Saturday, 21 January 2017

St Agnes, Class II

For those saying the feast of St Agnes as a Class II feast, the readings are as set out below.

Nocturn I (Ecclesiastes 51:1-7)

(Psalms from the Common of Virgins, viz Ps 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10)

Reading 1:  A PRAYER of Jesus the son of Sirach. I will give glory to thee, O Lord, O King, and I will praise thee, O God my Saviour. I will give glory to thy name: for thou best 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.

R. Let us keep with joy and gladness the feast of this most saintly maiden, let us call to mind the holy passion of the blessed Agnes in her thirteenth year she conquered, losing death and finding life * Because she loved the Only Giver of Life.
V. Reckoned but a child in this world, she understood more than the ancients.
R. Because she loved the Only Giver of Life.

Reading 2: And thou hast 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:

R. My right hand and my neck hath He clasped with precious stones, and put pearls beyond price in mine ears,
* And hath crowned me with the bright blossoms of the eternal spring-time.
V. He hath sealed me in my forehead, that I may let in no other lover but Him.
R. And hath crowned me with the bright blossoms of the eternal spring-time.

Reading 3: My soul shall praise the Lord even to death. And my life was drawing near to hell beneath. They compassed me on every side, and there was no one that would help me. I looked for the succour of men, and there was none. I remembered thy mercy, O Lord, and thy works, which are from the beginning of the world. How thou deliverest them that wait for thee, O Lord, and savest them out of the hands of the nations.

R. Christ is my Lover, and I am entering with Him into the marriagechamber. His Mother is a Virgin, and His Father knoweth not a woman. The instruments of His music sound sweetly together in my ears.* If I love Him I shall be chaste, if I touch Him I shall be clean, if I embrace Him I shall be a virgin indeed.
V. He hath espoused me with a betrothal ring, and adorned me with a necklace of great price.
R. If I love Him I shall be chaste, if I touch Him I shall be clean, if I embrace Him I shall be a virgin indeed.

Reading 4: 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, and bless the name of the Lord.

R: Come, bride of Christ, receive the crown which the Lord has prepared for you for all eternity;
for whose love you have shed your blood. *And you will enter into the Paradise among the angels.
V: Come, O you my chosen one, and I will set my throne within you: so shall the King have pleasure in your beauty.
R: And you will enter...
V: Glory be...
R: And you will enter...

Nocturn II: Book of St Ambrose on Virgins

(Psalms 14, 44, 45, 47, 84, 86)

Reading 5: This is a virgin's birthday; let us then follow the example of her chastity. It is a Martyr's birthday; let us then offer sacrifices. It is the birthday of the holy Agnes; let men then be filled with wonder, little ones with hope, married women with awe, and the unmarried with emulation. But how shall I set forth the glory of her whose very name is an utterance of praise? It seemeth to me that this being, holy beyond her years, and strong beyond human nature, received the name of Agnes, not as an earthly designation, but as a revelation from God of what she was to be. For this name Agnes is from the Greek, and being interpreted, signifieth Pure. So that this saintly maiden is known by the very title of Chastity and when I have added thereto the word Martyr, I have said enough. She needeth not the praise which we could utter, but do not. None is more praiseworthy than she for whose praise all mouths are fitted. As many as name her, so many praise her, by the noble title of martyr.

R. The Lord hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, and covered me with the robe of righteousness:* And hath set a crown upon my head, as the crown of his bride.
V. He hath put pearls beyond price in mine ears, and hath crowned me with bright blossoms of the eternal springtime.
R. And hath set a crown upon my head, as the crown of his bride.

Reading 6: We learn by tradition that this holy martyr testified in the thirteenth year of her age. We will pass by the foul cruelty which did not spare her tender years, to contemplate the great power of her faith, whereby she overcame the weakness of childhood, and witnessed a good confession. Her little body was hardly big enough to give play to the instruments of their cruelty, but if they could scarce sheathe their swords in her slight frame, they found in her that which laughed the power of the sword to scorn. She had no fear when she found herself grasped by the bloody hands of the executioners. She was unmoved when they dragged her with clanging chains. Hardly entered on life, she stood fully prepared to die. She quailed not when the weapons of the angry soldiery were pointed at her breast. If they forced her against her will to approach the altars of devils, she could stretch forth her hands to Christ amid the very flames which consumed the idolatrous offerings, and mark on the heathen shrine the victorious Cross of the Lord. She was ready to submit her neck and hands to the iron shackles, but they were too big to clasp her slender limbs.

R. Honey and milk have I received from his mouth, * And his Blood is red upon my cheeks.
V. He hath shewn me countless treasures, and hath sworn to endow me therewith.
R. And his Blood is red upon my cheeks.
V. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
R. Thanks be to God.

Reading 7: Behold a strange martyr! She is not grown of stature to fight the battle, but she is ripe for the triumph; too weak to run in the race, and yet clearly entitled to the prize; unable from her age to be aught but a learner, she is found a teacher.She went to the place of execution a virgin, with more willing and joyful footsteps than she would have gone with to the nuptial chamber as a bride. The spectators were all in tears, and she alone did not weep. They beheld her with wonder, laying down that life of which she had hardly begun to taste the sweets, as freely as though she had drained it to the dregs and was weary of its burden. All men were amazed when they saw her whose years had not made her her own mistress, arise as a witness for the Deity.

