Cleansing Fire

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Holy Week Part V: Wisdom and Prophecy

March 29th, 2018, Promulgated by Diane Harris

During Lent, and especially during Holy Week, we read of the prophecies and Messianic portents of the Redemption for which an entire nation longed. Among the most frequently used readings are from the Prophet Isaiah, beginning around Chapter 50, and evincing language both familiar and revered as spoken by the Suffering Servant, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

We also find in the Psalms, in Psalm 22 in particular, language which directly relates to the specific experience of Christ’s Crucifixion. Too often there is misunderstanding of Christ’s words from the Cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and we fail to realize it is the opening line of Psalm 22, intended to bring to the bystanders (especially the unjust leaders) that indeed the Crucifixion was prophesied centuries before Christ, and reading to the end of the Psalm shows His ultimate triumph and glory is fulfilled. These are good and holy readings with which to prepare for and to experience the Holy Triduum.

But there is another reading from the Bible, the Book of Wisdom. Wisdom is also known as the Wisdom of Solomon. It is part of the Septuagint (estimated to have been written one or two hundred years before Christ’s birth), a translation of the Holy Books of the Jews into Greek by 72 scholars. The Book of Wisdom, found in every Catholic Bible, is startling in its description of Christ’s suffering. It seems to recognize that Christ’s torture and death wasn’t going to be a mere case of mistaken identity, but more of a deliberate intent to get rid of God’s interference in the reign of the religious leaders and their practices.  Isn’t this the message of the parable of the wicked tenants killing the owner’s son in order to keep the vineyard for themselves?

Sadly, because Wisdom is one of the books unwisely removed by Luther during the Protestant Revolt, most non-Catholic Christians don’t even know of the powerful language of this book.  Even many Catholics, using non-Catholic bibles, miss the extraordinary language of Wisdom. (See a modern Catholic bible for less archaic language, easier to understand if necessary.

As we prepare to experience the joy of Holy Thursday and the sadness of Good Friday, and to accept the extraordinary sacrifice by God Himself on our behalf, we offer here those first three Chapters of the Book of Wisdom, with key language in red, simply to highlight the alignment to the accounts of the Crucifixion in the New Testament. The type in red especially calls out the plot by the chief priests and other leaders against Christ. However, there is more. For us in the 21st century, we can recognize a certain mindset of hopelessness among those who try to wipe out all Christian Faith, a culture of favoring perverse distractions, and yielding to all kinds of sin. Indeed, the times today seem much like what we find in the Book of Wisdom. Thus, although the Crucifixion language is primarily in Chapter 2, included below are the bracketing chapters, for insight into the challenging culture of the time, and into the deep roots of relativism.

Book of Wisdom

(also known as Wisdom of Solomon)

Chapter 1

An exhortation to seek God sincerely, who cannot be deceived, and desireth not our death.

[1] Love justice, you that are the judges of the earth. Think of the Lord in goodness, and seek Him in simplicity of heart.

[2] For He is found by them that tempt Him not: and He sheweth Himself to them that have faith in Him.

[3] For perverse thoughts separate from God: and His power, when it is tried, reproveth the unwise:

[4] For wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins.

[5] For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful, and will withdraw Himself from thoughts that are without understanding, and He shall not abide when iniquity cometh in.

[6] For the spirit of wisdom is benevolent, and will not acquit the evil speaker from his lips: for God is witness of his reins, and he is a true searcher of his heart, and a hearer of his tongue.

[7] For the spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world: and that, which containeth all things, hath knowledge of the voice.

[8] Therefore he that speaketh unjust things cannot be hid, neither shall the chastising judgment pass him by.

[9] For inquisition shall be made into the thoughts of the ungodly: and the hearing of his words shall come to God, to the chastising of his iniquities.

[10] For the ear of jealousy heareth all things, and the tumult of murmuring shall not be hid.

[11] Keep yourselves therefore from murmuring, which profiteth nothing, and refrain your tongue from detraction, for an obscure speech shall not go for nought: and the mouth that belieth, killeth the soul.

[12] Seek not death in the error of your life, neither procure ye destruction by the works of your hands.

[13] For God made not death, neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living.

[14] For He created all things that they might be: and He made the nations of the earth for health: and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor kingdom of hell upon the earth.

