It is believed that St. Cecilia was born in the 2nd or 3rd century A.D., although the dates of her birth and martyrdom are unknown.
Tradition tells us that Cecilia was a Roman girl of a patrician family who had been brought up as a Christian. She fasted often and wore a coarse garment beneath her rich clothing. Although she had consecrated her virginity to God, her father betrothed her to a young pagan named Valerian.
When the wedding day arrived, Cecilia sat apart from her guests, repeating psalms and praying. After the ceremony, when the guests had departed and she was alone with her husband, Cecilia made known her great desire to remain a virgin, saying that she already had a lover, an angel of God who was very jealous. Valerian, shaken by fear, anger, and suspicion, said to her: “Show me this angel. If he is of God, I shall refrain, as you wish, but if he is a human lover, you both must die.” Cecilia answered, “If you believe in the one true and living God and receive the water of baptism, then you shall see the angel.” Valerian assented and following his wife’s directions sought out a bishop named Urban, who was in hiding among the tombs of the martyrs, for this was a time for persecutions. Valerian made his profession of faith and the bishop baptized him.
When the young husband returned, he found an angel with flaming wings standing beside Cecilia. The angel placed chaplets of roses and lilies on their heads. The brother of Valerian, Tiburtius, was also converted, and after being baptized he too experienced many marvels.
Valerian and Tiburtius devoted themselves to good works on behalf of the Christian community, and they made it their special duty to give proper burial to those who were put to death. The two brothers were themselves soon sentenced to death for refusing to sacrifice to Jupiter. Maximus, a Roman officer charged with their execution, was converted by a vision that he saw in the hour of their death. After professing Christianity, he, too, was martyred.
The three were buried by the grieving Cecilia. Soon after, she was sentenced to death. The prefect tried to reason with her, but she remained strong in her faith. Consequently, he gave an order that she was to be suffocated in her own bathroom. Surviving this attempt on her life, a soldier was sent to behead her. He struck her neck three times, then left her lying, still alive, for it was against the law to strike a fourth time. She lingered on for three days, during which the Christians who remained in Rome flocked to her house. In dying she bequeathed all her goods to the poor, and her house to the bishop for a place of Christian worship. She was buried in the crypt of the Caecilii at the Catacomb of St. Callistus. St. Cecilia’s body was found to be incorrupt in the Catacombs of Saint Callistus. Her body was later moved to St Cecilia in Trastevere.
She is praised as the most perfect model of the Christian woman because of her virginity and the martyrdom which she suffered for love of Christ.
At her wedding banquet, while the pipes were playing, St. Cecilia sang to the Lord, asking that her heart might remain immaculate, that she not be put to shame. This inspired early composers to write elaborate music for the antiphon used on her feast day, and St. Cecilia became the special patron of musicians. For this reason, she is usually shown at the organ, although a harp or lute may be used. Sometimes she wears a wreath of white and red roses.
INTROIT Psalm 118. 95, 96
I spoke of Thy testimonies before kings, and I was not ashamed : I meditated also on Thy commandments, which I loved. (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.
God, Who, among other miracles of Thy power, hast conferred the victory of martyrdom even on the weaker sex, mercifully grant that we, who celebrate the natal feast of blessed Cecilia, Thy virgin and martyr, may advance toward Thee through her example. 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.
Com. Octave of St Edmund
O God, whose mercy is beyond all telling, and who didst give the blessed King Edmund strength to overcome his enemy by dying for Thy sake, in Thy loving kindness grant that by his intercession we, Thy servants, may have grace to conquer and extinguish in ourselves the promptings of our ancient foe. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R. Amen
EPISTLE Wisdom 51: 13-17
Lesson from the Book of Wisdom. O Lord, my God, Thou hast exalted my dwelling-place upon the earth, and I have prayed for death to pass away. I called upon the Lord, the Father of my Lord, that He would not leave me in the day of my trouble, and in the time of the proud, without help. I will praise Thy name continually, and will praise it with thanksgiving and my prayer was heard, and Thou hast saved me from destruction, and hast delivered me from the evil time. Therefore I will give thanks, and praise Thee, O Lord our God.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 44: 11-12
Harken, O daughter, and see, and incline thine ear; for the King hath greatly desired thy beauty. V. (Ps. 44: 5) With thy comeliness and thy beauty, set out, proceed prosperously, and reign. Alleluia, alleluia. V. (Matth. 25: 4, 6) The five wise virgins took oil in their vessels with the lamps: and at midnight there was a cry made: Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye 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 Ps. 44: 15, 16
After her shall virgins be brought to the King: her neighbors shall be brought to Thee with gladness and rejoicing: they shall be brought into the temple of the King, the Lord.
May this sacrifice of atonement and praise, we beseech Thee, O Lord, by the intercession of blessed Cecilia, Thy virgin and martyr, ever make us worthy of Thy forgiveness. 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.
Com. Oct. St Edmund
Look graciously, we pray Thee, almighty God, upon this redeeming sacrifice, and at the intercession of Thy blessed martyr King Edmund, accept it as a peace-offering on behalf of Thy servants here. 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.
PREFACE of the Common
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, through Christ our Lord. Through whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The heavens and the heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them, we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise:
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Psalm 118: 78, 80
Let the proud be ashamed, because they have done unjustly towards me: but I will be employed in Thy commandments and in Thy justifications, that I may not be confounded.
Lord, Thou hast regaled Thy household with sacred gifts; ever comfort us, we pray, with her intercession whose festival we celebrate. Through the 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.
Com. Oct. St Edmund
May the tribute of our homage be pleasing to Thee, almighty God; and, at the intercession of Thy blessed martyr King Edmund, may this sacrament which we have taken help us to lay hold of the rewards of everlasting life. Through the 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