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

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Eat and Be Freed: IV Maccabees 8:1-9:9 with poem by David Gascoyne, De Profundis

Daily Readings
Sirach 50, Daniel 1:2-45, IV Maccabees 8:1-9:9, Luke 3

Daily Text: IV Maccabees 8:1-9:9

Eat And Be Freed
In a rage over his failure to coerce Eleazar to his his pork, the tyrant, Antiochus Epiphanes, demands new victims with the same promise: eat and be freed or refuse and be tortured. This victim was a family, a family of seven brothers and their aged mother. So handsome, modest, noble and accomplished are they, that Antiochus is genuinely attracted to them and offers friendship and positions in his administration if they will obey him and reject their ancient national religion. But his coercion is not all with a silk glove. He makes no bones about it, eat or die.

The brothers, as if a Greek chorus, speak with one voice: “Save your sweet promises for someone else. You’ve obviously learned nothing from our esteemed priest, Eleazar. Is it more fitting for an old man to die than for a young one? Put us to the test. We will die and win the prize of virtue and of being with God, while you will face divine justice and eternal torment by fire.” This taunt throws the tyrant into a fury, as one might imagine, and the killing begins.

De Profundis
David Gascoyne

Out of these depths:

Where footsteps wander in the marsh of death and an
Intense infernal glare is on our faces facing down:

Out of these depths, what shamefaced cry
Half choked in the dry throat, as though a stone
Were our confounded tongue, can ever rise:
Because the mind has been struck blind
And may no more conceive
Thy Throne.

Because the depths
Are clear with only death’s
Marsh-light, because the rock of grief
Is clearly too extreme for us to breach:
Deepen our depths,

And aid our unbelief.

Collect for the Day
Lord, I yearn only to be near You,
though at times I seem remote.
Lord, I cannot find the way unaided:
teach me the faithful service You would have me do.
show me Your ways, guide me, lead me,
release me from the prison of unknowing
while I still can make amends.
Do not despise my lowly state.
Before I grow so weak, so heavy with mortality
that I bend and fall,
and my bones, brittle with age,
become food for moth and worm,
be my help, O be my help!
Where my forebears went, there go i.
Yes, I know it.
Their resting-place is mine.

I know it.
Like them I am a stranger passing through this life.
Since the womb of earth is my allotted portion,
and since I’ve chased the wind from the beginning of my days,
when will I come to set my house in order?
The passions You Yourself have made a part of me
have kept me rapt within the passing scene,
and how, enslaved to passion as I’ve been,
a prey to fierce and fiery hungers,
how, I ask, could I have served You as I needed to?
But now the time has come to ask:
why all this ambition, why the quest for high estate,
when tomorrow I must die?
Why this expense of spirit,
when tomorrow I mourn the passing time?
These days and nights combine to bring me to the end;
they scatter my thought to the winds,
they return my frame to the dust.
What now can I say in my defense:
What brave words remain to shield me from my truth?
My nature has pursued me, possessed me, driven and flayed me,
a doubtful friend from childhood on.
What then do I really have besides Your presence?
Stripped of my pretensions, naked at the last, here I stand,
and only Your goodness can clothe and shelter me.
for nothing now remains but this:
Lord, I yearn only to be near You!


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