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

Friday, November 03, 2006

Judith's Prayer: Judith 9 with poem by Chorley and Ellerton, God, The Omnipotent

Daily Readings
Sirach 46, Nehemiah 5, Judith 9, I John 3

Daily Text: Judith 9

Judith’s Prayer
The influence of what is happening in Jerusalem in the temple is reflected in the timing of Judith’s prayers. How pervasive the hours for temple prayers were for the faithful!

Judith’s prayer is the focus for the entire of Judith chapter nine. In it her ancestor Simeon is glorified as Judith identifies with this tribal progenitor. In Genesis 34 Simeon’s sister, Diana, is raped and even though the man would do anything to have her for his wife, Simeon and his brothers slaughtered all of the adult males in the Hivite village by trickery and deceit. The author of Genesis does not approve of his behavior, but Judith does, even calling it an act of God.. She plans and prays to achieve victory over the Assyrians with likeminded deceit and cunning. The difference seems to be that while Simeon’s act was uncalled for, Judith’s act is one of great necessity. She sees them similarly.

A theology of omnipotence and omniscience—all power and all knowing—are spelled out in Judith. This is a theology of Deuteronomic orthodoxy. God is not recognized by the nations and Judith wishes for that. God is responsible for all acts of history because he foreknows them and thus essentially plans them. That was true in Simeon’s case, she maintains, and she prays that her own act will bring about the glory of God and will also be seen as part of God’s knowing and doing. There is a sense that she is convinced that this is God’s will anyway, and she prays then to be simply his tool in carrying it out. Today we would tend to embrace the foreknowledge without acknowledging the design, believing that while God knows the future, he does not tamper with the action of physical laws or the exercise of free will, that might bring that future about. No such distinction is made in the Deuteronomic order of things. The book of Job reflects this view, while the prophets and the psalmists occasionally go beyond it and recognize the power of human will.

God, The Omnipotent
Henry F. Chorley, 1808-1872
John Ellerton, 1826-1893

God, the omnipotent! King, who ordainest
Great winds thy clarions, lightnings thy sword;
Show forth thy pity on high where thou reignest,
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.

God the All-merciful! earth hath forsaken
Thy ways of blessedness, slighted Thy word;
Bid not Thy wrath in its terrors awaken:
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord!

God the All-righteous One! man hath defied Thee,
Yet to eternity standeth Thy word;
Falsehood and wrong shall not tarry beside Thee:
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord!

God the All-wise! By the fire of Thy chastening
Earth shall to freedom and truth be restored;
Through the tick darkness Thy kingdom is hastening:
Thou wilt give peace in Thy time, O Lord!

So shall thy children with thankful devotion
Praise Him who saved them from peril and sword,
Singing in chorus from ocean to ocean,
Peace to the nations and praise to the Lord.

Collect for the Day
Eternal God, whose image lies in the hearts of all people,
We live among peoples whose ways are different from ours,
whose faiths are foreign to us,
whose tongues are unintelligible to us.
Help us to remember that you love all people with your great love,
that all religion is an attempt to respond to you,
that the yearnings of other hearts are much like our own and known to you.
Help us to recognize you in the words of truth, the things of beauty,
the actions of love about us.
We pray through Christ, who is a stranger to no one land more than another,
and to every land no less than to another.

[286:373:1119 World Council of Churches, Vancouver Assembly, 1983]


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