January 21From the book of St. Ambrose, Bishop, on Virgins
Today is the birthday of a Virgin; let us imitate her virginal innocence. It is the birthday of a Martyr; let us also bring sacrifice. It is the birthday of St. Agnes; let men look up in admiration and children not be disheartened. You married, be filled with wonder; you unmarried, follow in her footsteps. But where shall we find words of adequate praise, since her very name bespeaks her glory and renown? In her we see a devotion that far surpasses her age, a virtue that exceeds all power of nature.
Hence, it seems to me that she had not merely a human name, but, prophetically, she was given the name of a Martyr, to indicate beforehand what she was to be. The name of our Virgin is a guarantee of her purity. If I call her Martyr, already I have praised enough. For, that is great praise, indeed, which one does not need to seek but is freely given by others. No one can be more praised that one who is praised by all.
As many men, so many encomiums. They have only to mention her name to praise her as a Martyr. According to tradition, it was in her thirteenth year that she suffered martyrdom. How despicable the cruelty that spared not even this tender age! But how great the power of faith that found even that age its witness!
Taken from The Hours of the Divine Office in English and Latin, Vol. I: Advent to Passion Sunday (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1963), pp. 1707-1708.
Epistle and Gospel for January 21