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, October 28, 2006

Fear and Dread: Judith 2:28-3:10 with poem by Thomas Curtis Clark, Apparitions

Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude

Daily Readings
Sirach 40, Deuteronomy 32:1-4, Judith 2:28-3:10, Ephesians 2:13-22

Daily Text: Judith 3:28-3:10

Fear and Dread
The result of the campaign is the spreading of fear and dread throughout the region. Now the populace turns out as if welcoming the advent of Holofernes. They offer themselves and everything they have without expressed reservations in unconditional surrender. It seems that he then spares them and their livelihood, but he continues to destroy completely their sacred shrines and religious expressions. Scholars and translators disagree as to whether Holofernes or Nebuchadnezzar ordered that from this time forth the people may worship only Nebuchadnezzar as god [cf. 534:144]. They treated him as a man, even as one man, in 1:11, and now they are being forced to treat him as the one and only god. The sense of the story leads one to assume that since Nebuchadnezzar gave explicit instructions to Holofernes with the admonition that he not depart from the details of his mandate, then Nebuchadnezzar must also be responsible for the religious policy espoused by Holofernes. On the other hand, the reputation of the historical Nebuchadnezzar was always one of leniency towards the gods of conquered lands. It was Antiochus Epiphanes who arrogated to himself divinity. Nonetheless, the results of Holofernes progress toward Jerusalem preceded him and the Jews awaited his coming with fear and trembling, as was true of all their neighbors. Perhaps the religious menace was greater for them than the military, though neither was discounted.

Thomas Curtis Clark

Who goes there, in the night,
Across the storm-swept plain?
We are the ghosts of a valiant war—
A million murdered men!

Who goes there, at the dawn,
Across the sun-swept plain?
We are the hosts of those who swear:
It shall not be again!

Collect for the Day
O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[BCP 245 Saint Simon and Saint Jude]

Friday, October 27, 2006

Snub and Revenge: Judith 2:1-27 with poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, De Oloferno

Daily Readings
Sirach 39, Ezra 6, Judith 2:1-27, I Esdras 6

Daily Text: Judith 2:1-27

Snub and Revenge
The snub in chapter 1 motivates the expressed resentment in Judith 2 as Nebuchadnezzar plans his revenge on the region. Nebuchadnezzar’s revenge took place the year following his campaign against Media. Once entrained Nebuchadnezzar lost no time in carrying out his designs.

General Holofernes is instructed exactly how to go about his campaign, and he does it with dispatch and thoroughness. If the line of march is a little puzzling, it detracts not at all from the intent of his campaign, which is the destruction of crops and villages, of domestic beasts and people. Obviously, Holofernes is competent, determined and thorough. The story is told as if Judah is the climax of his campaign, not unexpectedly since this is a tale of Judah and her God.

De Oloferno
from The Canterbury Tales
Geoffrey Chaucer

Was nevere capitain under a king
That regnes mo putte in subjeccioun,
Ne strenger was in feeld of alle thing
As in his time, ne gretter of renoun,
Ne moore pompous in heigh presumpcioun
Than Oloferne, which Fortune ay kiste
So likerously, and ladde him up and doun,
Til that his heed was of er that he wiste.

Nat oonly that this world hadde him in awe
For lesinge of richesse or libertee,
But he made every man reneye his lawe.
Nabugodonosor was god, seide he;
Noon oother god sholde adoured be.
Agains his heste no wight dorste trespace,
Save in Bethulia, a strong citee,
Where Eliachim a preest was of that place.

But tak kepe of the deeth of Olferne:
Amidde his hoost he dronke lay a-night,
Withinne his tente, large as is a berne;
And yet, for all his pompe and al his might,
Judith, a womman, as he lay upright
Slepinge, his heed of smoot, and from his tnete
Ful prively she stal from every wight,
And with his heed unto hir toun she wente.

Collect for the Day
All that we ought to have thought and have not thought,
All that we ought to have said and have not said,
All that we ought to have done, and have not done;

All that we ought not to have thought and yet have thought,
All that we ought not to have spoken, and yet have spoken,
All that we ought not to have done, and yet have done;
For thoughts, words and works, pray we, O God, for forgiveness.

