26th November 2023

During this past week we celebrated the feast of St Cecilia, virgin and martyr and patroness of musicians. Happy feast, if you’re a musician. Almost nothing (except an approximate date of her death) is known about her. It was some 200 years after her death which took place during the persecutions of the Roman Emperors that a strong cult grew up around her, so strong that a basilica was erected to her honour in the mid 5th century. Some of the greatest composers in history have written about her and she seems to be a sort of muse for the virginal-like flowering of a new piece of music in the mind of a musical genius.

Anyway, because of the conviction of the newly-liberated church of the post-Roman empire, we can be pretty certain that she was both a virgin and a martyr who died because of her all-consuming love for Jesus. To our sophisticated ears, those terms can seem somewhat archaic themselves and thus ‘discardable’. But they are vitally important to the life of Faith as they express the marriage bond that the exists between God and His people. The Old and New Testament scriptures abound with examples of the imagery of a wedding feast and indeed, in our actual wedding liturgies we talk of how the newly weds are symbols of Christ’s love for the Church, His Bride. This is not about some goody-two-shoes lass who’s never been kissed; it’s much deeper than that. It’s about the absolute giving of Christ Himself to His people and our feeble attempts to do the same back. It’s a call to us to get our act together and to put Christ at the centre of our lives.

Easier said than done; trust me, I know! Maybe you’re like me and you’re wondering where the year has gone? This time last year I was serving on a parish in the Diocese of Sacramento in California. This time last year, just like this year, I’m marvelling at ‘what a difference a year can make’! As we watch time speed by, as we enter into December and the First Sunday of Advent in this coming week, we can perhaps find ourselves wondering (not marvelling) at the missed opportunities to deepen our Faith in and love for Christ, our King. This year, we have enthroned an earthly king in Westminster Abbey, but have we enthroned our Heavenly King in the depth of our hearts? St Cecilia and many others are presented to us by Holy Mother Church to remind us of this most important task, namely embracing Our Lord as the centre of our lives and, in the way spouses do, preferring absolutely nothing to Him. When He is at the centre of our universe everyone and everything else can fall into its rightful place and God’s creative genius can be seen in everyone and everything. Last year, I learnt from my Mexican parishioners that such a conviction drove the Cristeros martyrs at the beginning of the 20th century who, as they were shot for insisting on Jesus’ law against an atheistic law, shouted out: VIVA CRISTO REI! Would I be that courageous? Yes, but only if Jesus is enthroned in my hearts core as my love, my Saviour and my King.

Last laugh: I’m not saying he was a heavy drinker but the only thing that grew on his grave were hops! Les Dawson

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