Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Dust Thou Art: Bible Comment on II Maccabees 13 with poem by George Chapman, Knell

Daily Readings
Proverbs 28, Joshua 18, II Maccabees 13, Philippians 1

Daily Text: II Maccabees 13

Dust Thou Art
Antiochus V enters the pages of II Maccabees 13 enraged. There is some question about whether or not this is an accurate description of his temper for several reasons. He is still a minor with his guardian, Lysias, accompanying him. We do not have any real information on what has provoked this invasion so soon after he signs a covenant with the Jews. During the invasion he faces Judas surprise attack at night, and responds logically, thoughtfully,and carefully, approaching Jerusalem by way of Beth-zur, rather than through the mountains. This does not sound like an enraged man, but one who is listening to thoughtful, if not wise, counsel. Twice he faces setbacks at Beth-zur and then he hears that Philip has revolted in Antioch—the capital named for his ancestor. Immediately, he decides that he cannot ignore this threat in his rear and he makes peace with Judas. Notice that again Judas is very willing to live in peace, having the welfare of his countrymen at heart. War is not his first choice. The king deals so thoughtfully with Judas his being ‘enraged’ suggests that the text amplified his true feelings.

Early in the invasion, Menelaus joins the king and his party urging him to attack Maccabeus. His was not an attitude that held the people’s welfare at heart, as it never was. Lysias, ever influential with Antiochus, his ward, warned him that Menelaus was a figure of some controversy and very likely responsible for much of the unrest in Antiochus’ father’s time as well as his own. The king doesn’t hesitate. He sends him to Beroea for a particularly unsavory sort of death—that is being dropped into a pit of ashes to suffocate. The author notes that it is a fitting end for one who as high priest had committed many sins against the Lord’s altar of fire and ashes. Might we say, dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return?‘

George Chapman


Dust is the end of all pursuit,
Ash and worm the doom of faces,
Quakes and holes the fate of places—
Yes, hounded like a wounded brute,
At last with all his worldly loot
Man is caught by what he chases.

Collect for the Day
Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
[BCP 267 Opening of Litany of Penitence for Ash Wednesday]


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