Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Judgement of Solomon

Conveniently, Fr Shelton over at St Joseph's, Bassendean, will be having a Low Mass at 7.30pm each Monday for the foreseeable future, as he gets his altar servers trained up for the extraordinary form. So I popped over, after having a deliciously lazy Labour Day holiday...

Having arrived very early, I went for a half-hour walk, but had my ears assailed with the ugliest most tuneless "music" from some awful thrash metal concert being held at the Bassendean sportsground. Why anyone would pay to attend it (as opposed to escape it) is beyond me. Having walked down to the river bank, I couldn't help but notice how agitated the large numbers of ibises, ducks, seagulls, cockatoos and galahs all were - they too found the noise horrible and unnatural.

With such an obviously vile racket going on, it was good to get inside the church and settle in for Mass - I even had time to ply my Rosary beads. The acolytes in training - all men of the parish, a good thing to see - made the responses loudly, albeit sometimes joining in with bits rarely repeated even at dialogue Mass, such as the whole of the Pater noster! It was interesting to observe how what they were used to in the ordinary form influenced them.

Mass this evening was the ferial Mass of the Monday in the 4th week of Lent, and in Rome the stational church for the day is that of the Four Crowned Martyrs, heroic endurers-of-death for Christ even whose names have been lost to us, but not the knowledge of their everlasting triumph. They are commemorated on the 8th of November, but I decided to read their orations today.

The so-called Epistle was the account of the famous Judgement of Solomon (III [I] Kings iii, 16-28), directly after he receives the gift of wisdom from the Lord, who is pleased that, being offered all things, he chooses this gift:

In those days:
There came two women that were harlots, to King Solomon, and stood before him: And one of them said: I beseech thee, my lord, I and this woman dwelt in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the chamber. And the third day, after that I was delivered, she also was delivered, and we were together, and no other person with us in the house, only we two. And this woman's child died in the night: for in her sleep she overlaid him. And rising in the dead time of the night, she took my child from my side, while I thy handmaid was asleep, and laid it in her bosom: and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold it was dead: but considering him more diligently when it was clear day, I found that it was not mine which I bore. And the other woman answered: It is not so as thou sayest, but thy child is dead, and mine is alive. On the contrary she said: Thou liest: for my child liveth, and thy child is dead. And in this manner they strove before the king. Then said the king: The one saith, My child is alive, and thy child is dead. And the other answereth: Nay, but thy child is dead, and mine liveth. The king therefore said: Bring me a sword. And when they had brought a sword before the king, Divide, said he, the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.

But the woman whose child was alive, said to the king, (for her bowels were moved upon her child,) I beseech thee, my lord, give her the child alive, and do not kill it. But the other said: Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. The king answered, and said: Give the living child to this woman, and let it not be killed, for she is the mother thereof. And all Israel heard the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, seeing that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgement.

Notes in my missals surprised me - both women are harlots and therefore have been faithless, yet, moreover, the lying woman who had smothered her child in her sleep is revealed as representing the Synagogue, while the truthful woman is the Church, whose Gentile child lives: the former would rather the other child die also, figuring the jealousy of the leaders of Israel toward the new converts to Christianity. An arresting tale!

The Gospel (St John ii, 13-25), referring to the misuse being made of the Temple and Our Lord's commanding cleansing of its courts, alludes to the circumstances of Solomon and his wise royal judgement. But most striking of all were the opening words: Prope erat Pascha Judæorum et ascendit Jesus Jerosolymam - "The Pasch of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem" - for lo! Passiontide approaches, and the tragic drama of the events leading to man's salvation.

The Communion was the well-known verse Ab occultis meis munda me Domine: et ab occultis meis parce servo tuo (Ps 18:13-14).

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