Nereus and Achilleus, Mm; Pancras, M

+John 16:23-28

The Father loves you for loving me and believing that I came from God

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I tell you most solemnly,

anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name.

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.

Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.

I have been telling you all this in metaphors,

the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in metaphors;

but tell you about the Father in plain words.

When that day comes you will ask in my name;

and I do not say that I shall pray to the Father for you,

because the Father himself loves you for loving me

and believing that I came from God.

I came from the Father and have come into the world

and now I leave the world to go to the Father.’

The New American Bible

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

Jesus teaches us how to pray

2607 When Jesus prays he is already teaching us how to pray. His prayer to his Father is the theological path (the path of faith, hope, and charity) of our prayer to God. But the Gospel also gives us Jesus’ explicit teaching on prayer. Like a wise teacher he takes hold of us where we are and leads us progressively toward the Father. Addressing the crowds following him, Jesus builds on what they already know of prayer from the Old Covenant and opens to them the newness of the coming Kingdom. Then he reveals this newness to them in parables. Finally, he will speak openly of the Father and the Holy Spirit to his disciples who will be the teachers of prayer in his Church.

2608 From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one’s brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else. This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father.

2609 Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith. Faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand. It is possible because the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. He can ask us to “seek” and to “knock,” since he himself is the door and the way.

2610 Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.” Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes.” Jesus is as saddened by the “lack of faith” of his own neighbors and the “little faith” of his own disciples as he is struck with admiration at the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman.

2611 The prayer of faith consists not only in saying “Lord, Lord,” but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father. Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan.

2612 In Jesus “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” He calls his hearers to conversion and faith, but also to watchfulness. In prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes, in memory of his first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in the hope of his second coming in glory. In communion with their Master, the disciples’ prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation.

2613 Three principal parables on prayer are transmitted to us by St. Luke:

– The first, “the importunate friend,” invites us to urgent prayer: “Knock, and it will be opened to you.” To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will “give whatever he needs,” and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts.

– The second, “the importunate widow,” is centered on one of the qualities of prayer: it is necessary to pray always without ceasing and with the patience of faith. “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

– The third parable, “the Pharisee and the tax collector,” concerns the humility of the heart that prays. “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” The Church continues to make this prayer its own: Kyrie eleison!

2614 When Jesus openly entrusts to his disciples the mystery of prayer to the Father, he reveals to them what their prayer and ours must be, once he has returned to the Father in his glorified humanity. What is new is to “ask in his name.” Faith in the Son introduces the disciples into the knowledge of the Father, because Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” Faith bears its fruit in love: it means keeping the word and the commandments of Jesus, it means abiding with him in the Father who, in him, so loves us that he abides with us. In this new covenant the certitude that our petitions will be heard is founded on the prayer of Jesus.

2615 Even more, what the Father gives us when our prayer is united with that of Jesus is “another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth.” This new dimension of prayer and of its circumstances is displayed throughout the farewell discourse. In the Holy Spirit, Christian prayer is a communion of love with the Father, not only through Christ but also in him: “Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”


Psalm 46

For the leader. A song of the Korahites. According to alamoth.

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.

Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea,

Though its waters rage and foam and mountains totter at its surging. 4 The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. Selah

Streams of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High.

God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken; God will help it at break of day.

Though nations rage and kingdoms totter, God’s voice thunders and the earth trembles.

The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. Selah

Come and see the works of the LORD, who has done fearsome deeds on earth;

Who stops wars to the ends of the earth, breaks the bow, splinters the spear, and burns the shields with fire;

Who says: “Be still and confess that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.”

The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. Selah


Nereus and Achilleus

The old Roman lists of the 5th century, which passed over into the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, contain the names of the two martyrs Nereus and Achilleus, whose grave was in the Catacomb of Domitilla on the Via Ardeatina. The notice in the more- complete version given by the Berne Codex reads: IIII id. Maii, Romae in coemeterio Praetextati natale Nerei et Achillei fratrum (On 12 May at Rome in the cemetery of Praetextatus the natal day of the brothers Nereus and Achilleus”).

