Sunday, July 27, 2008

SS Nazarius, Celsus, Victor and Innocent

I may as well get in early with my comments about tomorrow's saints; after work, I will be able to attend Low Mass in their honour at 6:30pm.

Archdale Arthur King commented, in his Liturgies of the Primatial Sees, that one feature of the Ambrosian Rite is its propensity to feast several disparate saints together, commemorating them by one collect and one Office and one Mass on a given day. This Ambrosian custom, so-called*, may be seen at work in the feast of SS Nazarius, Celsus, Victor and Innocent: two faithful Christian witnesses martyred at Milan, one Pope-martyr, and another sainted Supreme Pontiff and Confessor, who was the hammer of the Pelagian heretics. It is due to St Ambrose that we have the relics of the first two, for it was he who found them.

(* I wonder whether it may not be Roman indeed: for there are like collects grouping the following sets of martyr-saints in the Roman Missal: SS Basilides, Cyrinus, Nabor and Nazarius; SS Sergius, Bacchus, Marcellus and Apuleius; SS Nereus, Achilleus, Domitilla and Pancratius; and SS Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abachum - the last four fascinate me, as a Christian Persian noble family who perhaps unwisely took a holiday in Rome during the persecutions and were nabbed when they went to visit and succour the Christians already languishing in prison!)

Even their proper Lesson at Matins consists of three separate potted biographies one after the other, almost in the manner of an entry in the Martyrology.

These holy four have proper orations for their Mass, and a proper Lesson for the Epistle, but otherwise the texts for the service come from the relevant common.

I think the Proper Lesson (Wisdom x, 17-20 - prefaced by Deus, and concluded with Domine Deus noster) noteworthy, in that at first its application to them does not seem so obvious, for on the face of it the reading but tells the tale of the Israelites delivered from Egypt - but, of course, this is the central type and foreshadowing of the delivery by Baptism of all Christians from the slavery of Satan. This true image was beloved of the early Church, and was applied furthermore to the martyrs, who by their apparent defeat in bloody death drowned in truth all machinations of unbelieving pagans, the Devil's dupes, and confounded accursed Lucifer himself, his intended prey being instead translated to heaven.

God rendered to the just the wages of their labours, and conducted them in a wonderful way: and he was to them for a covert by day, and for the light of stars by night: And he brought them through the Red Sea, and carried them over through a great water. But their enemies he drowned in the sea, and from the depth of hell he brought them out. Therefore the just took the spoils of the wicked. And they sung to thy holy name, O Lord, and they praised with one accord thy victorious hand, O Lord our God.

And here are the proper prayers of the Mass:

Sanctorum tuorum nos, Domine, Nazarii, Celsi, Victoris et Innocentii confessio beata communiat: et fragilitati nostrae subsidium dignanter exoret. Per...

Concede nobis, omnipotens Deus: ut his muneribus, quae in sanctorum tuorum Nazarii, Celsi, Victoris et Innocentii honore deferimus, et te placemus exhibitis, et nos vivificemur acceptis. Per...

Sanctorum Nazarii, Celsi, Victoris et Innocentii, Domine, intercessione placatus: praesta, quaesumus; ut, quae temporali celebramus actione, perpetua salvatione capiamus. Per...

(Lord, may the blessed confession of Thy saints Nazarius, Celsus, Victor and Innocent together defend us: and may it worthily implore support for our frailty. Through...

(Grant unto us, almighty God, that by these gifts, which we bring in honur of Thy saints Nazarius, Celsus, Victor and Innocent, both being shewn forth, we may please Thee, and being accepted, may quicken us. Through...

(Lord, being appeased by the intercession of Thy saints Nazarius, Celsus, Victor and Innocent, grant, we beseech Thee, that, what we celebrate by a work in time, we may grasp in perpetual salvation. Through...)

May their true and therefore blessed witness-unto-death be for us a defence and a support; may what we offer in their honour (being transsubstantiated into the one clean and perfect Oblation) obtain that we may be made God-pleasing, and give us supernatural life both in its being offered in sacrifice, and in its reception by us; and may the divine mystery we celebrate on earth, at their intercession, transpire to be what we lay hold of evermore in heaven. What prayers!

I think there is something very powerful in celebrating the feasts of the early martyrs. It touches at once the earliest days and the greatest witnesses-unto-Christ of the Roman Church, in and through the very raw power of its ancient Liturgy.

1 comment:

Joshua said...

I served Mass tonight, and so celebrated these martyrs through service of the Liturgy.