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The Everyday Prayer


 
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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memory of St. Anthony of the caves of Kiev (+1073). Father of Russian monasticism, with St. Theodosius he is considered the founder of the monastery of the caves.


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Judith 10,1-23

Thus Judith called on the God of Israel. When she had finished praying,

she got up from the floor, summoned her maid and went down into the rooms which she used on Sabbath days and festivals.

There she removed the sackcloth she was wearing and taking off her widow's dress, she washed all over, anointed herself plentifully with perfumes, dressed her hair, wrapped a turban round it and put on the robe of joy she used to wear when her husband Manasseh was alive.

She put sandals on her feet, put on her necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings and all her jewellery, and made herself beautiful enough to beguile the eye of any man who saw her.

Then she handed her maid a skin of wine and a flask of oil, filled a bag with barley girdle-cakes, cakes of dried fruit and pure loaves, and wrapping all these provisions up gave them to her as well.

They then went out, making for the town gate of Bethulia. There they found Uzziah waiting with the two elders of the town, Chabris and Charmis.

When they saw Judith, her face so changed and her clothes so different, they were lost in admiration of her beauty. They said to her:

May the God of our ancestors keep you in his favour! May he crown your designs with success to the glory of the children of Israel, to the greater glory of Jerusalem!

Judith worshipped God, and then she said, 'Have the town gate opened for me so that I can go out and fulfil all the wishes you expressed to me.' They did as she asked and gave orders to the young men to open the gate for her.

This done, Judith went out accompanied by her maid, while the men of the town watched her all the way down the mountain and across the valley, until they lost sight of her.

As the women were making straight through the valley, an advance unit of Assyrians intercepted them,

and, seizing Judith, began to question her. 'Which side are you on? Where do you come from? Where are you going?' 'I am a daughter of the Hebrews,' she replied, 'and I am fleeing from them since they will soon be your prey.

I am on my way to see Holofernes, the general of your army, to give him trustworthy information. I shall show him the road to take if he wants to capture all the hill-country without losing one man or one life.'

As the men listened to what she was saying, they stared in astonishment at the sight of such a beautiful woman.

'It will prove the saving of you,' they said to her, 'coming down to see our master of your own accord. You had better go to his tent; some of our men will escort you and hand you over to him.

Once you are in his presence do not be afraid. Tell him what you have just told us and you will be well treated.'

They then detailed a hundred of their men as escort for herself and her attendant, and these led them to the tent of Holofernes.

News of her coming had already spread through the tents, and there was a general stir in the camp. She was still outside the tent of Holofernes waiting to be announced, when a crowd began forming round her.

They were immediately impressed by her beauty and impressed with the Israelites because of her. 'Who could despise a people who have women like this?' they kept saying. 'Better not leave one of them alive; let any go and they could twist the whole world round their fingers!'

The bodyguard and adjutants of Holofernes then came out and led Judith into the tent.

Holofernes was resting on his bed under a canopy of purple and gold studded with emeralds and precious stones.

The men announced her and he came out to the entrance to the tent, with silver torches carried before him.

When Judith confronted the general and his adjutant, the beauty of her face astonished them all. She fell on her face and did homage to him, but his servants raised her from the ground.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Judith became God’s instrument by making herself beautiful: she laid aside her widow’s clothes and sackcloth and put on festive attire with perfume and jewellery, and "thus she made herself very beautiful, to entice the eyes of all the men who might see her" (10:4). In fact, the elders of Bethulia themselves, "when they saw her transformed in appearance...were very greatly astounded at her beauty" (10:7), and perhaps they began to understand what was moving Judith; they expressed their wish to her that the Lord help her accomplish what she was planning so that "Jerusalem may be exalted" (10:8). Judith went out of the city "alone" with her maid, who was carrying some food, pure according to the law, for their nourishment. She approached the enemy camp, followed by the eyes of the men of her city. It was no longer clear whether they were attracted by her undertaking or by her beauty. When the two women arrived at the Assyrian sentinels, the men were immediately conquered by Judith’s appearance: "she was in their eyes marvellously beautiful" (10:14), and they quickly changed their minds about Israelites: they were not to be scorned, but admired. We can already see at work here the premise that opens the way for Judith. If "she was in their eyes marvellously beautiful" (in this part of the story the author often stresses people’s amazement at Judith’s beauty), it is not strange for her to have easy access to Holofernes, whom she found at ease amidst the wealth of his power, under a purple canopy woven with gold, emeralds, and other precious stones. Holofernes even went to meet her, remaining within his role as leader, although, in truth, he had already been seduced (12:16). In Judith, we can see the whole of God’s people, who have no safeguard other than their faith. The people of believers is like a poor, lonely woman whose only weapon is her beauty, that is, a faith that makes them shine. We could say that this beauty is the kind of truth that knows how to attract and impress the heart. It is the beauty of truth that converts the hearts of men and women; truth, in fact, conquers without humiliating those who are attracted. Judith’s beauty is the reflection of the Wisdom of God. This is the beauty that attracts men and women. In Judith shines the glory of Israel, faithful to God, who has chosen it. God conquers by attracting others to Himself, while men and women conquer through force and by enslaving others. Someone who is attracted and conquered by beauty does not feel like a slave. He or she is seduced, as Jeremiah says: "O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed" (Jer 20:7). Judith’s beauty is the reflection of the very beauty of God, of Wisdom. "She is more beautiful than the sun...compared with the light she is found to be superior," and further, "I loved her and sought her from my youth; I desired to take her for my bride, and became enamoured of her beauty" (Wis 7:29; 8:2). There is a question that rises from these pages of the Bible: how much do the believer and the community itself strive to become "attractive," that is, to present to others a beautiful existence that, because it is beautiful, is worth living? The beauty of the life of the community of believers can never be discounted. The text speaks of "a miracle of beauty" (10:14). The enemies are conquered by Judith’s beauty, and, instead of taking her prisoner, they become her prisoners and do what she wants. A seven-hundred-thousand man army was not able to occupy a little city, but Judith alone conquers all, walking unharmed among her enemies, who neither react nor make the slightest move to capture her. That is how God conquers his enemies. Beauty will conquer the world.


07/23/2010
Memory of Jesus crucified


Calendar of the week
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4
Sunday, 4 December
Liturgy of the Sunday
DEC
5
Monday, 5 December
Prayer for the Sick
DEC
6
Tuesday, 6 December
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
DEC
7
Wednesday, 7 December
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
DEC
8
Thursday, 8 December
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
DEC
9
Friday, 9 December
Memory of Jesus crucified
DEC
10
Saturday, 10 December
Sunday Vigil
DEC
11
Sunday, 11 December
Liturgy of the Sunday

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