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 09, 2006

A Living God: Bel and the Dragon with poem by Madame Guyon, Since God is There

Daily Readings
Isaiah 44, III Maccabees 2, Bel and the Dragon, Luke 6

Daily Text: Bel and the Dragon

A Living God
In Bel and the Dragon, Daniel continues with these two stories of the prophet’s exploits for the Lord God against pagan deities. There is a common theme running through these two vignettes, that of the nature of a living God. Cyrus believes Bel to be living because of the amount of food the god consumes. Daniel simply laughs at the possibility. His living God doesn’t consume food at all, so ‘living’ for Daniel means something entirely different. Finally, convinced that Bel is not eating, the king is unconcerned that Daniel destroys the idol. But when the dragon, or preferably the snake god, is called to his attention he challenges Daniel that this god lives. Again Daniel, with a different definition of divine life, presents to the king a challenge. If I can kill the ‘dragon’ even without recourse to a killing weapon, will you then believe me that this is no god either? The king consents to his friend’s challenge for obviously no god can die. When he does, the king continues unconcerned until he gets so much domestic static that he has to act and in this case consign Daniel to the lion’s den for the second time in Daniel’s life, only this time for seven days!

So long is his stay in the lion’s den that Daniel’s God intervenes and coerces the prophet Habbukuk into bringing Daniel a meal on his sixth day with these ferocious lions. In the Septuagint the story is credited to Habbukuk, while in our Theodotion text Habbukuk is brought by an angel, carried by the hair of his head, to feed Daniel. His coming is evidence for Daniel that God does not forget those he loves. Undoubtedly, this story was a great comfort to some besieged people. To summarize, Daniel’s living God may not have to eat or be fed, though to be fair sacrifices were made to him, but life is demonstrated by the power to answer prayer, to act, to remember, to care for God’s own.

Since God is There
Madame Guyon,
1648-1717
transl. from the French by William Cowper, 1731-1800

My Lord, how full of sweet content,
I pass my years of banishment!
Where’er I dwell, I dwell with thee,
In Heaven, in earth, or on the sea.

To me remains nor place nor time;
My country is in every clime:
I can be calm and free from care
On any shore, since God is there.
407:227

Collect for the Day
O God, I am Mustafah the tailor and I work at the shop of Muhammad Ali. The whole day long I sit and pull the needle and the thread through the cloth. O God, you are the needle and I am the thread. I am attached to you and I follow you. When the thread tries to slip away from the needle it becomes tangled and must be cut so that it can be put back in the right place. O God, help me to follow you wherever you may lead me. For I am really only Mustafah the tailor, and I work at the shop of Muhammad Ali on the great square.

[286:88:266 A Muslim’s first prayer as a Christian]

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