Archive for the ‘Wisdom of Solomon 3’ Category

The Martyrdom of the Third and Fourth Brothers   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Mother and Her Seven Sons

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XI

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2 Maccabees 7:10-14

4 Maccabees 10:1-21

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But the ungodly will be punished

as their reasoning deserves,

who disregarded the righteous man

and rebelled against the Lord;

for whoever despises wisdom and instruction is miserable.

–Wisdom of Solomon 3:10-11a, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

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My most vivid memory of reading the Fourth Book of the Maccabees years ago is of passages such as 10:8:

They immediately brought him to the wheel, and while his vertebrae were being dislocated upon it he saw his own flesh torn all around and drops of blood flowing from his entrails.

Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

This is not dinnertime reading, is it?  But imagine the response or reaction of a crown listening to an orator speaking, delivering that sentence on Hanukkah one year in the first century of the Common Era.

Gore and hagiography aside, there is theology in the assigned readings.  As I have already noted in this series, the resurrection of the dead is a doctrine these texts affirm.  These passages also affirm punishment and reward in the afterlife.

The biggest kicker, however, comes from 2 Maccabees 7:14.  The fourth brother was addressing King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

At the point of death, he uttered these words:  “Better to be killed by men and to cherish God’s promise to raise us again!  But for you there will be no resurrection.”

The Revised English Bible (1989)

That was bold.

In 4 Maccabees 10:9-11, the third brother also condemned that monarch.

When he was about to die, he said, “We, most abominable tyrant, are suffering because of our godly training and virtue, but you, because of your impiety and blood thirstiness, will undergo unceasing torments.”

Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

That was bold, too.

Speaking truth to power can prove difficult at the best of times.  Doing so during the worst of times requires more courage.  Confronting evildoers and telling them that they are evildoers is a moral imperative, however.  This is the work of prophets of God, most of whom have been ordinary people with other jobs.  Eleazar the scribe, the seven brothers, and their mother were prophets.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF HELDER CAMARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF OLINDA AND RECIFE

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADALBERT NIERYCHLEWSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF DANIEL J. HARRINGTON, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES, APOSTLE TO THE SARACENS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BOYCE AND JOHN ALCOCK, ANGLICAN COMPOSERS

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Stoicism and Platonism in Fourth Maccabees   Leave a comment

Above:  Zeno of Citium

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART IV

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4 Maccabees 1:1-3:18; 13:1-14:10; 18:20-24

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The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, composed in 20-54 C.E., perhaps in Antioch, is a treatise.  It interprets Judaism in terms of Greek philosophy–Stoicism and Platonism, to be precise.  4 Maccabees elaborates on the story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers and their mother, covered relatively succinctly in 2 Maccabees 7:1-42, and set prior to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

Fourth Maccabees, composed by an anonymous Hellenistic Jew and addressed to other Hellenistic Jews, has two purposes:

  1. To exhort them to obey the Law of Moses (18:1), and
  2. To proclaim that devout reason is the master of all emotions (1:1-2; 18:2).

Cultural assimilation was a common temptation for Hellenistic Jews.  “Keep the faith,” the author urged more verbosely than my paraphrase.  For him, devout reason was a reason informed by the Law of Moses.  Devout reason, in the author’s mind, the highest form of reason was the sole province of faithful Jews.

Vicarious suffering is also a theme in 4 Maccabees.  In this book, the suffering and death of the martyrs purifies the land (1:11; 6:29; 17:21), vindicates the Jewish nation (17:10), and atones for the sins of the people (6:29; 17:22).  The last point presages Penal Substitutionary Atonement, one of several Christian theologies of the atonement via Jesus.

The blending of Jewish religion and Greek philosophy is evident also in the treatment of the afterlife.  The Second Book of the Maccabees teaches bodily resurrection (7:9, 11, 14, 23, and 29).  One can find bodily resurrection elsewhere in Jewish writings (Daniel 12:2; 1 Enoch 5:1-2; 4 Ezra/2 Esdras 7:42; 2 Baruch 50:2-3).  The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, however, similar to the Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4, teaches instant immortality, with reward or punishment.  The martyrs achieve instant instant immortality with reward (4 Maccabees 9:9, 22; 10:15; 14:15; 15:7; 16:13, 25; 17:12, 18; 18:23).  Antiochus IV Epiphanes, however, goes to everlasting torment (9:9, 29, 32; 10:11, 15; 11:3, 23; 12:18; 18:5).

