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

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Hand of God: Acts 12 with poem by Madame Jeanne Marie Guyon, A Prisoner's Song

Daily Readings
Psalm 12, Genesis 13, Isaiah 14, Acts 12

Daily Text: Acts 12

The Hand of God
Herod is pictured here, in Acts 12,in his true colors—repressive, destroying the good, imprisoning the faithful, reveling in divine accolades. He receives what he deserves, death in a moment, death, as Luke and his source believed, at the hand of God. He represents some of the worst of humankind. Josephus has a record of his death and its circumstances.
“At Caesarea, Agrippa exhibited shows in honour of Caesar, inaugurating this as a festival for the emperor’s welfare. And there came together to it a large number of the provincial officials and others of distinguished position. On the second day of the shows Agrippa put on a robe made of silver throughout, of altogether wonderful weaving, and entered the theatre at break of day. Then the silver shone and glittered wonderfully as the sun’s first rays fell on it, and its resplendence inspired a sort of fear and trembling in those who gazed on it. Immediately his flatterers called out from various directions, using language which boded him no good, for they addressed him as a god, and invoked him with the cry, ‘Be gracious unto us! Hitherto we have reverenced thee as a man, but henceforth we acknowledge thee to be of more than mortal nature.’ He did not rebuke them, nor did he repudiate their impious flattery. But soon afterwards he looked up and saw an owl sitting on a rope above his head, and immediately recognized it as a messenger of evil as it had on a former occasion been a messenger of good; and a pang of grief pierced his heart. at the same time he was seized by a severe pain in his belly, which began with a most violent attack. He was carried quickly into the palace…and when he had suffered continuously for five days from the pain in his belly, he died, in the fifty-fourth year of his age and the seventh of his reign” (Antiquities xix.8.2 from 549:254).

Peter’s imprisonment and his release is remarkable. The hand of God is surely seen in it, though why he was released and James was killed is one of those human imponderables. But the miracle of it all is repeated earlier when John and Peter were imprisoned by the High Priest. The humor of the serving girl’s thoughtless excitement must have convulsed friends of the man for years after. It reminds us that we too seldom see the power of God in such a practical fashion.

A Prisoner’s Song
Madame Jeanne Marie Guyon, 1648-1717

A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air;
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him Who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleases Thee.

Naught have I else to do:
I sing the whole day long;
And He Whom I most love to please
Doth listen to my song:
He caught and bound my wandering wing;
But still He bends to hear me sing.

Thou hast an ear to hear,
A heart to love and bless;
And though my notes were e’er so rude,
Thou wouldst not hear the less;
Because Thou knowest as they fall,
That love, sweet love, inspires them all.

My cage confines me round;
Abroad I cannot fly;
But though my wing is closely bound,
My heart’s at liberty;
My prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.

Oh, it is good to soar
These bolts and bars above,
To Him Whose purpose I adore,
Whose providence I love;
And in Thy mighty will to find
The joy, the freedom of the mind.


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