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.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Holding the Tale of Herodotus: Judith 4 with poem by Robert Hillyer, Thermopylae and Golgotha

Daily Readings
Sirach 41, Ezra 4:6-4, Judith 4, I Esdras 2:16-30

Daily Text: Judith 4

Holding the Tale of Herodotus
Judith’s author sets the time for his story yet again in chapter 4, this time shortly after the return from exile and the re-consecration of the temple, ca. 515 B.C. As with other dates and times in the book of Judith, it is difficult, if not impossible to make complete sense of it. However, this is, for the author, the critical time of action. Of greater interest is the call by Joachim, the high priest in Jerusalem for the mysterious city of Bethulia to take certain mountain passes and defend them against the Assyrians. Arnoldo Momigliano argues that the author of Judith was aware of Herodotus’ account of Sparta’s war against Persia at Thermopylae [534:154]. Caponigro makes a similar case in “Judith, Holding the Tale of Herodotus” [536:47 ff.]. Their point is that Judith’s author fashioned his story with Thermopylae in mind. Moore’s contention is that even if such is true, and it certainly could be, it has to little or nothing to add about the book’s historicity. This is a religious story, written to inspire Jewish hearts toward a God who continues to care for them in a world where the odds are not in their favor. Little wonder that this story has continued to inspire the faithful down through the generations into our own time.

The leaders and the people humbled themselves with fasting and prayer, and the Lord heard them and respected their petition. The God who has intervened throughout their past on their behalf is ready to act once again. What he did in Egypt, he did in Caanan. What he has done in Canaan, he has done in ‘Assyria.’ What God has done in Assyria he will certainly accomplish in second century Persia and beyond.

Thermopylae and Golgotha
Robert Hillyer

Men lied to them and so they went to die.
Some fell, unknowing that they were deceived,
And some escaped, and bitterly bereaved,
Beheld the truth they loved shrink to a lie
And those there were that never had believed,
But from afar had read the gathering sky,
And darkly wrapt in that dread prophecy
Died trusting that their truth might be retrieved.

It matters not. for life deals thus with Man;
To die alone deceived or with the mass,
Or disillusioned to complete his span.
Thermopylae or Golgotha, all one—
The young dead legions in the narrow pass;
The stark black cross against the setting sun.
407:1739

Collect for the Day
It is glory enough for me
That I should be Your servant
It is grace enough for me
That You should be my Lord.

[286:332:1027 Arabic prayer]

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