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

Friday, December 01, 2006

To Deny Himself: IV Maccabees 2:24-3:18 with poem by William Wordsworth, Ode to Duty

Daily Readings
Isaiah 41:2-29, Daniel 6, IV Maccabees 2:24-3:18, Revelation 19

Daily Text: IV Maccabees 2:24-3:18

To Deny Himself
This passage begins with a reference to the topic introduced in 1:5, i.e., the impossibility of reason ruling its own emotions, those of the intellect, seem patently obvious to the author. He is likely having reference to Stoic notions of the relationships between the body and the soul [462:157]. The issue is that while reason cannot eradicate undesireable emotions it can direct them.

As an example, the author uses King David’s thirst, a story told in II Samuel 23 and I Chronicles 11. Longing for a drink from inside the enemies camp, two of his soldiers learning of this, steal through the enemy lines and bring to David a pitcher of the desired water. In II Samuel and I Chronicles the details are a little different, but the import of the story is the same. David recognizing that his men had risked their lives for his whim, decided not to drink their gift of water, but to offer it to the LORD. His reasoning may have been that only the LORD was worthy of such a life-threatening risk. At any rate his reasoning led him to deny himself the water, the whole point of the author. Point well-taken. This now is the transition from argument to example in our author’s treatise.

Ode to Duty
William Wordsworth

1770-1850

Stern Daughter of the Voice of God!
O Duty! if that name thou love
Who art a light to guide, a rod
To check the erring and reprove;
Thou who art victory and law
When empty terrors overawe;
From vain temptations dost set free;
And calm’st the weary strife of frail humanity!

There are who ask not if thine eye
Be on them; who, in love and truth,
Where no misgiving is, rely
Upon the genial sense of youth;
Glad hearts, without reproach or blot,
Who do thy work and know it not:
Oh! if through confidence misplaced
They fail, thy saving arms, dread Power,
around them cast.

Serene will be our days, and bright
And happy will our nature be,
When love is an unerring light,
And joy its own security;
And they a blissful course may hold
Even now, who, not unwisely bold,
Live in the spirit of this creed;
Yet seek thy firm support according
to their need.

I, loving freedom, and untried,
No sport of every random gust,
Yet being to myself a guide,
Too blindly have reposed my trust;
And oft, when in my heart was heard
Thy timely mandate, I deferred
The task, in smoother walks to stray;
But thee I now would serve more strictly, if I may.

Through no disturbance of my soul,
Or strong compunction in me wrought,
I supplicate for thy control,
But in the quietness of thought.
Me this unchartered freedom tires;
I feel the weight of chance-desires:
My hopes no more must change their name,
I long for a repose that ever is the same.

Stern Lawgiver! yet thou dost wear
The Godhead’s most benignant grace;
Nor know we anything so fair
As is the smile upon thy face:
Flowers laugh before thee on their beds
And fragrance in thy footing treads;
Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong;
And the most ancient heavens, through thee,
are fresh and strong.

To humbler functions, awful Power!
I call thee; I myself commend
Unto thy guidance from this hour;
Oh, let my weakness have an end!
Give unto me, made lowly wise,
The spirit of self-sacrifice;
The confidence of reason give;
And in the light of truth thy bondman let me live. 407:1214

Collect for the Day
O God, help me to victory over myself, for difficult to conquer is oneself, though when that is conquered, all is conquered.

[286:298:908 Jain Scriptures]

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