tomorrow is the feast of st. agnes, the patroness of ascension & st. agnes here in dc, and i'm scheduled to preach. the picture @ left is of the st. agnes window in our sanctuary, and you can see her name @ the top, an image of a lamb in the middle (the latin for "lamb," agnus
, sounds like agnes, plus lambs symbolize virginity and innocence), but all around are implements of torture: a dagger, a pyre, a sword. wha?
well, i read about agnes this week, and the story is that she was martyred by the roman emperor diocletian around the year 305 when she was only thirteen years old. one source
says she became a christian when she was ten, and she got in trouble when she rebuffed the advances of a high roman official and told him: “the one to whom i am betrothed is christ whom the angels serve. he was the first to choose me. i shall be his alone.”
not a good idea, survival-wise. she was cast into a brothel and finally sentenced to die, purportedly b/c she was a christian and an empire-wide persecutions of christ's followers was underway about that time.
so, here's my question: what, if anything, am i supposed to learn from agnes' story? supposing, for a moment, that the legends are true (they actually conflict, some of them saying it was the emperor himself that was smitten w/ her, some saying she was beheaded, others that she was burned or strangled, etc.) . . . what that got to do wit me
? i'm writing this in dc @ a caribou coffee, for god's sake. nobody @ the next table's going to throw down w/ me b/c i've got a bible in my bookbag.
i suggest we can learn that there are things worth
dying for, whether we actually have to do so or not. i read an interview with gordon brown
, the english chancellor of the exchequer (a cool-sounding job), who said courage is “not the absence of fear, because we are all afraid. courage is the belief that there is something more important than safety
.” agnes reminds us there are things more important to our souls than, in no particular order: acquiring stuff, getting that next promotion, living in the right neighborhood, driving the right car, going to the right parties, wearing the right clothes -- more important, even, than living
. the question for us today probably won’t be whether we are be brave enough to die violently for our lord, but whether we are brave enough to put to death our sinful selves for christ’s sake day after day after day, in the petty, unnoticeable, haphazard circumstances of our lives. the stories of our saints remind us that, by god's grace, it may be so.
saint agnes, pray for us.