July 28 – Sts. Nazarius, Celsus, and Victor, Martyrs, and Saint Innocent, Pope and Confessor
Nazarius and Celsus bring glory to the Church of Milan, by appearing on the cycle today. After lying forgotten for three centuries in the obscure tomb that had received their precious remains in the time of Nero, they now receive the united homage of East and West. It was nine years since the triumphal day when Gervase and Protase, no less forgotten by the city once witness of their combat, had come to console and strengthen an illustrious Bishop who was persecuted for his profession of the Divine consubstantiality of the same Christ who had had all their love and faith. Ambrose, loved by the martyrs, though denied their palm, was soon to receive the white wreath of confession in reward for his holy works, when heaven revealed to him a new treasure, the discovery of which was again “to illustrate the times of his episcopate.” Theodosius was no more; Ambrose was about to die; the barbarians were at the gates. But as if, simultaneous with the threat of imminent destruction of the ancient world, the hour for the first resurrection spoken of by St. John had sounded, the martyrs rose from their tombs to reign a thousand years with Christ on the renovated earth.
That great nation Babylon is fallen, is fallen, which made all nations to drink of the wine of the wrath for her fornication; and in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth. The great Pope Innocent I, whose memory seems to have been purposely united with that of the martyrs, bears witness to the deluge, wherein, during his Pontificate, pagan Rome at length perished utterly, and made way for the new Jerusalem come down from heaven. Like the ancient Sion, the Rome of the Cæsars would not yield to the offers of that God, who alone could fulfil her desires of immortality. Even since the triumph of the Cross under Constantine, no city of the empire had remained so obstinately given to the worship of idols, or shed so much of that noble blood which might have renewed her youth. And yet after the defeat of her vain idols, God, in his patience, determined to wait a century longer, the last decade of which was a series of salutary threats and merciful interventions, the evident work of the Christ whom she still obstinately repulsed. The incursions of the Goths, allies one day, enemies the next, everywhere spreading anarchy, gave her an opportunity of returning to superstitions which the Christian Emperors had not tolerated; and in her dotage she welcomed the Tuscan soothsayers who had come to help her against Alaric, and allowed them to re-establish the worship of idols. Terrible was her awakening when, on the morning of August 24th, 410, the true God of armies took his revenge; and while the barbarians were engaged in wholesale massacre and pillage, lightning set fire to the town and destroyed the statues in which she had so long placed her confidence and her glory.
The avengers of God, destroying Babylon, spared the tombs of the two founders of the eternal Rome. On these Apostolic foundations Innocent began to rebuild the holy City. Soon on her seven hills, purified by fire, she rose again, more brilliant than ever, the destined center of the world of mind. It was in the year 417, the last of Innocent’s Pontificate, that St. Augustine, hearing that the Pelagian heresy was condemned, cried out: “Letters have arrived from Rome; the dispute is at an end.” The Councils of Carthage and Milevum, which on this occasion had requested the confirmation of their decree by the Apostolic See, did in this but continue the uninterrupted tradition of the Churches with regard to the supremacy of their Mother and Mistress. This fact is eloquently attested by the holy Pope Victor, who shares with the martyrs the honors of today. His great name calls to mind the Councils of the second century, held by his orders throughout the Church to treat of the celebration of Easter; the condemnation he pronounced, or intended to pronounce, against the Churches of Asia, without any one questioning his right to do so; lastly, the uncontroverted anathemas he hurled against Montanus and the precursors of Arius.
Let us read the notice of our four Saints given in today’s Office:
|Nazarius, a beato Lino Papa baptizatus, cum in Galliam profectus esset, ibi Celsum puerum, a se christianis præceptis prius instructum, baptizavit: qui una Trevirim euntes, Neronis persecutione in mare uterque dejicitur, unde mirabiliter evaserunt. Postea Mediolanum venientes, cum ibi Christi fidem disseminarent, ab Anolino præfecto, constantissime Christum Deum confitentes, capite plectuntur: quorum corpora extra portam Romanam sepulta sunt. Quæ cum diu latuissent, Dei monitu a beato Ambrosio conspersa recenti sanguine sunt inventa, tamquam si paulo ante martyrium passi essent: unde in urbem translata, honorifico sepulcro contecta sunt.||Nazarius was baptized by the blessed Pope, Linus. He went into Gaul, and there baptized a child named Celsus whom he had instructed in the Christian doctrine. Together they went to Treves, and in Nero’s persecution were both thrown into the sea, but were saved by a miracle. They proceeded to Milan, where they spread the faith of Christ; and as they with great constancy confessed Christ to be God, the prefect, Anolinus, condemned them to death. Their bodies were buried outside the roman gate, and for a long time remained unknown. But through a divine revelation they were found by St. Ambrose, sprinkled with fresh blood, as if they had but just suffered martyrdom. They were translated to the city and buried in an honorable tomb.|
