22 Nov – Memorial of Saint Cecilia
Cultivated young patrician woman whose ancestors loomed large in Rome’s history. She vowed her virginity to God, but her parents married her to Valerian of Trastevere. Cecilia told her new husband that she was accompanied by an angel, but in order to see it, he must be purified. He agreed to the purification, and was baptised; returning from the ceremony, he found her in prayer accompanied by a praying angel. The angel placed a crown on each of their heads, and offered Valerian a favor; the new convert asked that his brother be baptised.
The two brothers developed a ministry of giving proper burial to martyred Christians. In their turn they were arrested and martyred for their faith. Cecilia buried them at her villa on the Apprian Way, and was arrested for the action. She was ordered to sacrifice to false gods; when she refused, she was martyred in her turn.
The Acta of Cecilia includes the following: “While the profane music of her wedding was heard, Cecilia was singing in her heart a hymn of love for Jesus, her true spouse.” It was this phrase that led to her association with music, singers, musicians, etc.
– The Patron Saint Index
1 Maccabees 4:36-37,52-59
Judas and his brothers said, ‘Now that our enemies have been defeated, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and dedicate it.’ So they marshalled the whole army, and went up to Mount Zion.
On the twenty-fifth of the ninth month, Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight, they rose at dawn and offered a lawful sacrifice on the new altar of holocausts which they had made. The altar was dedicated, to the sound of zithers, harps and cymbals, at the same time of year and on the same day on which the pagans had originally profaned it. The whole people fell prostrate in adoration, praising to the skies him who had made them so successful. For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering holocausts, communion sacrifices and thanksgivings. They ornamented the front of the Temple with crowns and bosses of gold, repaired the gates and the storerooms and fitted them with doors. There was no end to the rejoicing among the people, and the reproach of the pagans was lifted from them. Judas, with his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel, made it a law that the days of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated yearly at the proper season, for eight days beginning on the twenty-fifth of the month Chislev, with rejoicing and gladness.
Jesus went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling. ‘According to scripture,’ he said ‘my house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’
He taught in the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, tried to do away with him, but they did not see how they could carry this out because the people as a whole hung on his words.
My house shall be a house of prayer
In one of my fellowship groups, we’ve been working through a series called “Prayer – Does It Make Any Difference?” authored by Philip Yancey. The series is structured around several DVD sessions with short discussions thereafter and is designed to help us examine and find ways to improve our prayer life. One of the more striking things I’ve taken away from one of the sessions is just how deep, passionate and emotional some of the prayers from the Old Testaments are. An example being:
When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice. Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed: “I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. (Ezra 9:3-6)
With introspection, my prayers are nowhere nearly as powerfully humbling. My current prayer practices tend to be formulaic with not enough praise, repentance and thanksgiving to our Lord and too much emphasis on making requests of Him. Maybe I’m just not mature enough as a Christian to be able to connect with God in such a way yet? Or possibly, my ego and pride are preventing me from truly humbling myself to accept His will? Worse yet – could I be like the seed that was planted on rocks, thus lacking the good soil to grow roots? (Luke 8: 4-21)
Oftentimes when we enter into a new situation we feel this refreshing excitement of something novel. There’s this honeymoon period where a world of potential is just waiting to open up. Yet – as time wears on, that initial euphoria dissipates and that newness turns to ordinary. Further down the road, the ordinary turns to monotonous. Monotonous becomes annoying. And eventually, annoying turns to contempt.
What started off as a faithful and obedient relationship from the days of Abraham, the Hebrews over time took God’s covenant with Moses for granted. They added their own traditions and interpretations with no place showing more spiritual decay than what was happening at the Temple of Jerusalem during first century A.D. Rather than being a place of solemn worship to God, the temple became a marketplace – where salvation could be traded for a price and where “religious leaders” were willing to commit the ultimate sin (murder) in order to preserve their hierarchy and traditions. These religious leaders showed outright contempt for God by allowing all this to happen, made possible by their false image of Him that fit neatly in with their secular desires. When we think about a “house of worship” to a “den of thieves” – there is really a stark contrast between the two but as today’s gospel warns us – there is also a very fine line that can easily be crossed.
Let us remember that our greed, pride and worldly ambitions can very easily take us away from what we should be doing more of: prayer, Bible study and fellowship. But know full well that the only one who can drive out these thieves from our hearts (the temples of God) is Jesus.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)
Thanksgiving – Jesus, please hold on to us. You’re all we’ve got. Because it does make a difference if we make it or not.
Prayer – Father God, we pray that our prayer lives continue to improve. We sometimes don’t know what to say, or how to say it – but fill us up with the Holy Spirit to teach us how to better our relationship with You.