[286:333:1028 from an ancient Persian prayer]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Once Upon A Time: Judith 1 with poem by Angela Morgan, To-Day

Daily Readings
Sirach 38, Ezra 5, Judith 1, I Esdrus 6

Daily Text: Judith 1

Once Upon A Time
There is a fundamental conflict in this story. The historical information related to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, and the war against Arphaxad is placed in a pre-exilic period. The context of Judith and the Jews, as well as the non-Jewish names, e.g., Holofernes, Bagoas, et. al., are post-exilic. The two do not coincide. There have been many attempts to reconcile the differences from calling Judith a novel, to renaming Nebuchadnezzar, Artaxerxes III. After defeating the fabled King Arphaxad and his capitol at Ecbatana, ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ and his troops returned for four months to Nineveh, the Assyrian capital (destroyed in 612 B.C. prior to Nebuchadnezzar’s coming to power in ca 604B.C). Even the opening words of Judith 1 may have been intended to set the stage for a fable, one the general reader in subsequent times misses. The apparent contradictions may have been recognizable like “Once upon a time” is in our day. The war between Nebuchadnezzar and Arphaxad was used to set the stage for the later threat to Judah and Jerusalem [comment ff. Moore, 534:Introduction].

Angela Morgan

To be alive in such an age!
With every year a lightning page
Turned in the world’s great wonder book
Whereon the leaning nations look.
When men speak strong for brotherhood,
For peace and universal good,
When miracles are everywhere,
And every inch of common air
Throbs a tremendous prophecy
Of greater marvels yet to be.
O thrilling age,
O willing age!
When steel and stone and rail and rod
Become the avenue of God—
A trump to shout His thunder through
To crown the work that man may do.

To be alive in such an age!
When man, impatient of his cage,
Thrills to the soul’s immortal rage
For conquest—reaches goal on goal,
Travels the earth from pole to pole,
Garners the tempests and the tides
And on a Dream Triumphant rides.
When, hid within the lump of clay,
A light more terrible than day
Proclaims the presence of that Force
Which hurls the planets on their course.
O age with wings
O age that flings
A challenge to the very sky,
Where endless realms of conquest lie!
When, earth on tiptoe, strives to hear
The message of a sister sphere,
Yearning to reach the cosmic wires
That flash Infinity’s desires.

To be alive in such an age!
That blunders forth its discontent
With futile creed and sacrament,
Yet craves to utter God’s intent,
Seeing beneath the world’s unrest
Creation’s huge, untiring quest,
And through Tradition’s broken crust
The flame of Truth’s triumphant thrust;
Below the seething thought of amn
The push of a stupendous Plan.
O age of strife!
O age of life!
When Progress rides her chariots high,
And on the borders of the sky
The signals of the century
Proclaim the things that are to be—
The rise of woman to her place,
The coming of a nobler race.

To be alive in such an age—
To live in it,
To give to it!
Rise, soul, from thy despairing knees.
What if thy lips have drunk the lees?
Fling forth thy sorrows to the wind
And link thy hope with humankind—
The passion of a larger claim
Will put thy puny grief to shame.
Breathe the world thought, do the world deed,
Think hugely of thy brother’s need.
And what thy woe, and what thy weal?
Look to the work the times reveal!~
Give thanks with all thy flaming heart—
Crave but to have in it a part.
Give thanks and clasp thy heritage—
To be alive in such a age!

Collect for the Day
Your eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Your creatures. May the love for my art actuate me at all times; may neither avarice nor miserlienss, nor the thirst for glory or for a great reputation engage my mind, for the enemies of truth and philanthropy could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of my lofty aim of doing good to Your children. May I never see in a patient anything but a fellow creature in pain. Grant me strength, time and opportunity always to correct what I have acquired, always to extend its domain, for knowledge is immense and the spirit of man can extend indefinitely to enrich itself daily with new requirements.

Today he can discover his errors of yesterday and tomorrow he may obtain new light on what he thinks himself sure of today.

O God, You have appointed me to watch over the life and death of Your creatures. Here I am, ready for my vocation.

[286 274:833 Maimonides, 1135-1204, The Medical Oath]

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Remarkable Obedience: Haggai 1 with poem by John Chagy, Haggai

Daily Readings
Sirach 37, Ezra 3:1-4:5, Haggai 1, I Esdras 5:47-73

Daily Text: Haggai 1

Remarkable Obedience
The text of Haggai 1 is self explanatory. What is remarkable is that Haggai gives this warning in August/September of 520 after several years of living back in Jerusalem. Three weeks later, after the harvest, the people all turn out to begin the re-building of the temple in earnest. This is remarkable obedience from the rulers in the city to the peasant in the field. God rejoices and gives them his imprimatur, the word that God will be with them. Everyone is joyful, encouraged and active.

