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

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Angels on Horseback: IV Maccabees 3:19-4:26 with poem by Adelaide Anne Procter, Who is the Angel That Cometh?

Daily Readings
Isaiah 42, Daniel 7, IV Maccabees 3:19-4:26, Revelation 20

Daily Text: IV Maccabees 3:19-4:26

Angels on Horseback
Hadas [462:160] entitles this passage an ‘historical preamble’ to the narrative that will follow in coming chapters. The author’s historical accuracy is weak, even when his source, II Maccabees, has it correct. Seleucus Nicanor was the not king, he was a general fighting with Alexander the Great. The king in question was Seleucus IV Philopater, the predecessor to Antiochus Epiphanes who was his brother, not his son! Nonetheless in our story, God once again comes to the aid of his people in the form of angels on horseback with swords flashing and governors stricken to the ground.

The upshot of the preamble is that Antiochus Epiphanes comes to power and he recognizes few of the precedents followed in previous administrations. He removes the high priest and places a puppet in his place, a puppet who cannot even then please the master. So Antiochus Epiphanes comes to Jerusalem to enforce his will and is unable to. This sets the stage for what is to follow, the important material in this book.

Who Is The Angel That Cometh?
Adelaide Anne Procter
1825-1864

I
Who is the Angel that cometh?
Life!
Let us not question what he brings,
Peace or Strife,
Under the shadow of his mighty wings,
One by one,
Are his secrets told;
One by one,
Lit by the rays of each morning sun,
Shall a new flower its petals unfold,
With the mystery hid in its heart of gold.
We will arise and go forth to greet him,
Singly, gladly, with one accord;--
“Blessed is he that cometh
In the name of the Lord.”

II
Who is the Angel that cometh?
Joy!
Look at his glittering rainbow wings—
No alloy
Lies in the radiant gifts he brings;
Tender and sweet,
He is come to-day,
Tender and Sweet:
While chains of love on his silver feet
Will hold him in lingering fond delay.
But greet him quickly, he will lnot stay,
Soon he will leave us; but though for others
All his brightest treasures are stored;--
“Blessed is he that cometh
In the name of the Lord!”

III
Who is the Angel that cometh?
Pain!
Let us arise and go forth to greet him;
Not in vain
Is the summons come for us to meet him;
He will stay,
And darken our sun;
He will stay
A desolate night, a weary day.
Since in that shadow our work is done,
And in that shadow our crowns are won,
Let us say still, while his bitter chalice
Slowly into our hearts is poured,--
“Blessed is he that cometh
In the name of the Lord!”

IV
Who is the Angel that cometh?
Death!
But do not shudder and do not fear;
Hold your breath,
For a kigly presence is drawing near.
Cold and bright
Is his flashing steel,
Cold and bright
The smile that comes like a starry light
To calm the terror and grief we feel;
He comes to help and to save and heal:
Then let us, baring our hearts and kneeling,
Sing, while we wait this Angel’s swoerd,--
“Blessed is he that cometh
In the name of the Lord!”
407:1407

Collect for the Day
O everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant, that as thy holy angels alway do thee service in heaven, so by thy appointment they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[286:250:773 Book of Common Prayer]

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