Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The First Week in Ordinary Time -- the Readings from Sirach

After the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the time following Epiphany has been renamed "Ordinary Time", which sounds to me to be too...ordinary. But the intent was to provide a time of 'ordered' reading in scripture, one chapter following the other in time. Not having an older version of the Divine Office (and lacking knowledge of Latin), I use the current English version, and despite its flaws, it still is a great prayer.
All wisdom comes from the Lord and with him it remains forever.
In the Office of Readings for the first week of Ordinary Time, the First Readings are from the book of Sirach.
Before all things else wisdom was created; and prudent understanding, from eternity.
The book was written by a man named Jesus [not Christ!], but it was the wisdom that he received from his father, Eleazar, who was son of Sirach. Jesus' grandson translated it from its original Hebrew into Greek. Before Vatican II, this book was called "Ecclesiasticus", since it was much used in the Church for catechesis in the moral law. Sadly, this book is unknown outside of ancient Christianity.
It is the Lord; he created her, has seen her and taken note of her.
He has poured her forth upon all his works, upon every living thing according to his bounty; he has lavished her upon his friends.
This is a book about Lady Wisdom; to the ancients of all races, wisdom is a 'she' in the cosmic sense, intuitive and knowing, not in a masculine technological and scientific sense, but instead is a deeper and higher understanding that only comes with age, careful observation of life, and contemplation.
Fear of the Lord is glory and splendor, gladness and a festive crown.
Fear of the Lord warms the heart, giving gladness and joy and length of days.
We often speak of "modern knowledge" and "ancient wisdom", but never "modern wisdom", except in the ironic sense of folly. The most harsh of modernists and postmodernists will even deny the concept of wisdom, since it is irreducible by the scientific method and cannot convince the critical skeptic, who wants to do his own will and not submit to moral authority. "Fear of the Lord" is criticized these days, as being primitive and not in consonance with the concept of the God of Love; but here we learn that the Fear of the Lord is glory, splendor, joy, and gladness! Only the wise, in the ancient sense, could know this.
He who fears the Lord will have an happy end; even on the day of his death he will be blessed.
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, which is formed with the faithful in the womb.
Sadly, the moderns have no concept for the Ends of things, nor for causes that pull from ahead instead of just push from behind. The seeds of wisdom are written in human nature, according to the writer; we are not blank slates.
Fullness of wisdom is fear of the Lord; she inebriates men with her fruits.
Her entire house she fills with choice foods, her granaries with her harvest.
Francis Bacon said that knowledge is power and the conquest of nature is the greatest good. But wisdom conquers the man! She is the very provider of good in this world. The use of power requires wisdom, otherwise it is chaos.
Wisdom's garland is fear of the Lord, with blossoms of peace and perfect health.
The pursuit of a society based on scientific rationality caused the twentieth century to wage wars of unprecedented carnage and led to societies filled with misery. The wisdom of the ages was cast out, being irrelevant, not progressive, unscientific, or just old-fashioned or restrictive.
Good and evil, life and death, poverty and riches, are from the Lord.
How often do we forget Providence, and trust too much in ourselves.
My son, hold fast to your duty, busy yourself with it, grow old while doing your task.
Admire not how sinners live, but trust in the Lord and wait for his light;
For it is easy with the Lord suddenly, in an instant, to make a poor man rich.
God's blessing is the lot of the just man, and in due time his hopes bear fruit.
Say not: "What do I need? What further pleasure can be mine?"
Say not: "I am independent. What harm can come to me now?"
As a young man, I found the wisdom books and parables of the Bible the most compelling, and even in secular literature, I was drawn to the sayings of the wise. These sayings are not obvious or immediately reasonable, but upon hearing them, I seem to think that I've known them all along, and had only forgotten them.
The day of prosperity makes one forget adversity; the day of adversity makes one forget prosperity.
For it is easy with the Lord on the day of death to repay man according to his deeds.
A moment's affliction brings forgetfulness of past delights; when a man dies, his life is revealed.
Call no man happy before his death, for by how he ends, a man is known.
No one is a saint in this life. Each of life's deeds makes a whole man, and misdeeds can negate good. Why must we moderns judge morality on what feels good? Why have we lost our reason?
"Come to me, all you that yearn for me, and be filled with my fruits;
You will remember me as sweeter than honey, better to have than the honeycomb.
He who eats of me will hunger still; he who drinks of me will thirst for more;
He who obeys me will not be put to shame, he who serves me will never fail."
Those who live their lives agonizing over competition and conflict often have a bitter taste in their mouths. They do not have a hunger for these things, but instead have an addiction.

Wisdom, sadly, often comes late. We too often react emotionally, and make demands like a child; we disregard reason, and instead make rationalizations for what we did and what we want to do.

Readings taken from the Liturgy of the Hours, Volume III

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