Saints in Eucharisitic prayer - 3rd sunday of lent. March 8, 2015 (year b)
“whoever drinks the water i shall give will never thirst; the water i shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”. (john 4:14)
The water that Jesus promised the Samaritan woman is divine grace. Divine grace is the life of God in every human being. In the last 2000 years, millions of men and women used this water to enrich the lives of other human beings. They are the heroes and heroines of the faith. They are the saints upon whose shoulders we stand.
At St Daniel church on the Sundays of lent we sing the litany of the saints as they accompany us in our procession to the altar of sacrifice.
In every age, in every century and in every generation there are individual men and women who have passed from the world of history to the world of faith. They still exert an influence on the lives of countless people today. We are talking about the saints.
We name our children after them. We name cities, rivers, lakes and countries after them, St. Louis, St. Augustine, St. Lawrence, and St. Michael. The Spanish missionaries gave the names of saints to the cities along the coast of California, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Rafael, San Luis, San Michel And San Jose.
The whole drama of human redemption is personified in the lives of thousands of Christian men and women who brought the mystery of Christ to every century in the history of western civilization.
Nothing shows the catholicity of the church better than the extraordinary range of human character and behavior on which the church has placed her seal of approval. When we say the church is holy, we are talking about the saints in imitation of our founder.
It is in the lives of the saints that we find the men and women who followed the Christian way of life to its ultimate conclusion. The saints were not only spiritual leaders, but they were the mirrors of perfection and the ideals of Christian behavior.
In the lives of the saints we find all the varieties of religious experience. There are the practical, rational common sense people like Augustine, Ambrose, Thomas Aquinas, And Ignatius Of Loyola; there are the compassionate, selfless men and women whose hearts ached at the sight of poverty and suffering, like Camillus, Brother Andre, Mother Marianne Cope And Father Damien. There are also the mystics like St. Teresa Of Avila and St. John of the Cross.
The saint is not just a good man or a good woman who is dead. They are living and visible witnesses of that life-giving water that Jesus promised to the woman of Samaria.
The saints were a living power who took an active interest and share in human affairs. They were the friends of the poor, like Francis Of Assisi, John Bosco And Mother Teresa; they were defenders of the weak, like Joan Of Arc, St. Elizabeth Of Hungary And Peter Claver. They were educators like mother Ann Seton And John The Baptist De La Salle.
For the most part, it was the lay people in the church that identified the heroes and heroines of the Christian faith. They noticed and admired those men and women who were light and salt for an otherwise dark and boring existence.
It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the saints in catholic religion and culture. The common people learned how to follow Christ from the saints. It was through the lives of the saints that the realities of the faith were brought home to the masses who knew little or nothing of theology.
There are few even among Catholics who realize the importance of the lives of the saints for the history of western civilization. Nowhere else do we find such a rich tradition of authentic biographical material?
The historical information that we gather from the lives of the saints throws light on almost every aspect of life and thought over a period of two thousand years. This material can be found nowhere else.
If we want to understand Catholicism as an ordered whole; if we want to appreciate the communion of saints we cannot do better than to study the catholic liturgy. For here we find all the different elements of catholic faith and life brought together and harmonized in a great work of faith and art. A good example is the first Eucharistic prayer that goes back to the 4th century.
In the first Eucharistic prayer the church presents to us a whole army of saints who poured out their life and blood to give a living foundation to the church of Christ.
We read the names of these saints in the first Eucharistic prayer. But how many of us know who these saints are and why they are included in the Eucharistic prayer?
In the first Eucharistic prayer we begin with the holy family of mary and joseph. We move on to St. John the Baptist the forerunner of Jesus. Then there are the apostles, Peter And Paul, Andrew, James And John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon And Jude. They are followed, in the acts of the apostles, by Stephen the first martyr, and five martyred popes, Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus And Cornelius.
Cyprian was a martyred bishop of Carthage in North Africa. Lawrence was a deacon of the roman church who was martyred in 258 during the persecution of the emperor valerian. Lawrence has been one of the most honored martyrs of the roman church. The emperor, Constantine the great built a church over his burial place.
Less known are the laymen Chrysogonus, John And Paul, Cosmas And Damian. St. Chrysogonus was beheaded during the persecution of Diocletian. John and Paul were martyred in 361. Their memorial is one of the most important Christian memorials in Rome.
We are more familiar with the names of Sts. Cosmas and Damian who died in 287. These twin brothers were physicians. They were martyred in Cilicia which is modern day turkey. They practiced in the roman province of Syria accepting no payment for their services. They attracted many to the Christian faith.
Matthias was the apostle chosen to take the place of Judas the traitor. Barnabas was the companion of St. Paul. Ignatius was a martyr bishop of Antioch in the first century. His writings describe the structure of the church in the first century. He is a clear witness to the structure of the church today.
Alexander was a martyr pope. Marcellinus was a priest and peter was an exorcist. Both were martyred in 304 during the persecution of Diocletian.
There are seven women martyrs included in the first Eucharistic prayer. Felicity and Perpetua were from Africa. Agatha was a virgin martyr from Sicily. Lucy also was a virgin martyr from Sicily. She is the patroness of the eyes. Agnes was a virgin martyr of the third century in Rome. She is the patroness of chastity. Cecilia, also a virgin martyr of Rome, is the patroness of music. Finally Anastasia was a virgin martyr from Croatia. She was burned at the stake in the third century.
The church had a good reason for placing the names of these early martyrs in this fourth century Eucharistic prayer. The lives of these heroic men and women are an important part of the living foundation of the Roman Catholic Church.
The saints are a witness to the promise of Jesus when he said to the woman at the well: the water i shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (john 4:14)
The history of these saints should help us appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that made it possible for us to inherit the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
Praised be Jesus Christ in his angels and in his saints.