John Chagy

Shealtiel, governor of Judah,
And Jehozadak, his friend, the high priest,
Had no time for prophecies. But their sons,
Zerubbabel and Joshua, listened,
And there was fear in their hearts as Haggai
Admonished them. “Your fathers say the time
Has not yet come to build the second Temple,
Therefore the Lord has kept the heaven back.
The drought upon the land has starved the cattle,
Withered the fig-tree, dried the pomegranate.
Your hands are calloused and weary with labor
Yet your wives and little ones go hungry.
The Jews run every man for his own house
And so are scattered, weak and separate
Even in Jerusalem, without a Temple.
Last night I heard the Lord of host again,
He bade me stir your hearts to build His House.
Then in a dream I saw the Temple site;
The Temple stood there on that highest hill
More glorious than any of our buildings.
From within I heard the sound of pipes and oboes,
Trumpets, harps, shofars, cymbals and singers—
The leader had the sweetest voice in Israel.
The Lord appointed me His messenger
To urge you land the remnants of the people
To consider your ways and hearken unto the Lord.
And from the day the Temple’s completed
The acorn and vines and olive-trees shall blossom
And in this land there shall be peace again.
Israel’s one home is in the House of the Lord.”

Collect for the Day
God of mercy, God of grace,
teach me to hold my will attentive
in the liberty thou gavest me,
that I may will with thee to do thy will
as thou dost show it me;
draw me to respond to thee
in each separate occasion of the passing time
that when the vanities of earth are passed
I may remain for ever
in the loving rhythm of thy everlasting peace.

[286:87:261 Fr. Gilbert Shaw, 1886-1967]

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Can Something Holy Be Contagious: Haggai 2 with poem by Thomas Curtis Clark, The Message of Haggai

Daily Readings
Sirach 36, Ezra 2, Haggai 2, I Esdras 5:7-46

Daily Text: Haggai 2

Can Something Holy Be Contagious
Difficult indeed is Haggai 2. What does the prophet mean by his recognition that the new temple falls far short of the old? Obviously, he understands that there are those who remember the Solomonic temple and are completely discouraged about this new replacement. But the word from the LORD is not discouraging; it indicates that the new temple will surpass the old!

Two months later, the prophet is asking what appear to be profound questions related to both the holiness code and the purity code. Can something holy be contagious? He asks the priests for a ruling. “No” came the unequivocal reply. Holiness can only come from the Lord. Can something unclean be contagious? ”Yes,” comes the equally unequivocal reply. So it is with my people and this nation, says the LORD. Well, what does that mean? It apparently means that prior to this day even a holy people could not make holy the temple sacrifices for the temple itself, or what there was of it, was unclean. But from this 18th day of December 520: B.C. it will be different. Why? Because evidently on that day there was a ceremony of consecration for the 2nd temple. Ezra 3:10-13 describes this ritual and the emotional response of the people to it. Some of them still mourned the loss of the old, but the majority rejoiced in the re-founding of the new. With re-consecration, the LORD made the temple and the altar holy and the sacrifices of the people would be from then on considered holy. Not only that, the LORD’s blessing would be poured out upon them continuously. Haggai has become the LORD’s instrument to work his grace on this entire rebuilding effort.

The Message of Haggai
Thomas Curtis Clark

My house lieth waste, saith Jehovah,
And ye live in ceiled houses.
And Zerubbabel the governor heard,
And Josiah the high priest heard,
And the people heard.
Consider your ways, saith Jehovah;
Go up to the mountain and bring wood
And build my house.
Thus spoke Jehovah though Haggai the prophet.
And Zerubbabel and Josiah and the people
Were stirred and did build God’s house.

Then saith Jehovah:
Consider my house as it was
In its former glory.
But be ye strong, O Zerubbabel and Josiah.
I will shake the nations
And the precious things of all the nations
Shall come.
And I will fill this house with glory.
And the latter glory of the place
Shall be greater than the former.
For the silver is mine and the gold is mine.
Be ye strong, O Judah and Jerusalem,
For I have chosen thee.

