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

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rational Judgment: IV Maccabees 1 with poem by Joseph Addison, In Reason's Ear

Daily Readings
Psalm 149, Daniel 2, IV Maccabees 1, Revelation 15

Daily Text: IV Maccabees 1

Rational Judgment
This work was written about 40 A.D. by an Hellenized person in commemoration of the death of the martyrs (cf. 1.10) [462:115]. The philosopher author is at pains to discuss the sovereignty of reason over human emotional life, and he sets about to describe it and illustrated it in clear Greek prose. He describes this ‘reason’ as rational judgment or ‘prudence’ if we may use the word used later in history, as well as in Wisdom 8:7, meaning right judgment or action. Perhaps the most helpful matter in this discussion is the relationship of reason to wisdom. Rational judgment, according to our author, prefers the life of wisdom, defined as the knowledge of divine and human matters. Education is thus part of wisdom, that may come in four kinds. They are rational judgment, justice, courage and self-control. Without elaborating the author suggests that these four kinds wisdom inform and support each other, so that the courage faced by the martyrs whom we will meet in chapter 4 and beyond, has a component of self-control that allows rational judgment to continue functioning in the face of the most terrible and painful persecutions. The emotions themselves are listed as gluttony, lust, malice, anger, fear, desire, delight, sorrow and the most comprehensive of all pleasure and pain. It is at times difficult to read IV Maccabees and remember through the examples given that this is a treatise about reason. Its importance for our own time is perhaps obvious, for our contemporary tendency is to suggest that emotions simply are and to allow the individual the right to express them even in their unbridled forms. That self-control and prudence are possible under even the most trying situations is important knowledge, knowledge that might lead to some wisdom even today.

In Reason’s Ear
Joseph Addison

In Reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious Voice,
For ever singing as they shine,
‘The Hand that made us is Divine.’

Collect for the Day
Accept our praise, God of justice, defender of the oppressed. Give us grace to join in this your holy work, that all the world may see your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[476:909:149 Psalm prayer]


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