Catholic Life; or Feasts, Fasts and Devotions of the Ecclesiastical Year
+ Imprimatur 1908
God Almighty in the beginning of the world appointed a Sabbath, or day of rest, to be kept once a week in memory of His having accomplished the creation of the world in six days, and His resting on the seventh; and also that man might not only give rest to his body, but especially to his soul. This is done by withdrawing from the cares and pleasures of life, and raising our thoughts to consider the eternal rest in the world to come, the means to secure it, and the evils to be avoided.
Thus, the day of rest is a remembrance of God's power and goodness, and so an excellent means of increasing our love for Him, because we cannot fail to love Him Whom we know to be the most perfect Being, to Whom all creatures owe their existence, Who is our greatest benefactor. Later on, when the sanctification of the Sabbath was included in the Ten Commandments given on Mount Sinai, Almighty God prefixed the word remember, as time had shown how apt man was to forget Him and His service, by being too fond of the perishable goods and pleasures of this life.
The last day of the week was appointed to be kept holy in the Old Law, but the Church, the beloved spouse of Christ, chose Sunday in memory of our Saviour's resurrection and the descent of the Holy Ghost, both of which happened on that day. Hence it is called the Lord's Day.
We are obliged to hear Mass every Sunday, and to abstain from servile works which are not required by necessity or charity. We ought, also, to endavour to be present at the other public devotions, such as Vespers, Sermon, Benediction, or Rosary. A part of the day might be profitably spent in reading pious books, such as the "History of the Bible," the "Lives of the Saints," the "Imitation of Christ," St. Liguori's "Way of Salvation," and the publications of the Catholic Truth Society, which may be found at most church doors. These will help us to enjoy what peace of heart which is found by those who retire from the noise and tumult of life to devote some time to their eternal interests.
There is a plenary indulgence granted in some countries to the faithful who receive Holy Communion worthily on the first Sunday of the month, and afterwards say a few Paters and Aves for the Pope's intentions.
Those who have more leisure and aptitude may further sanctify the Sunday by teaching catechism in the church, collecting for the various charities, ect. A Sunday spent thus passes sweetly, having been truly sanctified by prayer and charity, and refreshed by family reunions, rest, and innocent joys. It is a guarantee of eternal rest in the kingdom of God.
"Grant I may ever, at the morning ray,
Open with prayer the consecrated Day;
Tune Thy great praise, and
bid my soul arise,
And with the mounting sun ascend the skies;
As that advances, let my seal improve,
And glow with ardour of consummate love'
Nor cease with eve, but with the setting sun
My endless worship shall be still begun."
Example.- Rudolph de Lisele. Born A.D. 1853
If there was one specially marked characteristic about Rudolph from earliest boyhood, it was his absolute fearlessness, whether of danger, ridicule, or hardship, in the discharge of duty. Many striking instances of this better part of valour are given. Take one, there was a French man-of-war station not far from his ship in one of the harbours of the Pacific Ocean. As there was Mass on board this ship, Rudolph thought it best to take his men there rather than go on shore.
Leave was asked and obtained, so a quarter of an hour before the time, he arrived with his men. He himself was invited at once by the officers into the cabin, where they showed him every politeness. But by and by,
the quarter of an hour being expired, Rudolph looked at his watch, and said: "Ah, I see 'tis Mass-time now." These French officers were Catholics, but lived, as too many of the French in that station of life do, in total disregard of religion. So when Rudolph said "It is Mass-time," they replied, "Mass! surely you are not going to Mass?" "Yes, I am," said Rudolph, and, at once taking leave, he went off and entered the place where Mass was said. About the time of the Sanctus one of the French officers slunk in. The next Sunday two or three came in; the Sunday after the whole of the officers attended Mass from every commencement, and they continued to do so for the six weeks longer that the two men-of-war were within easy reach of each other.
