Agnes, Child-Martyr at Rome

21 January -- Lesser Festival -- Martyr -- Red

The reason Agnes is one of the most well-known and widely-venerated of the early Roman martyrs is perhaps because of the expression of mature resilience and sheer bravery in a thirteen-year-old girl. Agnes is reputed to have refused an arranged marriage because of her total dedication to Christ and stated that she preferred even death of the body to the death of her consecrated virginity. The growing veneration for the state of consecrated virginity at this time, combined with the last, major Roman persecution under the emperor Diocletian, climaxing in the shedding of an innocent virgin-child's blood willingly for Christ, placed her at the forefront of veneration almost from the moment the persecution ended. She is believed to have died in the year 304 and her feast has ever since been celebrated on this day.

Collect

Eternal God, Shepherd of your sheep,
whose child Agnes was strengthened to bear witness
   in her living and her dying
to the true love of her Redeemer:
grant us the power to understand, with all your saints,
what is the breadth and length and height and depth
and to know the love that surpasses knowledge,
even Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

A reading from the book Ecclesiasticus.

I give you thanks, O Lord and King, and praise you, O God my Saviour. I give thanks to your name, for you have been my protector and helper and have delivered me from destruction and from the trap laid by a slanderous tongue, from lips that fabricate lies. In the face of my adversaries you have been my helper and delivered me, in the greatness of your mercy and of your name, from grinding teeth about to devour me, from the hand of those seeking my life, from the many troubles I endured.

This is the word of the Lord.         Ecclesiasticus 51. 1-3

Responsorial Psalm

RYour name will be remembered
from one generation to another.
Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely;
forget your people and your family's house.
The king will have pleasure in your beauty;
he is your master; therefore do him honour. R

The people of Tyre are here with a gift;
the rich among the people seek your favour.
All glorious is the princess as she enters;
her gown is cloth-of-gold. R

In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king;
after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.
With joy and gladness they are brought,
and enter into the palace of the king. R         From Psalm 45

A reading from the Revelation to John.

One of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?" I said to him, "Sir, you are the one that knows." Then he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

"For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.

"They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

This is the word of the Lord.         Revelation 7. 13-17

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

The disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!"

This is the gospel of Christ.         Matthew 18. 1-7

Post Communion

God,
who gave us this holy meal
in which we have celebrated the glory of the cross
and the victory of your martyr Agnes:
by our communion with Christ
in his saving death and resurrection,
give us with all your saints the courage to conquer evil
and so to share the fruit of the tree of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.