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

Monday, September 25, 2006

Counselor in Wickedness: Bible Comment on II Chronicles 22 with poem by Jean Baptiste Racine, Athalie

Daily Readings
Psalm 44, II Kings 9, II Chronicles 22, Jeremiah 29

Daily Text: II Chronicles 22

Counselor in Wickedness
Some say that Ahab is the focus of II Chronicles 22. The reality is that Athaliah, Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter, is the primary character. She was her son’s counselor in wickedness when he was king, and when he died, she tried to kill all his male progeny to leave the way clear for reigning herself as the Queen Mother. She did so for six years with all of the machinations that she had learned from her mother and father. It was a low moment for Judah. But one of Ahaziah’s daughters, wife to the high priest, foiled Athaliah’s intentions.

from Athalie
Jean Baptiste Racine

Each of you lend me an attentive ear.
I would not call to mind the past, nor would
I give account unto you for the blood
That I have shed. What I have done was what,
O Abner, seemed to me the things I ought
To do. I take not for my judge this folk.
Whate’er of me their insolence hath spoke,
Heaven itself hath vindicated me.
My power, established so triumphantly,
Spread Athaliah’s fame to both the seas.
Through me Jerusalem is lapped in peace.
Jordan the roving Arab doth no more
Behold; nor the Philistine, as of your
Under your kings, with endless raids lay waste
Its banks. The Syrian monarch hath addressed
Me as the queen his sister. And e’en he
Who over threw my house so traitorously,
And meant to visit upon me as well
The doom that on its other members fell,
Jehu, fierce Jehu, in Samaria quails,
Whom a strong neighbour everywhere assails,
That I have roused against this murderer.
Therefore am I left sovereign mistress here.
I tasted undisturbed the fruits of all
My statecraft, when a care most sharp to gall
Came to me some days since to check the stream
Of my good fortune. A dream (why should a dream
Trouble me?” all my heart with fear imbues.
I shun it ever, yet it still pursues.
‘Twas in the depths of night’s dark mystery.
My mother Jezebel appeared to me,
Richly adorned, as on the day she died.
Misfortune had abated not her pride.
She even wore that borrowed brightness still
That she would spread upon her face erewhile
To cover o’er the ravages of time.
”Tremble,” she said, “O worthy daughter mine!
The Jews’ cruel God against thee doth prevail,
I grieve for thee, that thou must fall was well
As I, my child, into his fearful hands.”
These words of horror ending, as one bends
Above a bed, her shadow seemed to stoop
Towards me; and I stretched out mine arms with hope
To clasp her, but I found only a dire
Mass of bones, mangled flesh, and limbs with mire
Befouled, and tattered rags all soaked in gore,
Which the devouring dogs contended o’er.
Great God!
Then, after being thus dismayed,
I saw the vision of a young boy, clad
In a bright robe such as one seeth worn
By Jewish priests. My spirit was reborn
At sight of him; but when, forgetting care,
His sweet charm and his noble, modest air
I was admiring, suddenly I felt
A murderous blade, which to the very hilt
The traitor buried in my heart. to you
Perhaps from chance appeareth to ensue.
This strange conjunction of things so diverse.
I myself, ashamed sometimes of my fears,
Have deemed they were from brain-sick vapours sprung.
But now my soul, while still that memory clung,
Hath twice in sleep the same cruel vision seen.
Twice before my sad eyes hath risen again
The same child, who would always pierce my breast.
Worn with such horrors hounding me, at last
I went forth to seek aid of Baal through prayer
Before his shrine, hoping for comfort there.
Yet how are moral spirits ruled by dread!
Into the Temple of the Jews instead
An impulse drove my steps. Thoughts I conceived
Of pacifying their God; for I believed
Gifts would allay his anger, and he could,
Whoe’er he be, grow kindlier thus of mood.
Baal’s pontiff, pardon thou my cowardice!
I entered. Halted was the sacrifice;
The people fled; the high priest wrathfully
Came towards me. Then, while yet he spake to me,
That very child (O terror, O surprise!)
I saw, who threatens me, just as mine eyes
In fearful dreams beheld him—the same mien
And the same linen stole, his carriage, look, e’en
His every feature: ‘twas himself I viewed.
I have seen him! By the high priest’s side he stood,
But soon was removed thence, to disappear.
That is the thing which makes me tarry here;
And touching it, with both of you I fain
Would speak in consultation. What doth mean,
Mattan, a wonder so incredible?

Collect for the Day
God of hosts, be present with those who suffer for no fault of their own: the broken victims of war, oppression, indifference, and neglect. May we see in their sufferings the wounds of Christ, and share with them in his gift of new life. We ask this in his name.

[476:762:44 Psalm prayer]


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