|Victor in Africa natus, Severo imperatore, rexit Ecclesiam. Confirmavit decretum Pii Primi, ut sacrum Pascha die Dominico celebraretur: ;qui ritus ut postea in mores induceretur, habita sunt multis in locis Concilia: et in Nicæna denique prima Synodo sancitum est, ut Paschæ dies festus post quartamdecimam lunam ageretur, ne Christiani Judæos imitari viderentur. Statuit, ut quavis aqua, modo naturali, si necessitas cogeret, quicumque baptizari posset. Theodotum Coriarium Byzantinum docentem Christum tantummodo hominem fuisse, ejecit ex Ecclesia. Scripsit de quæstione Paschæ, et alia quædam opuscula. Creavit duabus Ordinationibus mense Decembri Presbyteros quaruor, Diaconos septem, Episcopos per diversa loca duodecim. Martyrio coronatus, sepelitur in Vaticano, quinto calendas Augusti. Sedit annos novem, mensem unum, dies viginti octo.||Victor, an African by birth, governed the Church in the time of the Emperor Severus. He confirmed the decree of Pius I, which ordered Easter to be celebrated on a Sunday. Later on, Councils were held in many places in order to bring this rule into practice, and finally the first Council of Nicea commanded that the feast of Easter should be always kept after the 14th day of the moon, lest the Christians should seem to imitate the Jews. Victor ordained that in case of necessity, baptism could be given with any water, provided it were natural. He expelled from the Church the Byzantine, Theodosius the Currier, who taught that Christ was only man. He wrote on the question of Easter, and some other small works. In two ordinations which he held in the month of December, he made four priests, seven deacons, and twelve bishops for different places. He was crowned with martyrdom, and buried on the Vatican on the 5th of the Calends of August, after having sat nine years, one month, and twenty-eight days.|
|Innocentius Albanensis, sancti Hieronymi et Augustini ætate floruit: de quo ille ad Demetriadem virginem: Sancti Innocentii, qui Apostolicæ Cathedræ, et beatæ memoriæ Anastasii successor et filius est, teneas fidem, nec peregrinam, quamvis tibi prudens, callidaque videaris, doctrinam recipias. Eum tamquam justum Lot subtractum Dei providentia ad Ravennam servatum fuisse, scribit Orosius, ne Romani populi videret excidium. Is, Pelagio et Cœlestio damnatis, contra eorum hæresim decretum fecit, ut parvuli ex Christiana etiam muliere nati, per baptismum renasci deberent; ut in eis regeneratione mundetur, quod generatione contraxerunt. Probavit etiam, ut Sabbato ob memoriam christi Domini sepulturæ jejunium servaretur. Sedit annos quindecim, mensem unum, dies decem. Quatuor Ordinationibus mense Decembri creavit Presbyteros triginta, Diaconis quindecim, Episcopos per diversa loca quinquaginta quatuor: Sepultus est in cœmeterio ad Ursum Pileatum.||Innocent, by nation an Albanian, lived at the time of Saints Jerome and Augustine. Jerome, writing to the virgin Demetrias, says of him: “Hold fast to the faith of holy Innocent, who is the son of Anastasius of blessed memory and his successor on the Apostolic throne; receive no strange doctrine, however shrewd and prudent you may think yourself.” Orosius writes that like the just Lot, he was withdrawn by God’s providence from Rome, and preserved in safety at Ravenna, that he might not be a witness of the ruin of the Roman people. After the condemnation of Pelagius and Celestinus, he decreed, contrary to their heretical teaching, that children, even though born of a Christian mother, must be born again by water, in order that their second birth may cleanse away the stain they have contracted by the first. He also approved the observance of fasting on the Saturday in memory of the burial of Christ our Lord. He sat fifteen years, one month, and ten days. He held four ordinations in the month of December, and made thirty priests, fifteen deacons, and fifty-four bishops for divers places. He was buried in the cemetery called ad ursum Pileatum.|
Glorious Saints, who, either by shedding your blood in the arena or by promulgating decrees from the Apostolic Chair, have exalted the faith of the Lord, bless our prayers. Give us to understand the teaching conveyed by your meeting today on the sacred cycle. We, who are neither martyrs nor pontiffs, may, nevertheless, merit to share in your glory; for the motive which explains your union today must be for us, each in his degree, the cause of salvation: the Apostle tells us that in Christ Jesus nothing availeth but faith that worketh by charity. It is only by that faith for which you labored or suffered that we we wait for the hope of justice, and expect the crown.
O Nazarius, who, leaving all things, didst carry the name of Christ to countries that knew him not; and thou Celsus, who, though a mere child, didst not fear to sacrifice, like him, for Jesus’ sake, thy family, thy country, and thy very life: obtain for us the right appreciation of the treasure of faith, which every Christian is called upon to show to advantage by the confession of good works and of praise. Victor, jealous guardian of that divine praise with regard to the Solemnity of solemnities, and avenger of the Man-God in his divine nature; Innocent, infallible teacher concerning the grace of Christ, and witness, too, of his inexorable justice, teach us to unite confidence with fear, uprightness of belief with the susceptibility a Christian ought to have with regard to his faith, the only foundation of justice and love. Martyrs and Pontiffs, may your united attraction draw us along the straight road which leads to heaven.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)