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Remembering Saint Cecilia on Good Friday

Roman Senator Apollonius: Witness for Christ

Tertullian on the Spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire






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April 2, 2010

Remembering Saint Cecilia on Good Friday

There is a reason why so many women name their daughters Cecilia and it has nothing to do with women cheating on their lovers as in the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel's song "Cecilia".

Cecilia is a saint in the Catholic Church. She lived during a time the early Church was being persecuted by the pagan Roman Empire. Cecilia's pagan father arranged a marriage for her but she decided to become a Christian. The man she was engaged to and his friend followed suit and became Christians.

After her betrothed husband and his friend were martyred, Cecilia was arrested and sentenced to be executed in her caldarium (a Roman steam bath). Her executioners fed the furnace with 7 times more fuel than normal. When they opened the door to the caldarium they found Cecilia singing Christian hymns. Having failed to kill her in this way they tried to behead her but her neck withstood three blows from the executioner's sword. Roman law forbade a forth attempt to kill her so Cecilia was left to die with her head half severed. She lived for 3 days.

During those 3 days, it is said, she converted many to her faith. When her body was disinterred it was found to have the index finger extended on one hand (there is one God) and on the other hand it held out three fingers (Father, Son and Holy Ghost). The word martyr comes from the Latin and Greek words for witness.


If you look closely at the neck of the statue made to commemorate her martyrdom you can see a cut mark.

The persecution of Christians began with the crucifixion of Christ by the Jewish Sanhedrin which used the Roman government to execute him. It continued with the persecution of both Paul and Peter by the Jewish holyarchy. As they did with Christ, the Jewish holyarchy claimed that the Christians were violating "Pax Romana" by stirring up the Jews all over the world. Christians were accused of engaging in orgies and having strange secret rites.

Nero set the precedent for the Roman persecution of Christians by executing both Peter and Paul. Nero must have done this to please the Jewish holyarchy as Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to palliate the Sanhedrin. Nero blamed the burning of Rome on Christians and he imprisoned Saint John on the Island of Patmos. In the book of the Revelation John complains of persecution by "Jews who are not Jews" who worship in the "Synagogue of Satan" and he names Nero (whose Hebrew Name adds up to "666") as the anti-Christ. The Talmud claims that Nero later became a Jewish convert.

Most of the Christians were martyred, not in the colosseum, but in the circuses. They were turned into living torches to illuminate the circus performances.

Following in the Talmudic tradition of Christian persecution, Jewish Bolsheviks later martyred millions of Christians and canonized Judas Iscariot while making "anti-Semitism" a crime punishable by death. In Turkey, the crypto-Jew Atatürk martyred over a million Armenian Christians.

Over the centuries enormous tracts of church property have been stolen from the church (from the Body of Christ not the religious holyarchy); churches and priceless works of art have been destroyed; secret societies have infiltrated the church and sought to destroy it from within; priests and nuns have been murdered and countless Christians have been martyred for their faith.

"We visited the Church of Santo Stefano Rotundo. As you can see in the picture it is a round church with all the walls covered with paintings of the tortures and martyrdoms of the early Christians. They are graphic and detailed. The two pictures below are from the walls of the church (man with molten lead being poured down his throat and woman with her hands cut off and hung around her neck). These are only two pictures of hundreds.

But the early Christians gave witness to Christ with much more than their words. The New Testament was originally written in Greek and the Greek word used for "witness" is martur. Sound familiar. Say it to yourself out loud a few times and see if it sounds like an English word we use. I bet you guessed it. The English word "martyr" derives from the Greek word martur meaning witness. The Catechism states, "Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death . . . " "And they have conquered [the Devil] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (martur), for they loved not their lives even unto death." (Revelation 12:11, RSVCE)"

Are You Prepared to Witness for Christ?

Yet, Christianity goes on. The reason for this is best explained by 2 converts to Christianity: Apolonious, a Roman senator executed for being a Christian, and a Carthaginian named Tertullian.

Here is the testimony of senator Apollonius at his trial as recorded by the court stenographer. Apollonius explains the reason for his "treason" (i.e. his conversion to Christianity):

Roman Senator Apollonius: Witness for Christ

"The Word of God, who brought into existence men's souls and bodies, became a man in Judea - our Savior Jesus Christ.

Perfectly righteous, and filled with Divine wisdom, He lovingly taught us what the God of all is like, and what is the end of virtue, befitting the souls of men, with a view to social order and dignity. By His own suffering He put a stop to sins in their very beginning.

He taught us to stop anger, to moderate desire, to chaste the love of pleasure. He taught us to relieve sorrow, to be generous, to promote charity, to put away vainglory, to abstain from taking revenge, to despise death - not when inflected for wrongdoing, but in patient endurance of the wrongdoing of others. He taught us to obey the law laid down by Himself, to honor the emperor, to worship the immortal God, and Him only, to believe our souls to be immortal, to look forward to the judgment after death, to expect the reward of the toils of virtue to be given by God after the resurrection to those who have lived good lives.

All this He taught us plainly, and gave us convincing reasons for it....

We have hastened to honor Him because we have learned from Him lofty commandments, of which we were ignorant before, and are under no delusion.

Yet if it were a delusion as you say, which tells us that the soul is immortal, and that there is a judgment after death, and reward of virtue at the resurrection, and that God is the Judge, we would gladly be carried away by such a lie as that, which has taught us to live good lives, awaiting the hope of the future, even while suffering adversity."

Saint Apollonius

Apollonius was beheaded. The slave who informed on him was executed too. It was a violation of Roman law for a slave to inform on his master, the slave belonged to Apollonius, and the Romans were great sticklers for the letter of the law.

Tertullian on the Spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire

"We are but of yesterday, yet we have filled all that is yours: cities and islands, forts and towns, assemblies and even military camps, tribes, councils, the Palace, the Senate, the Forum. We left you only the temples."

If we abandoned you for some far country you would shudder at your solitude, at the silence, the stupor of a dead world.

Tertullian's Defense of the Christians

"The more you kill the more we are.
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."

The Crypt of Saint Cecilia






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