Judith: Chapter 15 Commentary

I have completed a draft translation of the Commentary by the Blessed Hrabanus Maurus on the fifteenth chapter of Judith. The entire translation project, An Explanation of the Book of Judith, is also available for viewing.

In this chapter the people of Bethulia and of Israel slaughter the Assyrians and put the remaineder of them to flight. They collect massive spoils from their camp, giving very generous portions to Judith. Joachim the high priest comes from Jerusalem to meet with Judith and offers her much praise, as do all the people.

Hrabanus talks quite a bit about how the Israelites who pursued the Assyrians represent the preachers and those of the faithful who war against the enemy. I would like to highlight how these spiritual warriors, and Mother Church herself, treat the spoils of war. In speaking about the spoils (verse 12), Hrabanus says the following;

It is appropriate to consider that it says that those who had remained inside the city bore off the plunder of the Assyrians, moreover, those who returned conquerors from the slaughter of the enemy took a multitude of cattle, beasts and all movables. This is because, although the work of Christ’s soldiers may be inordinate, yet the intention and devotion should be one and the same: that they might convert whatever they are able to tear away from the unjust possession of the enemy to the adornment and riches of the Holy Church, that is the gold of wisdom, the silver of eloquence, the gems of morality and the virtues, and furthermore the people given to carnal sensuality who were captured in idolatry and guilty of slavery to vices, to the extent that all these things that the arrogant Assyrian and prince of this world used to unjustly possess, are returned to the honor of the divine religion through the soldiers of Christ.

Not only are the soldiers of Christ reclaiming the lost people who were captured in idolatry and enslaved to the vices, but also the good practices and wisdom that were embedded in those cultures. Further on he reiterates this idea (verse 26):

What does it mean that it says that all those things that were the peculiar goods of Holofernes, the people gave to Judith, if it does not mean that all of the faithful who carry out the war of Christ, seize everything from the dominion or possession of the enemies, collectively reckon all to the praise and endeavor of Holy Mother Church, and hasten to collect it for her spiritual adornment, so that she herself might gleam with the gold of wisdom, shine with the brilliance of eloquence, radiate with the gems of precious virtues and be clothed with the ornaments of the various disciplines? All this, namely any of the good things that the iniquitous possessor was unjustly possessing, she herself rightly appropriates for her own adornment.

This is an important point. The Church does not simply reject things out of hand that come from other cultures or religions. It seeks out the good things that are found in these cultures, and “baptizing” them, makes them her own.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov explains more clearly why the Church takes this approach with “pagan” cultures:

Though not with the same power as in the people of God, nevertheless the presence of the Spirit of God also acted in the pagans who did not know the true God, because even among them, God found the chosen people. For instance, there were the virgin-prophetesses called Sibyls who vowed virginity to an unknown God, but to God, the Creator of the universe, the all-powerful ruler of the world, as He was conceived by the pagans. Though the pagan philosophers also wandered in the darkness of ignorance of God, yet they sought the truth which is beloved by God. Because of this God-pleasing seeking, they could partake of the Spirit of God. It is said that nations who do not know God, practice by nature the demands of the law and do what is pleasing to God (cf. Rom. 2:14). The Lord so praises truth that He says of it Himself by the Holy Spirit: Truth has sprung from the earth, and justice has looked down from heaven (Ps. 84[85]:11) … both in the holy Hebrew people, a people beloved by God, and in the pagans who did not know God, there was preserved a knowledge of God…

For further information about this translation project, please see my series of posts on Judith.

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