Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

Share On

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Daniel 5, 1-6.13-17.23-28

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for his noblemen, a thousand of them, and, in the presence of this thousand, he drank his wine.

Having tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave orders for the gold and silver vessels to be brought which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the sanctuary in Jerusalem, so that the king, his noblemen, his wives and the women who sang for him could drink out of them.

The gold and silver vessels taken from the sanctuary of the Temple of God in Jerusalem were brought in, and the king, his noblemen, his wives and the women who sang for him drank out of them.

They drank their wine and praised their idols of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone.

Suddenly, the fingers of a human hand appeared and began to write on the plaster of the palace wall, directly behind the lamp-stand; and the king could see the hand as it wrote.

The king turned pale with alarm: his hip-joints went slack and his knees began to knock.

Daniel was brought into the king's presence; the king said to Daniel, 'Are you the Daniel who was one of the Judaean exiles brought by my father the king from Judah?

I am told that the spirit of the gods lives in you, and that you are known for your perception, intelligence and marvellous wisdom.

The sages and soothsayers have already been brought to me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they have been unable to reveal its meaning.

I am told that you are able to give interpretations and to unravel difficult problems, so if you can read the writing and tell me what it means, you shall be dressed in purple, and have a chain of gold put round your neck, and be one of the three men who govern the kingdom.'

Then Daniel spoke up in the presence of the king. 'Keep your gifts for yourself,' he said, 'and give your rewards to others! I can certainly read the writing to the king and tell him what it means.

You have defied the Lord of heaven, you have had the vessels from his Temple brought to you, and you, your noblemen, your wives and the women singing for you have drunk your wine out of them. You have praised gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone, which can neither see, hear nor understand; but you have given no glory to the God in whose hands are your breath itself and all your fortunes.

That is why he has sent the hand which has written these words.

The writing reads: mene, mene, teqel and parsin.

The meaning of the words is this: mene: God has measured your sovereignty and put an end to it;

teqel: you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting;

parsin: your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

History is full of mystery. The book of Daniel describes these mysteries as visions and dreams. Symbols, words, and numbers are interpreted to understand their hidden meanings. But these are not esoteric ideas or, worse still, superstitious ones, as we easily encounter in our own times. The language of the book of Daniel, like that of any apocalyptic genre, is expressed through symbols and numbers to help us go beyond what we normally see in a superficial way. The Word of God helps us to take mystery in, to not stop at the surface of things and of history. There is meaning in the movement of events; there are reasons that guide the steps of humankind and the events of history. Why do kingdoms and empires end, even the most powerful ones The book of Daniel rereads history and explains why in this short text: "But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he acted proudly, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and his glory was stripped from him." Pride is described as the cause of the ruin for the empires that have dominated history. The prophet Ezekiel had already identified pride as the original sin of the people and hence, the reason for their ending, for their lowering unto death (chapters 27 through 31). Daniel, the wise one of God, goes beyond the ephemeral glory of riches and power, which seem to have risen above the people for an indefinite amount of time. As in Ezekiel, power is connected to idolatry and pride. According to the wisdom of the Bible, idols are nothing more than an expression of dominion and of a faith that does not go beyond the self. A man of God is needed, a man whose faith comes from God is needed, to understand the mystery of history and not to be prisoners of the logic of power, which suppresses others and does not set them free.