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 02, 2006

No One Spoke Ill of Her: Judith 8 with poem by Fanny E. Lacey, Judith and Holofernes

Daily Readings
Sirach 45, Nehemiah 4, Judith 8, I John 2

Daily Text: Judith 8

No One Spoke Ill of Her
Genealogy is that ancient story device of establishing one’s bona fides at the beginning of a story. Here in Judith 8, Judith has an amazing sixteen ancestors, naming a colleague of Moses, Shelumiel, silently including Simeon who was Sarasadai’s father, the tribal progenitor, and Isaac the patriarch, known also as Israel. But not only does she have an illustrious pedigree, she has lived a praiseworthy life, respected by all. Hearing of the crisis she summons the town officials and harangue’s them for their weakness in leading the people into virtually testing God. Unrepentant, Uzziah, the leading man of Bethulia, defends his behavior. Evidently, short tempered with their rationalizations, Judith offers to effect a resolution to the crisis herself. The officials are to meet her that night at the city gate to let her out on her mission. They assent and give their blessing.

This is a woman of action, as well as good breeding, sound mind and pious practice. Immediately, we see someone whose stature is head and shoulders above that of the local politicians. Much has been made of the statement that this makes for the status of women in ancient times. Ridicule, irony, and humor are all at the expense of the men. However, this author suspects that the leadership of this woman was simply what was needed in that crisis and that little or no diminishment of the men took place. Deborah, Jael and Esther come immediately to mind. God uses women readily when a woman’s leadership is needed and available. How many other times he used women, but that use went unrecorded will always remain a mystery. “No one spoke ill of her,” including these men who probably considered it an honor to be summoned to her home and asked to give their blessing on her planned action.

Judith and Holofernes
Fanny E. Lacey

Judith viii.32

With beauty’s wile the tyrant to ensnare,
O’er her fair brow she braids her perfumed hair;
The glittering sandals bind her dancing feet,
As their gay silver bells responding sweet
To her light step: in harmony she floats;
While he, enraptured, gazes till he doats.
“What ho, ye serfs, my bondsmen here, what ho!
Crown ye the board, and let the red wine flow;
Fill to the goblet’s brim!” he joyous cries;
“This Hebrew damsel lifts me to the skies!
Here in my tent I will that she abide,
And with her beauty grace a conqueror’s side,”
And wily Judith hears, to glad employ,
And still renew, the spell that make his joy:
But when his ravish’d senses own the power
Of the full revel and entrancing hour,
Sleep doth enchain him with oblivious thrall,
And on his couch she views him powerless fall.
Pass’d hath the midnight watch, the music ceased;
The weary eye turns from the remnant feast,
The tapers faintly gleam: on the still air
No echo falls, and she alone is there;
On Israel’s sleeping foe awhile to gaze,
“God of my fathers, ‘tis Thy judgment-hour;
As unto Israel’s God she inward prays:
Thine is the strength, the glory, and the power;
Nerve Thou my woman’s arm; unto my heart
Thy ministering angel’s wrath divine impart.
Behold my feeble hand his falchion wield;
Bod of my fathers, be my strength and shield;
Thus for the righteous cause,” inspired she cries,
“Thus by my hand our heathen foeman dies.”
Fearless she strikes; and oh, so young, so fair,
Glowing as God’s avenging angel there;
While thousand voices shout with one accord,
Israel victorious in the glory of the Lord!
411:449

Collect for the Day
King of Glorie, King of Peace,
I will love thee;
And that love may never cease,
I will move thee.

Thou hast granted my request,
Thou hast heard me;
Thou dist note my working breast,
Thou hast spar’d me.

Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing thee,
And the cream of all my heart
I will bring thee.
…………..

Small it is, in this poor sort
To enrol thee:
E’en eternitie’s too short
To extol thee.

[286:5:10 George Herbert, 1593-1663]

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