Friday, June 22, 2012

Saint Agrippina

celebrated on June 23

Saint Agrippina was a pious Christian virgin original from Rome, who suffered the martyrical death for Christ probably in the time of Emperor Valerian (253-260), who started a persecution against the Christians in 257.
The short story about Agrippina, written in the Greek Synaxarion, doesn’t tell us very much. There’s no other information about her, only that she came from a noble family. The context in which she was accused and condemned as Christian is also unknown. Only a Latin version of her life, written probably in the 8th century (Bibliotheca hagiographica Latina antiquae et mediae aetatis, vol.1. Bruxelles, 1898, p. 29) attests that the noble Agrippina was a virgin dedicated to the charity. The liturgical canon of hymns from  to the byzantine Menologion  gives some summary information about the fact that Saint Agrippina was beaten and laid on the ground by her persecutors, but she didn’t abjured her faith for Christ. Finally, after some other tortures, including public nakedness, she gave her soul in the hands of the Almighty. The Synaxarion mentions that instead of the bride’s crown, she took the crown of the martyrs.
Monument of St. Agrippina in Mineo
St. Agrippina Church in Mineo, Sicily

The veneration of St. Agrippina
The story doesn’t finish here. The relics of the saint were buried in the cemetery of the church San Paolo fuori le mura, but later they were secretly taken by three virgins, Bassa, Paula and Agatonica, who left Rome and went by sea to Sicily. First the holy relics remained in a grotto at Contrada Lamia (called today the Cave of St. Agrippina), and later on  17 May 263, moved  in Mineo ( in center of Sicily) by bishop Gregorio of Agrigento. Later, during Constantine’s reign, it was built on her grave a church in honor of the Saint, through the blessing of bishop Severino of Catania. Anyway this dating is contestable, and  many researchers believe that the church of St. Agrippina was built only in the 8th-9th centuries, because there are two bishops in this period with the same names as mentioned above.
There is a mention about a siege of the town by the Saracenes (Arabs). They entered in the church which was in the meantime built on her grave and wanted to commit profanation of the holy relics, but they couldn’t, being miraculously stopped. The way they were stopped is also not so clearly stated.
The holy relics of Saint Agrippina helped some believers who prayed and became healthy from their sickness. Saint Agrippina is the protector saint against the sea storms, leprosy and evil spirits.
Because of the important Greek population in Sicily at that time, the cult of Saint Agrippina spread out also in the Eastern Church. Her Feast day is, as in the Roman Martyrology, on 23rd of June. In the West she is celebrated on 23 June (her martyrdom), in 17 May (the translation of her relics in Mineo) and in the third Wednesday from the Great Lent. A special day of celebration is in the first weekend in August, especially in America. During the great Italian migration in the USA, a group of Sicilians from Mineo established in North End, a quarter in Boston and brought with them the cult of Saint Agrippina. Her day is today the Feast of the Italian community in Boston, but also of the whole city. Since 1914 there is a special procession with a statue of St. Agrippina on the streets, on her day.
St. Agrippina Feast in Boston

Troparion (hymn) of the Saint Agrippina
Thy Martyress Agrippina, O Jesus, cries with a loud voice: Thee my Bridegroom I desire and I seek Thee with strife, And I’m crucified and buried with Thee in Thy Baptism, And suffer for Thee so that I may reign with Thee, And die for Thee so that I may live in thee. Therefore accept as an unblemished sacrifice, her who ardently was slain for Thee. By her intercessions, O Merciful Saviour, save our souls.

Italian prayer at the ceremony in honor of St. Agrippina:
Oh God, you have granted to Saint Agrippina the grace to unite the palm of martyrdom to the flower of virginity. Also, you grant us her help to overcome the passions of the flesh and the snares of the world to arrive at the joys eternal. For Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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