Book of Esther: part 1 (Prologue and Elevation of Esther)

The book of Esther, the extended edition, begins with an introduction of all the characters and place. In the second year of the reign of Artaxexes the great (perhaps Xerxes) on the first of Nisan, Mordecai (Esther’s cousin), of the tribe of Benjamin, had a dream of two great dragons poised to fight and at every roar the nations of the world all prepared for war against the righteous. This continues as Mordecai overhears some eunuchs plotting against the king and Mordecai tells the King, placing him in the court but Mordecai gained an enemy in Haman who sought to injure Mordecai and his people because of the eunuchs. This give us some more understanding as to who Mordecai and Haman are.

In the regular version we begin a year later at a week long banquet that Artaxerxes held for all his Princes and servants. Everyone was going crazy partying. Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for all the women. On the seventh day Artaxerxes asked his eunuchs to get Vashti to show her beauty, she refused. This incensed the King and he called his wise men to figure out what should be done. One of the princes Memucan suggested that “all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low.” They also remove Vashti as Queen and after some time passes Ataxerxes or his people decide that he needs a queen. So the order went out for maidens and many showed up including Hadassah (Esther) her parents had died and her cousin Mordecai adopted her as his daughter. The King found favor with Esther and she became the queen and a banquet was held. Then we get the story of Mordecai overhearing eunuchs plotting to kill the King and it he reports this to Esther who brings it to the King.

This is one of the weirder books in the Bible for several reasons there are many banquets and it deals with foreign royalty. We hear about the Pharaohs in Egypt and King David and so forth in Israel and Judah but here we are offered a Queen from Persia who happens to be a Jewish orphan. Talk about rags to riches. What makes it more confusing in the addition of the Greek text to the Hebrew text which so far tells us the same thing twice unless there was a lot of plotting going on in Persia. This is my first time reading through this book. This year the feast of Purim is celebrated this weekend (11/12).

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday and if you feel like it you can go and get ashes put on your head today at churches around the world. Ash Wednesday is also a poem written by TS Eliot. It is a wonderful poem that is nice to reflect upon during this season of Lent.

I
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

II
Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.

III
At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jagged, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.

IV
Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary’s colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile

V
If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

VI
Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

Lenten Reflections: Book of Esther

The past couple of years I worked through Job and Amos. This Lent I’m going to look at the Book of Esther. Esther is one of the Five Scrolls or Megillah it is in the third section of the Hebrew Bible the Ketuvim or the Writings. In the Christian church it is one of the Historical books. This book is interesting as it deals with a woman Esther who becomes Queen of Persia and wife of Xerxes the great, perhaps. In Esther we hear about the events that are celebrated during the feast of Purim. This book is unique since it does not explicitly mention God.

There is an interesting thing about the book is that there are additional chapters of the book that are in the Greek Septuagint. In the Vulgate these are placed at the end of the book and depending on your translation these might be indicated by letters or as numbers. To make it more confusing some Bible translations put these within the text of the book so you get a like chapter A or 11 before the first chapter of Esther.

Great Lent and Lent

On Monday the season of Great Lent begin in the Eastern Church and two days later on Ash Wednesday Lent begins for the Western churches. Great Lent begins on Clean Monday which refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods, some individuals call it Ash Monday. Although the season liturgically begins at Vespers on Sunday night where the church is all decked out in Lenten colors and at the end of vespers there is a ceremony of mutual forgiveness, where everyone asks for forgiveness from one another. During Great Lent just like in Lent prayer, fasting and abstinence and almsgiving play a role, although in the Eastern church it is a abstinence from meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, wine, and oil. There are some caveats on this but in general it is no meat or dairy until Easter. In the West the rules get confusing sure there is the abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent, but  There are other difference as in the West the alleluia disappears but in the East it actually increases since as the Bible says in Matthew that Christians should be joyous when fasting and the general since sense of unworthiness must always be tempered with hope in God’s forgiveness. Lenten Joy comes thorough where in the West there is only one week the pink Sunday and the fourth week of Lent.

In many ways they are similar and in several way the observance is different. This year both the Eastern and Western churches will celebrate the great feast of Pascha or Easter on 16 April. I hope that we all can use this Lenten season to grow deeper in our faith.

