Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 18
On of my favorite pieces of music from Fiddler on the Roof is the blessing song early in the movie where, on the Sabbath, mama and papa pray over their daughters several prayers, including this one.
In looking over texts for today, I ended up reading the entire book of Esther from the Septuagint (which includes several prayers that are not found in the Masoretic Text). I had not read it in many, many years, and found it once again a delight. I commend it to you.
When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry. 2 He went as far as the front of the king's gate, for no one might enter the king's gate clothed with sackcloth. 3 And in every province where the king's command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
4 So Esther's maids and eunuchs came and told her, and the queen was deeply distressed. Then she sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sackcloth away from him, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther called Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs whom he had appointed to attend her, and she gave him a command concerning Mordecai, to learn what and why this was. 6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square that was in front of the king's gate. 7 And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries to destroy the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was given at Shushan, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her, and that he might command her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people. 9 So Hathach returned and told Esther the words of Mordecai.
10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: 11 "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days." 12 So they told Mordecai Esther's words.
13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"
17 So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.
Book of Esther Ch. 4 (NKJV)
[Here, the Septuagint Greek Old Testament Scriptures, which the Orthodox Catholic Church has always held canonical, adds the following prayers of Mordecai and Esther following v.17 of the MT:
And he sought the Lord, making mention of all the works of the Lord; and he
said, “Lord God, great King that rules over all people, for all things are in Your power, and there is no one that shall oppose You in Your purpose to save Israel. For You have made the heaven and the earth, and every wonderful thing in the earth under heaven. And You are Lord of all, and there is no one who shall resist You, the Lord. You know all things: You know, O Lord, that it is not in the insolence, nor haughtiness, nor love of glory, that I have done this, to refuse to bow down to the haughty Haman. For I would gladly have kissed the soles of his
feet for the safety of Israel.
“But I have done this, that I might not set the glory of man above the glory of God: and I will not worship anyone except You, my Lord, and I will not do these things in haughtiness.
“And now, O Lord God, O King, the God of Abraham, spare Your people, for our enemies are looking upon us for our destruction, and they have desired to destroy Your ancient inheritance. Do not overlook Your peculiar people, whom You have redeemed for Yourself out of the land of Egypt. Hearken to my prayer, and be propitious to Yours in gladness, that we may live and sing praises to Your name, O Lord; and do not utterly destroy the mount of them that praise You, O Lord.”
And all Israel cried with all their might, for their death was before their eyes. And Queen Esther found refuge in the Lord, being taken, as it were, in the agony of death.
And having taken off her glorious apparel, she put on garments of distress and morning. And instead of grand perfumes, she put dung and ashes on her head, and she greatly brought down her body, and she filled every place of her glad adorning with the torn curls of her hair. And she sought the Lord God of Israel, and said, “O my Lord, You alone are our king. Help me, I who am destitute, and have no helper but You, for my danger is close at hand. I have heard from my birth, in the tribe of my kindred, that You, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations, and our fathers out of all their kindred for a perpetual inheritance, and have wrought for them all that You have said. And now we have sinned before You, and You have delivered us into the hands of our enemies, because we honored their gods. You are righteous, O Lord. But now they have not been contented with the bitterness of our slavery, but have laid their hands on the hands of their idols, in order to abolish the decree of Your mouth, and to utterly
destroy Your inheritance, and to stop the mouth of them that praise You, and to extinguish the glory of Your house and Your altar, and to open the mouth of the Gentiles, to speak the praises of vanities, and in order that a mortal king should be admired forever.
“O Lord, do not resign Your scepter to them that are not, and let them not laugh at our fall, but turn their counsel against themselves, and make an example of him who has begun to injure us. Remember us, O Lord, manifest Yourself in the time of our affliction, and encourage me, O King of gods, and Ruler of all dominion. Put harmonious speech into my mouth before the lion, and turn his heart to hate him that fights against us, to the utter destruction of him and of them that consent with him. But deliver us by Your hand, and help I who am destitute, and have no one but You, O Lord. You know all things, and know that I hate the glory of transgressors, and that I abhor the manners of the uncircumcised, and of every stranger. You know my necessity, for I abhor the symbol of my proud station, which is upon my head in the days of my splendor. I abhor it as a menstrual cloth, and I wear it not in the days of my tranquility. And Your maid has not eaten at the table of Haman, and I have not honored the
banquet of the king, neither have I drunk the wine of libations. Neither has Your maid rejoiced since the day of my promotion until now, except in You, O Lord God of Abraham. O God, who has power over all, listen to the voice of the desperate, and deliver us from the hand of them that devise mischief, and deliver me from my fear.”
- Text from Esposito's revision of Brenton's Translation of LXX]