St. Cecilia (3rd century)
Although Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, the familiar stories about her are apparently not founded on authentic material. There is no trace of honour being paid her in early times. A fragmentary inscription of the late fourth century refers to a church named after her, and her feast was celebrated at least in 545. According to legend, Cecilia was a young Christian of high rank betrothed to a Roman named Valerian. Through her influence Valerian was converted, and was martyred along with his brother. The legend about Cecilia’s death says that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church. Since the time of the Renaissance she has usually been portrayed with a viola or a small organ.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (18.33-37)
Pilate asked Jesus, Are you the king of the Jews? Is that your own idea, Jesus asked, or did others talk to you about me? Am I a Jew? Pilate replied. It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done? Jesus said, My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place. You are a king, then! said Pilate. Jesus answered, It is you who say it. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.)
(Homily by. Fr. E.J. Tyler)
It is possible, for considerable periods of one’s life, to be living on the surface of things. Life can be made to consist in the pursuit of this or that interest or distraction, based on mere personal preference. In this case, life is lived and developed on the basis of what happens to attract. Those attractions can be massive and lead to enormous activity, but in the final analysis their basis can be mere preference. But if a person reflects more profoundly, it ought become clear to him that if he is to be truly and fully himself, he must not spend his life simply acting on personal preference. At the heart of being the person he discovers himself to be, is the call of duty. It is not mere preference but duty which - if he has developed an inner sensitivity to it - touches and beckons his deepest self. He senses that the path of duty is the way to his truest happiness and the flourishing of his best self. Very many ignore the call of duty and choose the path of preference, but they do so to their ultimate cost. Duty is at the heart of authentic human experience, and a man’s sense of duty constitutes a moment of choice in his road ahead. What will it be? Duty will be hard and narrow, but it will lead to abundant life. Mere preference will be broad and perhaps exciting, but its end will be an arid desert. Now, if a person stands and contemplates the duty which sweetly and sternly summons him, he notices that in fact it is the summons of truth. It is what is true that constitutes the duty of every life. Every person is called to sincerity and truthfulness in acting and speaking. Everyone has the duty to seek the truth, to adhere to it and to order his life in accordance with its demands. He finds that if he tries always to be true and faithful to the truth as it seems to him, then he flourishes in his being. If he abandons the demands of truth and acts merely on personal preference irrespective of what the truth of the situation may be, then he gradually crumbles as a person. But as Pilate asked the Man before him, What is truth? Where is it? Is it just a phantom?
There are elements of the truth everywhere, and massive attempts have been made by seekers of the truth to attain it. Many have, to a greater or lesser extent, been successful, and mankind has benefited accordingly. But what of the whole of truth, and in particular the source and the heart of truth? Of course, no one can attain all possible elements of the truth as represented by, say, the libraries and wise men of the world. But is there some way of being in intimate union with the heart, soul and source of all truth, and then of surrendering oneself to the duty of loving and serving it? This would obviously bring the greatest possible flourishing to the human spirit and the perfection of his being - because man knows he is made for duty, duty to the truth. The good news of the Gospel is that in Jesus Christ the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. He is “the Truth.” Christ formally stated that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. In him the fullness of the godhead abides bodily. To know him is to know the Truth. All that is true, be it visible or invisible, has its source in him. All of duty is, then, founded in his person, for all of duty is founded in the Source of truth and being. To discover the person of Jesus Christ is to have found the Source of all that we are called to do and be. Any person who is of the truth and who accepts the fundamental duty to live according to it, and not according to mere preference, comes to him. Thus it is that our Lord responds to Pilate with the simple yet profoundly significant words: “for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18: 33b-37). The fundamental vocation of every person is to hear the word of Christ, to perceive it as the truth, to live according to it, and to bear witness to it before men. The Christian is called to bear witness to Christ as the Truth in every field of his activity, both public and private, and also, if necessary, with the sacrifice of his life. Martyrdom is the supreme act of witness to the truth, and is the greatest fulfilment of duty. In this, Christ is our exemplar.
Let us in our hearts place ourselves before the person of Jesus Christ as he utters the words spoken to Pilate. What is truth? Supremely and fundamentally, truth is that which comes from God - and God, God the Son, is Jesus Christ. I am the truth, he says, and I bear witness to the truth - that truth which is me and my teaching. All violations of the truth, such as lying, slander, flattery, whatever it may be, strike at the person and law of Jesus Christ. Because he is the Truth, he is also our Way and our Life. Let us then resolve to place him at the centre of our life and to hear our duty as it is expressed in his word. This will be the source of our unending happiness.