Institution of the Eucharist

The fifth and final Luminous Mystery is the Institution of the Eucharist. This happened at the Last Supper so it’s perfect timing with Lent starting next Wednesday. If we remember that the word eucharist comes from the Greek and means thanksgiving or grateful. This is where we need to come from as we live our lives sure the world seems to suck but if we can go out there being thankful for another day and grateful to be alive. Let us remember the words of Jesus “Do this in memory of me” now this wasn’t just the sharing of the bread and wine but it points toward the general idea of giving of oneself for others just like Jesus does. The Eucharist and therefore the sacrifice of Jesus is the core of the Christian faith. This should be our focus during Lent to be more grateful and willing to sacrifice for others.

Transfiguration

As we turn to the fourth luminous mystery, we reflect upon the Transfiguration. This is an event that seems like it would be interesting to actually be there, with Jesus, Moses and Elijah all coming together and talking to one another. It show that Jesus didn’t come to replace the Law or the Prophets but to add to them. All to often we like to think of Christianity as something completely different from the Jewish faith and in turn the Islamic faith as well. These other religions are our siblings so we should try to understand them at least a little bit better than most of us currently do.  I’m sure many of us would be like Peter and would want to experience to last forever but it can’t while we are alive. We get brief mountaintop experience in our lives but we can’t stay there forever as if we did nothing gets done. Let us all think of our spiritual lives as a mountain that we are climbing sure some people we are all at different levels of our journey sure some climb faster and higher but we are all trying to get higher each year. Let us all take some time before Lent to look at our spiritual lives and see where we are and how we can improve.

Proclamation of the Kingdom

We have made it to the third luminous mystery. This is a difficult one since it isn’t a single event that we can point to as “The Proclamation” Jesus does this in various ways notably in the parables. There are a bunch of parables just focusing on the Kingdom of God, the sower, the mustard seed, the pearl of great price, the hidden treasure, the leaven, and the growing seed are all great examples. In most of these the focus is on some small object a seed or yeast or some great treasure that although is small the individual takes all that they have to get the treasure or grows into something much larger. At the Easter Vigil we see this as the Pascal Candle is lit and from that single fire every candle in the church is lit as we pass on the fire up the rows of pews. Sure we all are hoping for the Kingdom to come but perhaps it is here in our small action (works of mercy) that we need to pass on to one another. Let us all keep this in mind as we begin our Lenten journey in about a month.

Easter Saturday, Divine Mercy Novena Day 9

Today bring to Me the Souls who have become Lukewarm, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’ For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.”

Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen.

This is the most difficult one to pray as we look inwards to ourselves. Since generally speaking we are all lukewarm at times, sometimes we burn for the faith but often times we focus more on the world around us. This is a hard things to remind us about a week after we all were being pious and serious about our faith during the season of Lent. With the fasting and the abstaining from meat along with whatever else we might have “given up” for Lent, but how many of us have already had/ done what they gave up for Lent sure the obligation is over but just because it’s not Lent isn’t an excuse for falling back to the person we were before Lent began.

Palm Sunday

This week’s reading come from Luke’s Gospel 19: 28-40, Isaiah 50: 4-7, Psalm 22, Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2: 6-11 and Luke’s Gospel 22:14-23:56.

Yes, this week we have a bunch of readings and we the congregation has a part during the later Gospel reading. We hear about suffering this week but it all begins with Joy. One would expect that Holy Week would be all about the solemnity that ends the week but we begin with the joy of the entrance into Jerusalem with the crowds shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” and spreading out their cloaks over the road. These same people would most likely be in that crowd of people at the end of the week who are clamor for Barabbas to be released and shout “Crucify him” when Pilate asks what to do with Jesus. We are the crowd cheering for Christ when he arrives but we all end up like Peter and denying that he knows Jesus even though there are people around him saying I saw you with Jesus. Sure the heart of the Mass is the Last Supper but we live our lives like it’s Good Friday/Holy Saturday not knowing what will happen to Jesus. Often times we keep our religion a secret doing about an hour on Saturday or Sunday and then forgetting about it over the week. We need to live our faith our in the world, Jesus taught us how to do this through the works of mercy. In this Year of Mercy we should be reminded of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Dives in Misericordia which says “Jesus Christ taught that man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but that he is also called to practice mercy towards others.”

Crucifixion and Death of our Lord

The fruit of this mystery is Salvation and Forgiveness.

This is the final Sorrowful Mystery and the fruits are apt. With his death leading us all to salvation as St. Paul says it is through the death of Jesus that leads us to life eternal.  This is the turning point in Salvation History we are living in the aftermath of this as we try to build the kingdom here on earth. Forgiveness is another thing that stems from the death of Christ. As we inch closer to the end of the season of Lent if you have the chance to go to Confession by all means go and do it. Let us also take some ownership in building up the kingdom by making the world a better place.