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Friday, March 26, 2010

Station at St. Stephen on the Coelian


Friday in Passion Week.
Station at St. Stephen on the Coelian.
(S. Stefano Rotondo.)

High Altar of S. Stefano Rotondo.

This Station is one of the most ancient religious edifices of Rome, having been built by Pope Simplicius in the fifth century. It is also architecturally interesting because of its remarkable construction.



It consists of a double circle of granite columns,
36 in the outer, 20 in the inner circle.

Originally there were three concentric rings of pillars enclosed by a wall decorated with pilasters. Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) shut out this wall, and raised the space between the outer circle with masonry, thus reducing the church's size from 210 feet to 133 feet. The 56 columns still seen present a unique and striking appearance.


The dome rests on two lofty columns of granite
and two piers or pillars of masonry.

Though cold and bare now, the interior was once rich with marbles and noble monuments.


Around the circular walls of the Basilica is a wonderful series of frescoes representing the chief forms of martyrdom in the ten great persecutions of the early Church. These pictures are intended to enable the beholder to realize how terrible were the sufferings of the martyrs, the horror of which no painter can adequately portray. They show, too, how precious the gift of Faith is to which they clung more than life.

They are a reminder that in just a week from now,
the King of Martyrs will mount the throne of the Cross.
The Martyr St Cyprian wrote:

"Pretiosa mors haec est...
Right dear indeed is that death which,
with the price of its own blood,
buyeth the life that can never die,
and receiveth the crown which is the consummation of its own courage!

O how joyful was Christ in that place!
How gladly did He, the Keeper of their faith,
when He found servants like these, fight and triumph in them!

He it was who was there when they fought.
He it was who raised them up to be His warriors,
and endued them with might to become champions of His holy Name.
For He who once conquered earth in His own Person on our behalf,
liveth for ever now to conquer death in the person of each of us.
"

He it was who was there when they where martyred by wild beasts.

He it was who was there when they where martyred by fire.

When they where martyred by being asphyxiated.

He beheld them being flayed alive.

He it was who was there when they where martyred by being dismembered.

By being boiled alive.

... and He it was who was there when they where
martyred
by forms of racking.


Liturgical Note:

The Introit of today's Mass is taken from Psalm 30 and very alludes to the mental anguish of Jesus, the martyr's King, as the hour of His Passion draws near:
"Miserere mihi, Domine...

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am troubled - laden with the sins of the whole world, I have become the object of implacable hatred on the part of my enemies and of them that persecute me," and a sign of the offended justice and holiness of God - "deliver me from the hands of my enemies; O Lord, let me not be confounded, for I have called upon thee."

The prayer of Our Lord was answered; for the Eternal Father delivered Him and the whole human race from the bonds of death in the day of the resurrection, when the fullness of the glorious life of Christ was transmitted also to His mystical body in such a manner as to make the spiritual resurrection of souls the beginning of their future glory.


St Stephen stands before Caiphas,
who beheld his face as if that of an angel -
and who would condemn him to death.

The Gospel (St John XI, 47-54) relates how the Sanhedrim assembled to devise the death of Jesus, Ciaphas, turning arrogantly to the rest, taunts them with their ignorance: Vos nescitis quidquam nec cogitatis; but in prophesying the death of Christ and declaring it to be expedient, he speaks not of himself, but as high priest, for God never fails to grant the graces necessary to our state. Whosoever is permitted to hold the office of superior, speaks in the name of God, even though he be as Ciaphas.
Jesus, then, must die for all mankind; Ciaphas has spoken thus in prophecy, being moved thereto by the power of the Holy Ghost, quite otherwise as was intended by the high priest himself.
Our Lord is to die in order to bring together all the children of God dispersed throughout the world in one great family, which shall be neither Jew nor Greek nor Gentile, but only one holy Catholic Church, the Ecclesia Sancta Dei.

Image of Our Lady of Sorrows in S. Stefano Rotondo.

On Friday in Passion Week is also commemorated Our Blessed Lady of Sorrows.
By a sort of prophetic presentiment, the church of the great protomartyr St Stephen was chosen as the place where the faithful were to assemble on this Friday,
a day which was, in future times,
to be consecrated to the Queen of Martyrs.


+
Oremus.
Let us pray.

Cordibus nostris...
Of Thy loving-kindness pour Thy grace into our hearts, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
that, curbing our sinful propensities with voluntary chastisement,
we may suffer in this life
and not be condemned to eternal punishments.
Through our Lord...

(Collect, Friday in Passion Week)

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