor soon after Anicetus became bishop. His followers continued to raise havoc in Rome. Marcion was excommunicated by his own father, the bishop of Sinope. Because the Roman civilians listened so long to the teachings of these heretics, they tended to fall away from the intense teachings of Peter and Paul. Anicetus worked very hard at re- teaching his parishioners. He did make a rule to help distinguish the orthodox presbyters from the long-haired Gnostics: they had to keep their hair short. As the early historian, Hegesippus, wrote, the whole city developed a zeal of sanctity.
By the time Anicetus was bishop, very few people were left alive who had ever met any of the Apostles. Polycarp, the elderly bishop of Smyrna, had sat at the knee of St John the Evangelist, and had conversed with others. Many in the East revered him and clung to his every word. In the middle of the second century, the Eastern Church celebrated Easter Biblically, that is, the 14th day of Nisan, as defined as Passover, no matter what day of the week it fell on. The Western Church had already been directed to celebrate Easter on the Sunday. At this time, it was already becoming a straining point between the two segments of the Church. In 160, the old, revered Polycarp came to Rome to discuss this with Anicetus. Eventually, neither would budge and they had to agree to disagree. Anicetus was not going to put the Church at risk by antagonizing Polycarp and his let it alone. But years later, this became one of the dividing arguments that split the Church.
Soon after Marcus Aurelius became emperor, he must have noted the lack of worship of the standard Roman gods. A brilliant man in his own right, Aurelius must have known the cause of this behavior. He quickly went to the source, Pope Anicetus, and took him into custody. As inflexible as ever in supporting the orthodoxy of the Church and making known the Good News of Jesus Christ, Anicetus did not alter his beliefs. The good bishop was decapitated quickly.
INTROIT Psalm 63:2
Thine to defend me, O God, from this malice, alleluia: the thronging enemies that are bent on my hurt, alleluia, alleluia. V. O God, listen to my prayer when I call for aid, save me from the threats of my mortal foe. 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 Thine to defend me, O God…
Be pleased to watch over thy flock, eternal Shepherd, and keep it under thy continual protection, through thy martyr and supreme pontiff, blessed Anicetus, whom thou didst establish as chief shepherd of the whole Church. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R.Amen.
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord God, unto all thy servants, that they may remain continually in the enjoyment of soundness both of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of the Blessed Mary, always a Virgin, may be delivered from present sadness, and enter into the joy of thine eternal gladness.
for the Church
Mercifully hear the prayers of thy Church, we beseech thee, O Lord, that all adversities and errors being overcome, she may serve thee in security and freedom. 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 Wisdom 5:1-5
Then the righteous will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who have oppressed them and those who make light of their labours. When the unrighteous* see them, they will be shaken with dreadful fear, and they will be amazed at the unexpected salvation of the righteous. They will speak to one another in repentance, and in anguish of spirit they will groan, and say, ‘These are persons whom we once held in derision and made a byword of reproach – fools that we were! We thought that their lives were madness and that their end was without honour. Why have they been numbered among the children of God? And why is their lot among the saints?
Alleluia, alleluia. V. Ps. 88:6 The heavens, Lord, are witness of thy wonderful power, of thy faithfulness before the court of the holy ones. Alleluia. V. Lord, thou hast set a jewelled crown upon his head. Alleluia.
GOSPEL John 15:1-7
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
OFFERTORY Psalm 88:6
The heavens, Lord, are witnesses of thy wonderful power, of thy faithfulfulness before the court of the holy ones alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
We have offered thee our gifts, and now we pray thee, Lord, graciously to enlighten thy Church, so that everywhere thy flock may propser, and its pastors, under thy guidance, be truly pleasing in thy sight. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen.
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Through thy mercy, O Lord, and the intercession of blessed Mary ever Virgin, may this oblation obtain for us prosperity and peace both now and forever.
for the Church
Protect us, O Lord, who celebrate thy mysteries, that holding fast to divine things, we may serve thee with body and soul. 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 Easter
It it truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, at all times to praise Thee, O Lord, but more gloriously especially this when Christ our Pasch was sacrificed. For He is the Lamb Who hath taken away the sins of the world: Who by dying hath destroyed our death: and by rising again hath restored us to life. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing the hymn of Thy glory, evermore saying: HOLY, HOLY, HOLY…
COMMUNION Psalm 63:11
The good man will rejoice and put his trust in the Lord; the upright heart will not boast in vain alleluia, alleluia.
We pray thee, Lord, be pleased to guide thy Church which thou hast nourished with heavenly food, so that under thy might sway she may enjoy ever greater freedom and remain steadfast in the fulness of her faith. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever. R. Amen.
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Grant, O Lord, that we, who had partaken of the aids of salvation, may be everywhere protected by the patronage of blessed Mary ever Virgin, in whose honor we have offered these gifts of thy majesty.
for the Church
We beseech thee, O Lord, our God, that thou permit not those, to whom thou hast given a participation of divine things to be subjected to human dangers. 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.