Stoicism, in the Greek philosophical sense, has a different meaning than the average layperson may assume.  It is not holding one’s feelings inside oneself.  Properly, Stoicism teaches that virtue is the only god and vice is the only evil.  The wise are indifferent to pain and pleasure, to wealth and poverty, and to success and misfortune.  A Stoic, accepting that he or she could change x, y, and z, yet not t, u, and v.  No, a Stoic works to change x, y, and z.  A Stoic, therefore, is content in the midst of difficulty.  If this sounds familiar, O reader, you may be thinking of St. Paul the Apostle being content in pleasant and in unpleasant circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12).

Stoicism shows up elsewhere in the New Testament and in early Christianity, too.  It is in the mouth of St. Paul in Athens (Acts 17:28).  Stoicism is also evident in the writings of St. Ambrose of Milan (337-397), mentor of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).  Why would it not be in the writings of St. Ambrose?  Greek philosophy informed the development of early Christian theology.  Greek philosophy continues to exist in sermons, Sunday School lessons, and Biblical commentaries.  Greek philosophy permeates the Gospel of John and the Letter to the Hebrews.  Greek philosophy is part of the Christian patrimony.

Platonism was the favorite form of Greek philosophy in the Roman Catholic Church for centuries.  Platonism permeated the works of St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215) and his star pupil, Origen (185-254), for example.  Eventually, though, St. Albert the Great (circa 1200-1280) and his star pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), successfully made the case for Aristotle over Plato.  Holy Mother Church changed her mind after the deaths of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. The Church, having embraced Aristotle over Plato, eventually rescinded the pre-Congregation canonization of St. Clement of Alexandria.  And the Church has never canonized Origen.  I have, however, read news stories of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland trying to convince The Episcopal Church to add Origen to the calendar of saints.  (The Episcopal Church already recognizes St. Clement of Alexandria as a saint.)

Platonism and Stoicism have four cardinal virtues–rational judgment, self-control, justice, and courage.  These appear in 4 Maccabees 1:2-4.  As I read these verses, I recognize merit in them.  Some emotions do hinder self-control.  Other emotions to work for injustice and obstruct courage.  News reports provide daily documentation of this.  Other emotions further the causes of justice and courage.  News reports also provide daily documentation of this.

I also affirm that reason should govern emotions.  I cite news stories about irrationality.  Emotions need borders, and must submit to objectivity and reason, for the best results.

4 Maccabees takes the reader on a grand tour of the Hebrew Bible to support this conclusion.  One reads, for example, of Joseph (Genesis 39:7-12; 4 Maccabees 2:1-6), Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:7; 4 Maccabees 2:19-20), Moses (Numbers 16:1-35; Sirach 45:18; 4 Maccabees 2:17), David (2 Samuel 23:13-17; 1 Chronicles 11:15-19; 4 Maccabees 3:6-18).

Reason can effect self-control, which works for higher purposes.  One of these higher purposes is

the affection of brotherhood.

–4 Maccabees 13:19, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

In the case of the seven martyred brothers, as the author of 4 Maccabees told their story, these holy martyrs used rational judgment and self-control to remain firm in their faith.  Those brothers did not

fear him who thinks he is killing us….

–4 Maccabees 13:14, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

That is the same courage and conviction present in Christian martyrs, from antiquity to the present day.

One may think of another passage:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

–Matthew 10:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Not surprisingly, many persecuted Christians derived much comfort and encouragement from 4 Maccabees.  These Christians had to rely on each other, just as the seven brothers did in 4 Maccabees.

Mutuality is a virtue in the Law of Moses and in Christianity.

I have spent the first four posts in this series laying the groundwork for the First, Second, and Fourth Books of Maccabees.  I have provided introductory material for these books.