[15] For justice is perpetual and immortal.

[16] But the wicked with works and words have called it to them: and esteeming it a friend have fallen away, and have made a covenant with it: because they are worthy to be of the part thereof.

 

Chapter 2

The vain reasonings of the wicked: their persecuting the just, especially the Son of God

[1] For they have said, reasoning with themselves, but not right: The time of our life is short and tedious, and in the end of a man there is no remedy, and no man hath been known to have returned from hell:

[2] For we are born of nothing, and after this we shall be as if we had not been: for the breath in our nostrils is smoke: and speech a spark to move our heart,

[3] Which being put out, our body shall be ashes, and our spirit shall be poured abroad as soft air, and our life shall pass away as the trace of a cloud, and shall be dispersed as a mist, which is driven away by the beams of the sun, and overpowered with the heat thereof:

[4] And our name in time shall be forgotten, and no man shall have any remembrance of our works.

[5] For our time is as the passing of a shadow, and there is no going back of our end: for it is fast sealed, and no man returneth.

[6] Come therefore, and let us enjoy the good things that are present, and let us speedily use the creatures as in youth.

[7] Let us fill ourselves with costly wine, and ointments: and let not the flower of the time pass by us.

[8] Let us crown ourselves with roses, before they be withered: let no meadow escape our riot.

[9]Let none of us go without his part in luxury: let us everywhere leave tokens of joy: for this is our portion, and this our lot.

[10] Let us oppress the poor just man, and not spare the widow, nor honour the ancient grey hairs of the aged.

[11] But let our strength be the law of justice: for that which is feeble, is found to be nothing worth.

[12] Let us therefore lie in wait for the just, because He is not for our turn, and He is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life.

[13] He boasteth that He hath the knowledge of God, and calleth Himself the Son of God.

[14] He is become a censurer of our thoughts.

[15] He is grievous unto us, even to behold: for His life is not like other men’s, and His ways are very different.

[16] We are esteemed by Him as triflers, and He abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness, and He preferreth the latter end of the just, and glorieth that He hath God for His Father.

[17] Let us see then if His words be true, and let us prove what shall happen to Him, and we shall know what His end shall be.

[18] For if He be the true Son of God, He will defend Him, and will deliver Him from the hands of His enemies. 

[19] Let us examine Him by outrages and tortures, that we may know His meekness and try His patience.

[20] Let us condemn Him to a most shameful death: for there shall be respect had unto Him by His words.

[21] These things they thought, and were deceived: for their own malice blinded them.

[22] And they knew not the secrets of God, nor hoped for the wages of justice, nor esteemed the honour of holy souls.

[23] For God created man incorruptible, and to the image of His own likeness He made him.

[24] But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world:

[25] And they follow him that are of his side.

Chapter 3

The happiness of the just: and the unhappiness of the wicked.

[1] But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them.

[2] In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery:

[3] And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace.

[4] And though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality.

[5] Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of Himself.

[6] As gold in the furnace He hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust He hath received them, and in time there shall be respect had to them.

[7] The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds.

[8] They shall judge nations, and rule over people, and their Lord shall reign for ever.

[9] They that trust in Him, shall understand the truth: and they that are faithful in love shall rest in Him: for grace and peace is to His elect.

[10] But the wicked shall be punished according to their own devices: who have neglected the just, and have revolted from the Lord.

[11] For he that rejecteth wisdom, and discipline, is unhappy: and their hope is vain, and their labors without fruit, and their works unprofitable.

[12] Their wives are foolish, and their children wicked.

[13] Their offspring is cursed: for happy is the barren: and the undefiled, that hath not known bed in sin: she shall have fruit in the visitation of holy souls.

[14] And the eunuch, that hath not wrought iniquity with his hands, nor thought wicked things against God: for the precious gift of faith shall be given to him, and a most acceptable lot in the temple of God.

[15] For the fruit of good labors is glorious, and the root of wisdom never faileth.

[16] But the children of adulterers shall not come to perfection, and the seed of the unlawful bed shall be rooted out.

[17] And if they live long, they shall be nothing regarded, and their last old age shall be without honor.

[18] And if they die quickly, they shall have no hope, nor speech of comfort in the day of trial.

[19] For dreadful are the ends of a wicked race.

 

 

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