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AT Alexandria, in 249, the mob rose in savage fury against the Christians. Metras, an old man, perished first. His eyes were pierced with reeds, and he was stoned to death. A woman named Quinta was the next victim. She was led to a heathen temple and bidden worship. She replied by cursing the false god again and again, and she too was stoned to death. After this the houses of the Christians were sacked and plundered. They took the spoiling of their goods with all joy.
St. Apollonia, an aged virgin, was the most famous among the martyrs. Her teeth were beaten out; she was led outside the city, a huge fire was kindled, and she was told she must deny Christ, or else be burned alive. She was silent for a while, and then, moved by a special inspiration of the Holy Ghost, she leaped into the fire and died in its flames. The same courage showed itself the next year, when Decius became emperor, and the persecution grew till it seemed as if the very elect must fall away. The story of Dioscorus illustrates the courage of the Alexandrian Christians, and the esteem they had for martyrdom. He was a boy of fifteen. To the arguments of the judge he returned wise answers: he was proof against torture. His older companions were executed, but Dioscorus was spared on account of his tender years; yet the Christians could not bear to think that he had been deprived of the martyr's crown, except to receive it afterwards more gloriously. "Dioscorus," writes Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria at this time, "remains with us, reserved for some longer and greater combat." There were indeed many Christians who came, pale and trembling, to offer the heathen sacrifices. But the judges themselves were struck with horror at the multitudes who rushed to martyrdom. Women triumphed over torture, till at last the judges were glad to execute them at once and put an end to the ignominy of their own defeat.
Reflection. —Many saints, who were not martyrs, have longed to shed their blood for Christ. We, too, may pray for some portion of their spirit; and the least suffering for the faith, borne with humility and courage, is the proof that Christ has heard our prayer.
Lives Of The Saints By Alban Butler, Benziger Bros. Edition www.globalgrey.co.uk
This feast was instituted in 1882 by Leo XIII, who chose this day because January 28, on which date the saint’s name appears in the Martyrology, is already assigned to another Office. The name of St. Cyril immediately evokes the memory of those celebrated early sessions of the Council of Ephesus, when, through the agency of Cyril, the most splendid pages of the doctrine concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary were recorded. Nestorius having thrown doubt upon the dogma that in Jesus Christ there is only one person, it consequently resulted from this heresy that there could no longer be bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin the title of Mother of God, by which the faithful until then had been accustomed to invoke her. He died A.D. 444.
In the midst of the church the Lord opened his mouth: and filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding: He clothed him with a robe of glory. (P.T. Alleluia, alleluia.) Ps. 91, 2. It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to Thy name, O Most High. Glory be …
O God, Who didst make blessed Cyril, Thy Confessor and Bishop, the invincible champion of the most blessed Virgin Mary’s divine maternity, grant through his intercession that we, who verily believe her to be the Mother of God, may be saved by her maternal protection. Through our Lord.
Commemoration of St. Apollonia
O God, Who, among other miracles of Thy power, hast conferred the victory of martyrdom even on the weaker sex, mercifully grant that we, who celebrate the natal feast of blessed Apollonia, Thy virgin and martyr, may advance toward Thee through her example. Through our Lord.
Lesson from the Epistle of blessed Paul the Apostle to Timothy.
[His charge to Timothy. He tells him of his approaching death and desires him to come to him.]
Dearly beloved, I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming, and his kingdom: Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry. Be sober. For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming.
The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom, and his tongue shall speak judgment. The law of his God is in his heart: and his steps shall not be supplanted.
Alleluia, alleluia. Ecclus. 45, 9. The Lord loved him, and adorned him: He clothed him with a robe of glory. Alleluia.
Continuation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew.
[Christ's sermon upon the mount. The eight beatitudes.]
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men. You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.
So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled. He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
The just shall flourish like the palm-tree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus. (P.T. alleluia.)
Look with kindness, O almighty God, upon our gifts and, through the intercession of blessed Cyril, grant that we may worthily take into our hearts Thine only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who with Thee.
Commemoration of St. Apollonia
Graciously receive, O Lord, the gifts which we offer on the solemnity of Thy virgin and martyr, Apollonia, by whose patronage we trust to be delivered from all evil. Through our Lord.
A faithful and wise steward, whom the Lord set over His family; to give them their measure of wheat in due season. (P.T. Alleluia.)
That Thy sacrifices may give us health, O Lord, may blessed Cyril, Thy bishop and illustrious doctor, we beseech Thee, act as our intercessor. Through our Lord.
Commemoration of St. Apollonia
May the mysteries we have received, help us, O Lord, and , by the intercession of blessed Apollonia, Thy virgin and martyr, may they cause us to rejoice in everlasting protection. Through our Lord.