Next, I will start the narrative countdown to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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Praying for the Dead   1 comment

Above:  All Souls’ Day, by Jakub Schikaneder

Image in the Public Domain

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The Feast of All Saints originated at the great monastery of Cluny in 998.  The commemoration spread and became an occasion to pray for those in Purgatory.  During the Reformation Era Protestants and Anglicans dropped the feast on theological grounds.  In the late twentieth century, however, the feast–usually renamed the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed–began appearing on Anglican calendars.  The difference between All Saints’ Day and All Faithful Departed, in this context, had become one of emphasis–distinguished saints on November 1 and forgotten saints on November 2.

The idea of Purgatory (a Medieval Roman Catholic doctrine with ancient roots) is that of, as I heard a Catholic catechist, “God’s mud room.”  The doctrine holds that all those in Purgatory will go to Heaven, just not yet, for they require purification.  I am sufficiently Protestant to reject the doctrine of Purgatory, for I believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus constitutes “God’s mud room.”  Purgatory is also alien to Eastern Orthodoxy, which also encourages prayers for the dead.

I pray for the dead, too.  After all, who knows what takes place between God and the departed?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Merciful Father, hear our prayers and console us.

As we renew our faith in your Son, whom you raised from the dead,

strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in his resurrection,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 27:1, 4, 7-9, 13-14 or Psalm 103:8, 10, 13-18

Romans 6:3-9 or 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Matthew 25:31-46 or John 11:17-27

The Vatican II Sunday Missal (1974), 1041-1048

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O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers:

Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son;

that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 130 or Psalm 116:6-9

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 or 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

John 5:24-27

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 665

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/devotion-for-the-feast-of-all-souls-commemoration-of-all-faithful-departed-november-2/

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The Communion of Saints, Part II   1 comment

Above:  All Saints

Image in the Public Domain

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS (NOVEMBER 1)

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The Episcopal Church has seven Principal Feasts:  Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

The Feast of All Saints, with the date of November 1, seems to have originated in Ireland in the 700s, then spread to England, then to Europe proper.  November 1 became the date of the feast throughout Western Europe in 835.  There had been a competing date (May 13) in Rome starting in 609 or 610.  Anglican tradition retained the date of November 1, starting with The Book of Common Prayer (1549).  Many North American Lutherans first observed All Saints’ Day with the Common Service Book (1917).  The feast was already present in The Lutheran Hymnary (Norwegian-American, 1913).  The Lutheran Hymnal (Missouri Synod, et al, 1941) also included the feast.  O the less formal front, prayers for All Saints’ Day were present in the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), the U.S. Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), and their successors.

The Feast of All Saints reminds us that we, as Christians, belong to a large family stretching back to the time of Christ.  If one follows the Lutheran custom of commemorating certain key figures from the Hebrew Bible, the family faith lineage predates the conception of Jesus of Nazareth.

At Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, where I was a member from 1993 to 1996, I participated in a lectionary discussion group during the Sunday School hour.  Icons decorated the walls of the room in which we met.  The teacher of the class called the saints depicted “the family.”

“The family” surrounds us.  It is so numerous that it is “a great cloud of witnesses,” to quote Hebrews 12:1.  May we who follow Jesus do so consistently, by grace, and eventually join that great cloud.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER OF CHELCIC, BOHEMIAN HUSSITE REFORMER; AND GREGORY THE PATRIARCH, FOUNDER OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GODFREY THRING, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE CREWDSON, ENGLISH QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNI, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

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Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in the mystical body of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

Give us grace to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living,

that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Year A:

Revelation 7:9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Psalm 34:1-10, 22

Matthew 5:1-12

Year B:

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 21:1-6a

John 11:32-44

Year B:

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 149

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 6:20-31

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2006), 663; also Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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Revelation 7:(2-8), 9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/13/devotion-for-the-feast-of-all-saints-november-1/

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The Endurance of the Saints   1 comment

John T. Neufeld

Above: John T. Neufeld, a U.S. Mennonite Conscientious Objector During World War I

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever . Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 13:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Revelation 14:6-13

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Having been disciplined a little,

they will receive a great good,

because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;

like gold in the furnace he tried them,

and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.

