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

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cunning and Vulnerability: Judith 15:8-16:7 with poem by Swithun, Judith

Daily Readings
Psalm 127, Ezra 8, Judith 15:8-16:17, III John

Daily Text: Judith 15:8-16:17

Cunning and Vulnerability
Judith 15:8-16:17 complete the tribute to Judith by the high priest and the people and lead rhythmically into dance and song in procession to Jerusalem. The text of 15.9 has often been used in the centuries since the appearance of Judith to praise the Virgin Mary and more recently, Joan of Arc [534:246]. Surely, these words of Joakim could devolve no greater praise upon Judith than they do. He pronounces as in benediction the pleasure of God for Judith’s behavior and the Almighty’s blessing accompanies these words.

From the plunder of the Assyrian encampment Judith is brought as gift all that belonged to the erstwhile Holofernesl. One can almost visualize these treasures being passed down through Manasseh’s family as heirlooms, with stories attached to many of the pieces of furniture and the dinnerware. But no, in the Epilogue she gives them to the temple in Jerusalem. The climax of these honors comes from the women who surround and include and join Judith in her song and in a dance that wends its graceful way from Bethulia to nearby Jerusalem. The song celebrates Israel’s God, rehearses the movements of the war, describes the Lord’s exploits and Judith’s decisive role:
Her sandal ravished his eyes,
her beauty captivated his mind,
and the sword severed his neck!
All of this is quick and to the point. These musical phrases tell the story in compressed fashion. Cunning and vulnerability complement each other in the telling detail.

from Judith
Swithun, Bishop of Winchester

Then the whole people,
Preëminent race, for all a month’s space,
Curly-locked conquerors, carried and led
To the glorious city, gleaming Bethulia,
Helmets and hip-swords, hoar-grayish burnies,
Brave ones’ battle-gear embellished with gold,
Ornaments grander than any man living,
Though never so wise, could name or could tell of;
So much did the men-of-war mightily ‘complish
Bold under banners on the battle-field gory
Through the wise, clever counsel of Judith,
Mood-valiant woman. For her meed brought they,
Spear-brave earlmen, from the journey fetched, then,
Holofernes’s battle-grim blade and blood-gory helmet,
His war-burnie spacious and splendid, sparkling and shining
And red with its gold, and all that the ruler of heroes,
Arrogant, of treasure did own or of heirlooms a-precious,
Of rings and rarest of gems, they this to the radiant Judith,
To the wise-of-counsel did give. For all this gave, then, Judith
Glory to the Lord God of Hosts, who had given her honor,
Worship ‘mid men of this world, and, likewise, reward in the
heavens,
Meed in the mansions of glory, for keeping unminished her faith
On the Almighty fixed for aye; forsooth, at the end she doubted not
The reward that she long had wished for. For this to the
well-lovèd Lord God
Be glory for ever and ever, who made the air and the wind,
Firmament and far-spreading wolds, and, likewise,
the foam-dashing waters
And the raptures of heaven by his own great mercy.
537:16

Collect for the Day
Gracious Father, watch over the Church, built on the foundation of your love. Help us so to live and proclaim the gospel that many may find life in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

[476:886:127]

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