R. His holy Body is already united to me, and his Blood is red upon my cheeks:  * He it is whose Mother is a virgin, and whose Father hath not known a woman.
V. I am wedded to the Lord of Angels, at whose beauty the sun and the moon do wonder.
R. He it is whose Mother is a virgin, and whose Father hath not known a woman.

Reading 8: Consider how many threats her murderer used to excite her fears, how many arguments to shake her resolution, how many promises to bribe her to accept his offers of marriage. But she answered him It is an insult to Him Whom I have wedded to expect me to comply. He That first chose me, His will I be. Headsman, why waitest thou? Perish the body which draweth the admiration of eyes from which I would turn away. She stood, prayed, and then bent her neck for the stroke. Now mightest thou have seen the murderer trembling as though he himself were the criminal, the executioner's hand shake, and the faces of them that stood by turn white at the sight of her position, and all the while herself remain without fear. This one victim brought God a double offering, that of her purity, and that of her faith. She preserved virginity and achieved martyrdom.

R. Grace is poured into thy lips, therefore;* God hath blessed thee for ever.
V. In thy comeliness and thy beauty, go forward, fare prosperously, and reign.
R. God hath blessed thee for ever.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. God hath blessed thee for ever.

Nocturn III: (Readings from the common of Virgins, St Gregory Homily 12 on the Gospels)

(Canticles: Ecclesiasticus 39:17-21; Isaiah 61:10-11, 62: 1-3; Isaiah 61:4-7)

Reading 9: Dearly beloved brethren, oftentimes do I warn you to fly corrupt conversation, and to keep yourselves unspotted from the world. But the portion which is this day read from the Holy Gospel doth oblige me to say that even to these good things which ye do, ye must needs take all careful heed. Look ye well to it, that, when ye work righteousness, ye do it not as seeking the praise and admiration of men, for if the lust of praise do once creep in, that which seemeth so fair without, loseth its reward within.

R. I am wedded to the Lord of Angels, at Whose beauty the sun and the moon do wonder.
* I keep my troth to Him alone, and commit me altogether to Him.
V. My right hand and my neck hath He clasped with precious stones, and put pearls beyond price in mine ears.
R. I keep my troth to Him alone, and commit me altogether to Him.

Reading 10: Behold how the Redeemer speaketh of these ten virgins. He calleth them all virgins, yet entered not all of them into the door of blessedness, for there were some of them who sought outwardly the honour of virginity, but would take no oil within their vessels with their lamps.First of all, it is for us to ask What is the kingdom of Heaven? And wherefore shall the same be likened unto ten virgins, whereof, albeit five were wise, yet five were foolish For if the kingdom of heaven be such that there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, how can it be like unto five virgins which were foolish?

R. O Thou Who Alone art Almighty! Who Alone art to be adored! Who Alone art to be worshipped! Who Alone art to be feared! I bless thee,* Because that through thine Only-begotten Son Thou hast delivered me from the threatenings of wicked men, and hast made me to walk with clean feet through the filthy haunts of devils.
V. My lips praise thee, my heart and all that is within me do long after thee.
R. Because that through thine Only-begotten Son Thou hast delivered me from the threatenings of wicked men, and hast made me to walk with clean feet through the filthy haunts of devils.

Reading 11: But we must know that, in the word of God, the kingdom of heaven doth oftentimes signify the Church as she now is, touching the which the Lord saith in another place " The Son of Man shall send forth His Angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend." In that kingdom of Blessedness, wherein peace shall have her perfect reign, there shall be nothing found that offendeth for the angels to gather out.

R. In thy comeliness and thy beauty;* Go forward, fare prosperously, and reign.
V. Grace is poured into thy lips, therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.
R. Go forward, fare prosperously, and reign.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. Go forward, fare prosperously, and reign.

Reading 12: The body of every man doth consist of five senses, and five being doubled, is ten. Forasmuch, therefore, as the whole body of the faithful doth consist of two sexes, the Holy Church is likened unto ten virgins. And forasmuch as in the Church the good are for the present mingled with the bad, and the reprobate with the elect, it is rightly said that, of the ten virgins, five are wise and five are foolish. There are many who have self-control, which do keep themselves from lusting after things outward, whose hope beareth them to things inward, who chastise the flesh, who long with intense home-sickness for their Fatherland which is in heaven, who seek an eternal reward, and who will not to receive for their labours the praise of men. These are they who reckon their glory, not in the mouths of men, but in the testimony of their own conscience. And many there be likewise who afflict the body by self-control, and yet who seek for their self-control applause from men.

R. Haec est virgo prudens* Quae veniente sponso accepit oleum in vasis suis, et ornatis lampedibus introivit cum eo ad nuptias
V. Haec est virgo sapiens, et una de numero prudentum
R. Quae veniente sponso accepit oleum in vasis suis, et ornatis lampedibus introivit cum eo ad nuptias
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. Quae veniente sponso accepit oleum in vasis suis, et ornatis lampedibus introivit cum eo ad nuptias

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