- Today is the birthday of a virgin; let us imitate her purity. It
is the birthday of a martyr;
let us offer ourselves in sacrifice. It is the birthday of Saint Agnes,
who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve.
There was little or no room in that small body for a wound. Yet she
shows no fear of the blood-stained hands of her executioners. She
offers her whole body to be put to the sword by fierce soldiers. She is
too young to know of death, yet is ready to face it. Dragged against
her will to the altars, she stretches out her hands to the Lord int he
midst of the flames, making the triumphant sign of Christ the victor on
the altars of sacrilege. She puts her neck and hands in iron chains,
but no chain can hold fast her tiny limbs.
In the midst of tears, she sheds no tears herself. She stood still, she
prayed, she offered her neck.
You could see fear in the eyes of the executioner, as if he were the
one condemned. His right hand trembled, his face grew pale as he saw
the girl's peril, while she had no fear for herself. One victim, but a
twin martyrdom, to modesty and religion; Agnes preserved her virginity
and gained a martyr's crown.
from On Virgins by Saint Ambrose of Milan