Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Isaiah 2:1-9 (Tuesday in the first week of Advent)

Reading 1: Verbum quod vidit Isaias, filius Amos, super Juda et Jerusalem.Et erit in novissimis diebus:præparatus mons domus Domini in vertice montium, et elevabitur super colles; et fluent ad eum omnes gentes, et ibunt populi multi, et dicent: Venite, et ascendamus ad montem Domini, et ad domum Dei Jacob; et docebit nos vias suas, et ambulabimus in semitis ejus, quia de Sion exibit lex, et verbum Domini de Jerusalem.

The word that Isaias the son of Amos saw, concerning Juda and Jerusalem. And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.  And many people shall go, and say: Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall come forth from Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Reading 2: Et judicabit gentes, et arguet populos multos; et conflabunt gladios suos in vomeres,
et lanceas suas in falces. Non levabit gens contra gentem gladium, nec exercebuntur ultra ad prælium. Domus Jacob, venite, et ambulemus in lumine Domini. Projecisti enim populum tuum, domum Jacob, quia repleti sunt ut olim, et augeres habuerunt ut Philisthiim, et pueris alienis adhæserunt.

And he shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people: and they shall turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war.  O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.  For thou hast cast off thy people, the house of Jacob: because they are filled as in times past, and have had soothsayers as the Philistines, and have adhered to strange children.

Reading 3: Repleta est terra argento et auro, et non est finis thesaurorum ejus. Et repleta est terra ejus equis, et innumerabiles quadrigæ ejus. Et repleta est terra ejus idolis; opus manuum suarum adoraverunt, quod fecerunt digiti eorum.   Et incurvavit se homo, et humiliatus est vir; ne ergo dimittas eis.

Their land is filled with silver and gold: and there is no end of their treasures.  And their land is filled with horses: and their chariots are innumerable. Their land also is full of idols: they have adored the work of their own hands, which their own fingers have made.  And man hath bowed himself down, and man hath been debased: therefore forgive them not.

Reflection

The Fathers interpret these verses as the announcement of the Incarnation: Christ and his Church and the mountain of strength; and through him a new age of peace will be ushered in.

How do we ascend to Christ?  St Benedict points us to the image of Jacob's ladder, particularly apposite here given the repeated references to Jacob's house, where by we ascend by humility, and descend by self-exaltation.

St Bede links the degrees of humility with the key messages of the fifteen Gradual Psalms (which correspond to the fifteen steps to the top of the inner court of the Temple, and ten of which are said Tuesday to Saturday in the Benedictine Office), noting that:
For the steps that come down from the city of David to the lower parts of the city of Jerusalem are the aids of divine inspiration or protection by which we should ascend to his kingdom. For David made the steps by which we should ascend to his city when divine mercy taught us the order of the virtues by which we may seek heavenly things and when it granted us the gift of seeking these same virtues….Benedict, a father very reverend both in his name and in his life, realized that these steps especially consist in humility when, interpreting our journey to celestial things to be designated by the ladder shown to the Patriarch Jacob, by which angels ascended and descended, he distinguished in a very careful and pious examination the steps of the ladder itself as the increments and stages of good works that are performed through humility. (On Ezra and Nehemiah, trans DeGregorio, pg 172)
We need then, to return to Chapter 7 of the Benedictine Rule, and the Gradual Psalms (Psalm 119-133) and work on our ascent through humility, for only by converting ourselves can we convert others.

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