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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

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Esther 5,1-5

(a) On the third day, when she had finished praying, she took off her suppliant's mourning attire and dressed herself in her full splendour. Radiant as she then appeared, she invoked God who watches over all people and saves them. With her, she took two ladies-in-waiting. With a delicate air she leaned on one, while the other accompanied her carrying her train. (b) Rosy with the full flush of her beauty, her face radiated joy and love: but her heart shrank with fear. (c) Having passed through door after door, she found herself in the presence of the king. He was sitting on his royal throne, dressed in all his robes of state, glittering with gold and precious stones -- a formidable sight. (d) He looked up, afire with majesty and, blazing with anger, saw her. The queen sank to the floor. As she fainted, the colour drained from her face and her head fell against the lady-in-waiting beside her. (e) But God changed the king's heart, inducing a milder spirit. He sprang from his throne in alarm and took her in his arms until she recovered, comforting her with soothing words. (f) 'What is the matter, Esther?' he said. 'I am your brother. Take heart, you are not going to die; our order applies only to ordinary people. Come to me.' (g) And raising his golden sceptre he laid it on Esther's neck, embraced her and said, 'Speak to me.'

(a) 'Sire,' she said, 'to me you looked like one of God's angels, and my heart was moved with fear of your majesty. For you are a figure of wonder, my lord, and your face is full of graciousness.' (b) But as she spoke she fell down in a faint. The king grew more agitated, and his courtiers all set about reviving her.

'What is the matter, Queen Esther?' the king said. 'Tell me what you want; even if it is half my kingdom, I grant it you.'

'Would it please the king,' Esther replied, 'to come with Haman today to the banquet I have prepared for him?'

The king said, 'Tell Haman to come at once, so that Esther may have her wish.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Esther prepares to present herself to the king, and the Hebrew text stresses only her going as queen: "put on her royalty" could be the translation of the Hebrew expression, thus indicating not only the attire, but also the self-awareness of being queen, which she achieved. Esther has looked ahead, she gives herself, and she exposes herself for others. The Greek text (indicated by letters of the alphabet) emphasizes, on the other hand, Esther’s beauty and the splendour of the king, and it renders the meeting a dramatic comparison of two shining lights and the feelings that flow from there. In any case, the king extends his sceptre and saves Esther, who invites him to her banquet, prepared for him and for the mighty Haman. In the Hebrew redaction, it is sufficient that the king receive Esther to make clear that the salvation of the Jews is because of her, who had become queen for this. The Lord is present in the unfolding of the events, including the king’s fondness for Esther; a slight hint is enough to pass over to Mordecai’s words (cf. 4:13-14). The Greek text, on the other hand, underlines the feelings that move both Esther and the king, as well as the direct action of God. Esther is no longer the strong and decisive queen, but an emotional woman who does not withstand the tension of the moment. Esther appears to be very astute, but she also needs the Lord’s help. The king is touched by the queen’s tender weakness, takes her in his arms, and saves her. Esther’s true beauty lies in her awareness of being responsible not only for herself, but for her people. It is the summit of the regal nature of men and women to whom the Lord has entrusted "dominion" of the universe. The summit of the royalty of men and women is shown when they no longer live it for themselves, but for everyone. The Greek text insists: Esther appears to be dazzled before the "glory" of the king, which signifies not only exterior splendour, but the weight, the importance, of his royal power: a power over life and death that also arouses terror. This time, however, the king appears to Esther to be an "angel" of life and with a luminous face as he adopts an attitude of goodwill and mercy. Esther almost perceives the manifestation (epiphaneia is the term used) of God. The king, seeing Esther’s fear, says: "I am your brother..." - an expression, which in the mouth of a man who is twice "master" (he is husband and king), cannot but flow out from the very suggestion of the Lord, who desires the life and not the death of the peoples.

Memory of the Church

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 15 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 16 October
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 17 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 18 October
Memory of the Apostles
Thursday, 19 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 20 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 21 October
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday