John Lilburne's journal about first reading for memorial of Saint Cecilia Hosea 2:16-17.21-22.



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0841 L Thu 22 Nov 2001

Today is the memorial of Saint Cecilia. She is one of the saints who may be included in Eucharistic Prayer 1: "Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia".

According to the entry on Cecilia in the Oxford Dictionary of Saints: "Roman martyr of the 3rd century, of whom almost nothing is known for certain. Her great popularity is largely due to the late 5th-century Legend. According to this, shw was a young Christian patrician, betrothed to a pagan called Valerian. But she had already vowed her virginity to God and refused to consummate the marriage. ..."

This is reflected in the first reading from the prophet Hosea 2:16-17.21-22:

"The Lord says this:

I am going to lead her out into the wilderness and speak to her heart.
There she will respond to me as she did when she was young,
as she did when she came out of the land of Egypt.
I will betroth you to myself for ever,
betroth you with integrity and justice,
with tenderness and love;
I will betroth you to myself with faithfulness,
and you will come to know the Lord."

It quite a selective extract from Hosea. He tends to emphasise human unfaithfulness. For example, Hosea 1:2 "When Yahweh first spoke through Hosea, Yahweh said this to him, 'Go, marry a whore, and get children with a whore, for the country itself has become nothing but a whore by abandoning Yahweh." The problems are widespread, from Hosea 4:4 -7

But let no man denounce, no man rebuke;
it is you, priest that I denounce.
Day and night you stumble along,
the prophet stumbling with you,
and you are the ruin of your people.
My people perish for want of knowledge.
As you have rejected knowledge so do I reject you from my priesthood;
you have forgotten the teaching of your God,
I in my turn will forget you children.

So the human unfaithfulness highlights how God's love is undeserved, that it is a free gift, of his choosing.

Regarding virginity, I will conclude with an extract from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Virginity for the sake of the Kingdom

1618. "Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social.[Cf. Lk 14:26 ; Mk 10:28-31 .] From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming.[Cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Cor 7:32 ; Mt 2:56 .] Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:

'For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.'[Mt 19:12 .]"

1619. "Virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven is an unfolding of baptismal grace, a powerful sign of the supremacy of the bond with Christ and of the ardent expectation of his return, a sign which also recalls that marriage is a reality of this present age which is passing away.[Cf. Mk 12:25 ; 1 Cor 7:31 .] "

1620. "Both the sacrament of Matrimony and virginity for the Kingdom of God come from the Lord himself. It is he who gives them meaning and grants them the grace which is indispensable for living them out in conformity with his will.[Cf. Mt 19:3-12 .] Esteem of virginity for the sake of the kingdom[Cf. LG 42; PC 12; OT 10.] and the Christian understanding of marriage are inseparable, and they reinforce each other:

Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good.[St. John Chrysostom, De virg. 10, 1 PG 48, 540; Cf. John Paul II, FC 16.] "

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 22 November 2001. Bible extracts from The Jerusalem Bible.