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

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Parental Love: IV Maccabees 16 with poem by Joaquin Miller, The Greatest Battle That Ever Was Fought

Daily Readings
Isaiah 55, I Maccabees 2, IV Maccabees 16, Luke 13

Daily Text: IV Maccabees 16

Parental Love
Our author continues to heighten the intensity of his argument in IV Maccabees 16; he has progressed from an old man, to seven very young men, and now he comes to an elderly woman, each of the above having despised the fiercest tortures, and each with the same powers of divine reason. But he makes the case that this old mother has suffered the greatest tortures of all, greater even than the fires of the famed fiery furnace withstood by the three Hebrew children. The fires of parental love complicate her tortures as she watches and urges her sons to die willingly. Her argument to her sons was that as they were given the gift of life by God, so they were to suffer willingly for God. In fact, our author argues, it is unreasonable for people who have religious knowledge not to withstand pain. This mother is favorably compared to Abraham, to Isaac, to Daniel and to the three Hebrew children. More powerful than a man, she conquers the tyrant himself. What a tribute to this woman, the point being, however, that this is a climax of tribute to pious reason and its triumph over the emotions. Is any more proof necessary?

The Greatest Battle That Ever Was Fought
Joaquin Miller, 1841-1913

The greatest battle that ever was fought—
Shall I tell you where and when?
On the maps of the world you will find it not:
It was fought by the Mothers of Men.

Not with cannon or battle shot,
With sword or nobler pen;
Not with eloquent word or thought
From the wonderful minds of men;

But deep in a walled-up woman’s heart;
A woman that would not yield;
But bravely and patiently bore her part;
Lo! there is the battlefield.

No marshalling troops, no bivouac song,
No banner to gleam and wave;
But, Oh, these battles they last so long—
From babyhood to the grave!

But faithful still as a bridge of stars
She fights in her walled-up town;
Fights on, and on, in the endless wars;
Then silent, unseen goes down!

Ho! ye with banners and battle shot,
With soldiers to shout and praise,
I tell you the kingliest victories fought
Are fought in these silent ways.

Collect for the Day
We give them back to thee, dear Lord, who gavest them to us. Yet as thou didst not lose them in giving, so we have not lost them by their return. What thou gavest thou takest not away, O Lover of souls;; for what is thine is ours also if we are thine. And life is eternal and love is immortal, and death is only an horizon, and an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. Lift us up, strong Son of God, that we may see further; cleanse our eyes that we may see more clearly; and draw us closer to thyself that we may know ourselves to be nearer to our loved ones who are with thee. And while thou dost prepare for us, prepare us also for that happy place, that where they are and thou art, we too may be for evermore.

[489:154:August 22 William Penn,1644-1718]


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