Collect for the Day
May God in the plenitude of his love pour upon you the torrents of his grace, bless you and keep you in his holy fear, prepare you for a happy eternity, and receive you at last into immortal glory.

[286:172:571 Blessing at the Consecration of Coventry Cathedral]

Monday, October 23, 2006

Vision of Mercy: Habakkuk 3 with poem by William Broome, Habakkuk's Prayer

Feast of St. James of Jerusalem

Daily Readings
Sirach 35, Acts 15:12-22, Habakkuk 3, Letter of Jeremiah

Daily Text: Habakkuk 3

Vision of Mercy
In Habakkuk 3 resolution of all of the questions, all of the tension between God’s intentions and the prophet’s understanding, comes about. YHWH gives Habakkuk the vision of his mercy towards Judah. He realizes that it will not be immediately experienced, but it will come.

The vision is of God’s coming in wrath (vss.3-15) against the oppressing nations. Even those nations incidental to his wrath will be terrified at that coming; even the natural world is convulsed. This is a vision of direct intervention, YHWH entering history and making changes. “Victory over chaos was the theophany, par excellence.” [531:149].

So affected is the prophet by the terribleness of God’s coming that he trembles, loses his strength and finally quietly accepts God’s intentions as experienced in the vision (vs. 16). He goes on to make a vow of trust even though he knows that there will be no outward sign of God’s salvation (vss. 17, 18), and then in the final verse his confidence in God’s promise soars almost to ecstasy. What a difference from his fears in 1:2! This vision pales in contrast to God’s intervention in Jesus. How much more should we be able to trust and rest confidently in God’s promise through Jesus!

Habakkuk’s Prayer
William Broome

Yet though the fig-tree should no burden bear,
Though vines delude the promise of the year;
Yet though the olive should not yield her oil,
Nor the parched glebe regard the peasant’s toil;
Though the tired ox beneath his labors fall,
And herds in millions perish from the stall!
Yet shall my grateful strings
Forever praise Thy name,
Forever Thee proclaim
The everlasting God, the mighty King of kings.

Collect for the Day
Grant, O God, that, following the example of your servnt James the Just, brother of our Lord, your Church may give itself continually to prayer and to the reconciliation of all who are at variance and enmity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

[BCP 245 Saint James of Jerusalem]

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Promise of Vision: Habakkuk 2 with anonymous poem, He Cometh Late

Daily Readings
Sirach 34, Ezra 1, Habakkuk 2, I Esdrus 2:1-15

Daily Text: Habakkuk 2

The Promise of Vision
After the prophet’s complaint in chapter one, he waits by his watchpost to see what God’s response will be to his criticism. And he doesn’t watch long before God comes to him again and promises a vision for the appointed time, a vision of the end time. Habakkuk is to write it down and wait for it.

The crux of Habakkuk 2 is the promise of a vision. It is the vision that claims the faithful. That one is not ‘fainthearted’ for he will walk in its light and live by its faithfulness [cf. 531:104]. On the other hand, the arrogant wealthy (vs. 5) will be treacherous, will ultimately not succeed and will himself be overthrown, a laughingstock and subject to those he formerly oppressed. Wait for the vision of YHWH, then, for it is substantive and worth making the centerpiece of one’s life, for the LORD is in his holy temple! Waiting for him to act is no sign of the LORD’s absence. The vision itself is the subject of the final oracle in chapter 3.

He Cometh Late
Author Unknown

The strings of camels come in single file,
Bearing their burdens o’er the desert sands.
Swiftly the boats go plying on the Nile—
The needs of men are met on every hand,
But still I wait
For the messenger of God who cometh late.

I see a cloud of dust rise on the plain.
The measured tread of troops falls on my ear.
The soldier comes, the empire to maintain,
Bringing the pomp of war, the reign of fear.
But still I wait
For the messenger of God who cometh late.

They set me watching o’er the desert drear,
Where dwells the darkness, as the the deepest night;
From many a mosque there comes the call to prayer—
I hear no voice that calls on God for light.
But still I wait
For the messenger of God who cometh late.

Collect for the Day
Save us while waking, and defend us while sleeping, that when we awake we may watch with Christ, and when we sleep we may rest in peace.

[286:102:328 Antiphon at Compline]