St Agnes, detail from theVirgin and Child with Ss. Martina and Agnes by El Greco, 1599
V. Dóminus vobíscum.
R. Et cum spiritu tuo.
Omnipotens sempitérne Deus, qui infírma mundi éligis, ut fórtia quæque confúndas: concéde propítius; ut, qui beátæ Agnétis Vírginis et Mártyris tuæ sollémnia cólimus, eius apud te patrocínia sentiámus.
Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.
Almighty, eternal God, You Who choose the weak things of the world to confound the strong, mercifully grant that we who are celebrating the feast of blessed Agnes, Your Virgin and Martyr, may reap the benefit of her patronal intercession with You.
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
From the Office of Matins:
Ex libro S. Ambrosii Episcopi de Virginibus.
Lib. 1, post init.
Hódie natális est Vírginis, integritátem sequámur. Natalis est Mártyris, hóstias immolémus. Natalis est sanctæ Agnétis, miréntur viri, non despérent párvuli, stúpeant nuptæ, imiténtur innúptæ. Sed quid dignum ea loqui póssumus, cuius ne nomen quidem vácuum laudis est? Devótio supra ætátem, virtus supra natúram: ut mihi videátur non hóminis habuísse nomen, sed oráculum Mártyris, quod indicávit, quid esset futúra. Nomen Vírginis títulus est pudóris. Appellábo Mártyrem: prædicávi satis. Prolíxa laudátio est, quæ non quæritur, sed tenétur. Nemo est laudabílior, quam qui ab ómnibus laudári potest. Quot hómines, tot præcónes, qui Mártyrem prædicant, dum loquúntur. Hæc trédecim annórum martyrium fecísse tráditur. Quo destabílior crudélitas quæ nec minúsculæ pepércit ætáti; immo magna vis fídei, quæ étiam ab illa testimónium invénit ætáte.
From the book of St. Ambrose, Bishop, on Virgins
Book I near the beginning
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 to 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 than 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.