In the invocation of the Mass for 2 October in the “Sacramentarium Gelasianum”, the names of Nereus and Achilleus alone are mentioned. In the fourth and following centuries a special votive Mass was celebrated on 12 May at the grave of Saints Nereus and Achilleus on the Via Ardeatina. The Itineraries of the graves of the Roman martyrs, written in the 7th century, are unanimous in their indication of the resting-place of these saints (Giovanni Battista de Rossi, “Roma sotterranea”, I, 180-83).

The basilica of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus in the Via Ardeatina (not to be confused with the church of the same name near the Baths of Caracalla to which the relics of the saints were translated in the 6th century), was erected above the burial site of the two saints and is of the latter part of the 4th century; it is a three-naved basilica, which was abandoned in the mid 9th century and rediscovered in 1874 by de Rossi in the Catacomb of Domitilla. Amongst the numerous objects found in the ruins were two pillars which had supported the ciborium ornamented with sculptures representing the death of the two saints by decapitation; one of these pillars is perfectly preserved, and the name of Achilleus is carved on it. There was also found a large fragment of a marble slab, with an inscription composed by Pope Damasus, the text of which is well-known from an ancient copy. This oldest historical mention of the two saints tells how Nereus and Achilleus as soldiers were obedient to the tyrant, but suddenly being converted to Christianity, joyfully resigned their commission and died the martyr’s death; as to the date of their glorious confession we can make no inference. The acts of these martyrs, legendary even to a romantic degree, have no historical value for their life and death; they bring no fewer than thirteen different Roman martyrs into relation, amongst them even Simon Magus, according to the apocryphal Petrine Acts, and place their death in the end of the first and beginning of the 2nd centuries. These Acts were written in Greek and Latin; according to Achelis  the Greek was the original text, and written in Latin in the 6th century; Schaefer on the other hand holds the Latin to have been the older version, and seeks to prove that it emanated from the first half of the 5th century; so remote a date is improbable, and the 6th century is to be preferred as the source of the Acts.

Legend

According to these legends, Nereus and Achilleus were eunuchs and chamberlains of Flavia Domitilla, a niece of the Roman Emperor Domitian; with the Christian virgin, they had been banished to the island of Ponza (Pontia), and later on beheaded in Terracina. The graves of these two martyrs were on an estate of the Lady Domitilla near the Via Ardeatina, close to that of Saint Petronilla.

The author of this legend places the two saints quite differently from the poem of Pope Damasus: as Nereus and Achilleus were buried in a very ancient part of the Catacomb of Domitilla, built as far back as the beginning of the 2nd century, we may conclude that they are among the most ancient martyrs of the Roman Church, and stand in very near relation to the Flavian family, of which Domitilla, the foundress of the catacomb, was a member. In the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul mentions a Nereus with his sister, to whom he sends greetings (Romans 16:15); perhaps even the martyr was a descendant of this disciple of the Apostle of the Gentiles .Owing to the purely legendary character of these Acts, we cannot use them as an argument to aid in the controversy whether there were two Christians of the name of Domitilla in the family of the Christian Flavian, or only one: the wife of the Consul Titus Flavius Clemens. As to other martyrs of the name Nereus, who are especially noted in the old martyrologies as martyrs of the faith in Africa, or as being natives of that country (e.g., in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, 11 May, 15 or 16 October, 16 November) though there is one of the name in the present Roman Martyrology under date of 16 October, nothing more is known.

The relics of Nereus and Achilleus are housed since the 6th century together with the relics of Domitilla under the high altar of the church of Santi Nereo e Achilleo.

Feast day

The Tridentine Calendar had on 12 May a joint feast of Nereus, Achilleus and Pancras. The name of Domitilla was added in 1595. The joint celebration of Nereus, Achilleus, Domitilla and Pancras continued with that ranking (see General Roman Calendar of 1954) until reduced to that of simple in 1955 (see General Roman Calendar of Pope Pius XII) and that of third-class feast in 1960 (see General Roman Calendar of 1960).

In the present General Roman Calendar, revised in 1969, Saints Nereus and Achilleus (together) and Saint Pancras have distinct celebrations (optional memorials) on 12 May. Saint Domitilla is not included in the revised calendar, because the liturgical honours once paid to her “have no basis in tradition”.

The feast is celebrated on the same day by the Orthodox Church.

Source: Wikipedia