–Wisdom of Solomon 3:5-6. The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1991)

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That quote from the Wisdom of Solomon refers to the fate of the “souls of the righteous,” but the sentiment is consistent with the assigned readings.  In them we have accounts of suffering, usually in apocalyptic circumstances, such as we find in Zechariah 13 and Revelation 14.  Those who endure the suffering will be as gold or refined silver.

That is one understanding of suffering.  Truly it is a perspective on the subject consistent with apocalyptic literature and the experiences of people who have suffered for their faith and emerged stronger in that faith.  It has also been my experience, even though I suffered not for the sake of righteousness but because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Stronger faith as a result of suffering is a grace I have received.

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the faith of Jesus.

–Revelation 14:12, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Today many of the saints suffer for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  May they endure their tribulations and reign with Christ.  May those who cause them to suffer change their ways and follow Christ also.  And may we who are fortunate not to face such difficulties support those who do.  May we also refrain from making excuses for spiritual laxity and from overestimating our troubles when many of our coreligionists must endure much just to live faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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“The Souls of the Righteous Are In the Hand of God, And No Torment Shall Ever Touch Them.”   1 comment

Above:  Grave Niches in the Roman Catacombs

Image Source = Gerald M

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Catacombe.jpg)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Wisdom of Solomon 2:23-3:9 (Revised English Bible):

But God created man imperishable, and made him in the image of his own eternal self; it was the devil’s spite that brought death into the world, and the experience of it is reserved for those who take his side.

But the souls of the just are in God’s hands; no torment will touch them.  In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to be dead; their departure was reckoned as defeat, and their going from us as disaster.  But they are at peace, for though in the sight of men they may suffer punishment, they have a sure hope of immortality; and after a little chastisement they will receive great blessings, because God has tested them and found them worthy to be his.  He put them to the proof like gold in a crucible, and found them acceptable like an offering burnt whole on the altar.  In the hour of their judgement they will shine in glory, and will sweep over the world like sparks through stubble.  They will be like judges and rulers over nations and peoples, and the Lord will be their King for ever.  Those who have put their trust in him will understand that he is true, and the faithful will attend upon him in love; they are his chosen, and grace and mercy will be theirs.

Psalm 34:15-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

15 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous,

and his ears are open to their cry.

16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,

to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry, and the LORD hears them

and delivers them from all their troubles.

18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted

will save those whose spirits are crushed.

19 Many are the troubles of the righteous,

but the LORD will deliver him out of them all.

20 He will keep all his bones;

not one of them shall be broken.

21 Evil shall slay the wicked,

and those who hate the righteous will be punished.

22 The LORD ransoms the life of his servants,

and none will be punished who trust in him.

Luke 17:7-10 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or minding sheep.  When he comes in from the fields, will the master say, “Come and sit down straightway”?  Will he not rather say, “Prepare my supper; hitch up your robe, and wait on me while I have my meal.  You can have yours afterwards”?  Is he grateful to the servant for carrying out his orders?  So with you:  when you have carried out all you have been ordered to do, you should say, “We are servants and deserve no credit; we have only done our duty.”

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Many antebellum Southern defenders of slavery used the reading from Luke 17 to justify race-based slavery.  They missed the point, of course.  They did this because they engaged in prooftexting, one of the more frequent errors in Biblical interpretation.

The point, rather, is that those who follow God are servants of God.  But, as Paul wrote, we are also heirs and members of the family of God (http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/week-of-proper-25-monday-year-1/).  And our forebears in Christianity have joined the Church Triumphant.  They are the family, as I like to think of them.

So they are not really dead.  It is no accident that Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-5, 9 is among the approved readings for a funeral, according to the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer of 1979.  (See page 494.)

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,

the lector reads,

and no torment shall ever touch them.

They have not perished; they have gone to their new home, with God.  They have received their inheritance.

May we rejoice for them while we continue faithfully the work God has assigned to us and look forward to our inheritance, at its proper time, whenever that is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-1/

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