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The Everyday Prayer

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

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Judith 13,1-20

It grew late and his staff hurried away. Bagoas closed the tent from the outside, having shown out those who still lingered in his lord's presence. They went to their beds wearied with too much drinking,

and Judith was left alone in the tent with Holofernes who had collapsed wine-sodden on his bed.

Judith then told her maid to stay just outside the bedroom and wait for her to come out, as she did every morning. She had let it be understood she would be going out to her prayers and had also spoken of her intention to Bagoas.

By now everyone had left Holofernes, and no one, either important or unimportant, was left in the bedroom. Standing beside the bed, Judith murmured to herself: Lord God, to whom all strength belongs, prosper what my hands are now to do for the greater glory of Jerusalem;

now is the time to recover your heritage and to further my plans to crush the enemies arrayed against us.

With that she went up to the bedpost by Holofernes' head and took down his scimitar;

coming closer to the bed she caught him by the hair and said, 'Make me strong today, Lord God of Israel!'

Twice she struck at his neck with all her might, and cut off his head.

She then rolled his body off the bed and pulled down the canopy from the bedposts. After which, she went out and gave the head of Holofernes to her maid

who put it in her food bag. The two then left the camp together, as they always did when they went to pray. Once they were out of the camp, they skirted the ravine, climbed the slope to Bethulia and made for the gates.

From a distance, Judith shouted to the guards on the gates, 'Open the gate! Open! For the Lord our God is with us still, displaying his strength in Israel and his might against our enemies, as he has done today!'

Hearing her voice, the townsmen hurried down to the town gate and summoned the elders.

Everyone, great and small, came running down, since her arrival was unexpected. They threw the gate open, welcomed the women, lit a fire to see by and crowded round them.

Then Judith raised her voice and said, 'Praise God! Praise him! Praise the God who has not withdrawn his mercy from the House of Israel, but has shattered our enemies by my hand tonight!'

She pulled the head out of the bag and held it for them to see. 'This is the head of Holofernes, general-in-chief of the Assyrian army; here is the canopy under which he lay drunk! The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman!

Glory to the Lord who has protected me in the course I took! My face seduced him, only to his own undoing; he committed no sin with me to shame me or disgrace me.'

Overcome with emotion, the people all prostrated themselves and worshipped God, exclaiming with one voice, 'Blessings on you, our God, for confounding your people's enemies today!'

Uzziah then said to Judith: May you be blessed, my daughter, by God Most High, beyond all women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth, who guided you to cut off the head of the leader of our enemies!

The trust which you have shown will not pass from human hearts, as they commemorate the power of God for evermore.

God grant you may be always held in honour and rewarded with blessings, since you did not consider your own life when our nation was brought to its knees, but warded off our ruin, walking in the right path before our God. And the people all said, 'Amen! Amen!'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Judith was very skilled in conquering Holofernes’ heart and carrying out the plan she had devised to defeat the enemy. Now convinced of his success, Holofernes drinks excessively during the banquet. When all the servants retire, Judith sends out her maid, telling her to wait outside to go pray as usual, and remains in the tent with Holofernes, who has been overcome by wine. She asks the Lord for strength and, using Holofernes own sword, completes her task. She puts Holofernes’ head in her sack and leaves the camp without any trouble, because everyone knew she was going to pray. This time the two women continue all the way to Bethulia, where Judith can cry out to the guards at the gates, "God, our God, is with us... has destroyed our enemies by my hand this very night!" (13:11.14). It must be noted that we have arrived at the end of the time given to God by the commanders, and so the tension must have been thick in the city, along with the discouragement, "for it seemed unbelievable that she had returned" (13:13). Judith shows them the head of Holofernes, who let himself be deceived by her appearance and who, as Judith says, "committed no sin with me, to defile and shame me" (cf. 13:16). Judith risked her life to keep her people from being humiliated, as Uzziah immediately acknowledges to her (13:20). He emphasizes that the Lord not only defended the integrity of his land, but also that of the woman who became such a ready instrument in his hand: the fate of the people of Israel and the fate of Judith are closely tied. And Uzziah cannot but say, "O daughter, you are blessed ..." (13:18). Judith’s actions, which are related to the circumstances of the siege and cannot be taken as a literal model, show us how every believer should behave: spending his or her own life with intelligence and wisdom, not for self but for others. Judith’s beauty is a symbol of the beauty of Israel when it is faithful, the beauty of the community of believers when it knows how to put all of its trust in God. The praise made of Judith by Uzziah and then by the elders of Jerusalem, "You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the great boast of Israel, you are the great pride of our nation!..." (15:9), is repeated in the Christian liturgy in honour of Mary, the birth of whose child marked the definitive defeat of the evil of which Holofernes was an incarnation (like the serpent!) and the triumph of the Kingdom of Heaven whose fullest image is seen in the splendour of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 19 November
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 20 November
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 21 November
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 22 November
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 23 November
Memory of the Church
Friday, 24 November
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 25 November
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 26 November
Liturgy of the Sunday