Tuesday, May 12, 2009


“Saint Domitilla
with Saint Nereus
and Achilleus”
by Pomarancio c. 1598-99

MAY 12


Biographical Information about
St. Nereus and St. Achilleus [1]

Readings for the Memorial of Saints Nereus And Achilleus

Readings and Commentary:

Revelation 7:9-17

I, John, had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

"Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb."

All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:

"Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen."

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
"Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?"
I said to him, "My lord, you are the one who knows."
He said to me,
"These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.

"For this reason they stand before God's throne
and worship him day and night in his temple.
The One who sits on the throne will shelter them.
They will not hunger or thirst anymore,
nor will the sun or any heat strike them.
For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne
will shepherd them
and lead them to springs of life-giving water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Commentary on
Rev 7:9-17

St. John’s vision of the heavenly kingdom unfolds in this passage with an image of those who have gone from this life to the next and now stand before the throne of God. They praise God without ceasing, giving thanks for salvation which comes from the Lamb of God, the Christ. The palm branches recall the Saviors triumphant entry into Jerusalem, here signifying his lordship over the New Jerusalem – God’s Heavenly Kingdom.

“…these wearing white robes” is a reference to martyrs who have given their lives for Christ during the great persecutions of Christians. These, St. John recounts, have received what is known as the “Baptism of Blood”. The Lord “…lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

CCC: Rv 7:9 775, 1138; Rv 7:10-12 2642
Psalm 124:2-3, 4-5,7-8

R. (7) Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.

Had not the LORD been with us-
when men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.

Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our soul has been rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
Commentary on
Ps 124:2-3, 4-5,7-8

The psalm is one of thanksgiving to the Lord for his gift of salvation – salvation from physical enemies; salvation from nature’s fury. The song thanks God who rescues us if we but reach out to him.

CCC: Ps 124:8 287
Matthew 10:17-22

Jesus said to the Twelve:
"Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved."
Commentary on
Mt 10:17-22

Jesus gives his disciples instructions on how to deal with the persecution they are to undergo at the hands of those who do not accept him, especially those in power. His instruction is one that relies on faith that the Father, through the Holy Spirit will supply the words. There is also a presumption that there will be loss of life - here the Lord tells us that those who are steadfast in their faith cannot die a spiritual death.

CCC: Mt 10:19-20 728; Mt 10:22 161, 1821

Sts. Nereus and Achilleus were Roman Soldiers who were converted to Christianity. This was a crime at the time of their deaths (98 AD). While little is known about their lives, as with all the martyrs, they stand as pillars of virtue, showing us the way to salvation through courage and trust in God.

How much did they know of the Lord? At the time they went to their death, the Gospel of St. John would not have reached Rome. The Gospel of St. Matthew, circulating some thirty years before their martyrdom may have been known to them. Yet, without the advantages of years of reflection and the guidance the great thinkers of the Church, these soldiers of the greatest army in the world, willingly sacrificed their lives for, what was then an obscure prophet from a back water part of the empire.

God highly exults such as these whose innocent faith was sufficient to invoke the strengthening vitality of the Holy Spirit to sustain their faith. We grasp the images from St. John’s revelation as he saw those ranks of martyrs whose robes were washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.

May the prayers of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus be with us this day as we strive to continue their legacy of faith in an unbelieving world.


[1] The picture used is “Saint Domitilla with Saint Nereus and Achilleus” by Pomarancio c. 1598-99
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

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