Tomorrow is the feast of St. Agnes. I am happy enough to be able to stare out my window at one of her two great churches in Rome. In my case it is the Church of St. Agnes in agone. Agone is an odd word, refering to the Greek term for the “athletic struggle” faced by the martyrs in their last moments. The church, a work of the architect Boromini (+1667), faces the Piazza Navona (which is in agone in another form) which still maintains the shape of the ancient Stadium of Domitian (+ A.D. 96). The Stadium, which could seat over 20,000 people, is one of the true places of the martydom of Christians in Rome. In the church is held in reverence the skull of Agnes.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
qui infirma mundi eligis ut fortia quaeque confundas,
ut, beatae Agnetis martyris tuae natalicia celebramus,
eius in fide constantiam subsequamur.
The most interesting word in this prayer is natalicius, -a, -um and adjective meaning, according to the mighty Lewis & Short, “of or belonging to the hour or day of one’s birth, birthday, natal”. A natalicium is “a birthday present”. The glossary by Souter is says natalicium is a the festival days of a saint and “of martyrs, anniversary of day when they entered upon real life”. Blaise is for natalicia as a neuter plural, which is clearly what it is in this prayer for St. Agnes.
This was in the 1962MR is based
on a prayer in the Veronese Sacramentary for another virgin martyr of Rome, Cecilia
: Omnipotens sempiterne deus, qui elegis infirma mundi, ut fortia quaeque confundas: da nobis in fesitiuitate sancte martyris Caeciliae congrua deuotione gaudere; ut et potentiam tuam in eius passione laudemus, et prouiso nobis percipiamus auxilium….
Almighty eternal God,
who choose the weak things of the world so that you may confound whatever things are strong,
that we who celebrate the festal day of the martyr Saint Agnes
may closely follow her steadfastness in faith.
Tommorow, in her honor, I will put my webcam on the church all day long. In fact, I think I will start right now!
Almighty, eternal God,
you chose what the world considers weak to put the worldly power to shame.
May we who celebrate the birth of Saint Agnes into eternal joy
be loyal to the faith she professed.
Not nearly as bad as usual? At least, unusually for an ICEL opening prayer, “Almighty eternal God” remains with us. Of course “propitiously grant…” becomes “May WE…”, and ICEL wisely knew that the prayer needed to be chopped into two simpler sentences for us to have a chance of comprehending it. And, thankfully, they made it a bit easier for us — to somehow vaguely be loyal to St. Agnes’ faith, rather than actually having to follow her steadfastness.
They certainly had a different set of translators working on the propers.