Illustrious Women of the Bible
By: Bernard O'Reilly
Roboam, Solomon’s son by a heathen Ammonite princess, had been brought up amidst the fabulous luxury and servility of his father’s court, and inherited the general popular discontent bred by oppressive taxation and the deep-seated jealousies and enmities consequent on the downfall of the house of Saul, without inheriting any portions of Solomon’s wisdom. When he went to Sichem, soon after his accession, the assembled people besought him to lighten the taxes. “Do thou take a little of the grievous service of thy father… and we will serve thee.” His father’s old counselors advised him to grant what they demanded. But he “consulted with the young men that had been brought up with him, and stood before him… And he spoke to them [the people] according to the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy; but I will add to your yoke: my father beat you with whips; but I will beat you with scorpions.”
The son’s folly persisted in grinding the people, and in imitating his father in other evil ways, unmindful of every warning voice. The tribe of Ephraim, accustomed to the leadership in Israel from Josue to Samuel, had accepted with ill grace a Benjamite king from her great prophet-judge, but had shown unmistakable signs of discontent when the scepter passed from Saul to the tribe of Juda, in the hands of David. This jealous discontent grew, during the latter part of Solomon’s reign, with the ever-increasing burthen of taxation.
Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, who had been chosen by Solomon to superintend the taxes and services in labor exacted of his fellow-tribesmen, must have clearly discerned this dangerous disaffection. The Ephraimites were proud of his talents, encouraged his ambition, and countenance his having a train of three hundred chariots and horses. It was only then that Solomon suspected him of aiming at royal state, and forced him to fly to the court of Egypt, but not before the prophet Ahias (Ahijah) had declared to the Ephraimite that God destined him to reign over ten of the twelve tribes. Shishak gave him his sister-in-law in marriage; and, with her and an infant son, he hastened to return home after the death of Solomon.
When this child sickened and died, as it touchingly related in 3 (1) Kings xiv, “all Israel” mourned for him, as if he were heir to the throne. This incident, among many others, should have warned Roboam of the position of the Ephraimite held in the people’s sympathies, if any sign of coming revolution could be read by one stricken with judicial blindness.
When Roboam brutally rejected the national demand of redress, his rival, Jeroboam, was already the leader of the northern tribes, and became forthwith their chosen king. The single tribe of Juda at first remained faithful to the house of David; the tribe of Benjamin soon afterward cast its lot with Juda; and the Levites, who remained neutral in this lamentable quarrel, migrated from the schismatic kingdom, and took up their abode in the kingdom of Juda. Thus the despotic disposition of Solomon’s son, fostered amid vice and voluptuousness, consumed a division, prepared by universal discontent and miserable tribe rivalries.
Jeroboam, the better to make one, both in religion and in politics, the new kingdom he had formed out of the ten northern tribes, had introduced the worship of the Egyptian calf-god Mnevis, setting up a golden image of him in the sanctuaries of Dan and Bethel, with the inscription, “Behold thy God, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” Thither the Hebrews of the northern kingdom, now called the Kingdom of Israel, resorted for worship on the annual feasts, instead of going down to Jerusalem. And this change was accepted by the many.
Half a century after this deplorable revolution, Amri (Omri) was King of Israel, and displayed the same determined and unscrupulous spirit as Jeroboam. The sole aim of his policy was to strengthen his position by establishing a firm friendship with the Syrian and Phoenician kings. To him religion was only an instrument of state policy; and he was every ready to adopt that which he deemed most serviceable to his purpose.
He married his son Achab to a Phoenician princess, Jezabel, the daughter of Ethbaal, King of Tyre and Sidon, and high priest of Ashtarte or Ashtoreth. All the fires that ever burned in the fierce blood of the Phoenician seemed concentrated in that woman’s bosom, hating the Hebrew race with an intensity that her marriage with a weak, vacillating, and unprincipled husband, did in no wise diminish; and the God and religion of Israel with a passion that could be stopped at nothing, and could be satiated by nothing, short of the abolition of true faith. The readers of these pages can judge somewhat of the masculine qualities of the women of her line, when they recall the fact that Dido or Elisa, the foundress of Carthage, was a near relative, and almost a contemporary, of Jezabel’s.
The baneful career of this licentious woman demonstrates the absolute wisdom of the divine law forbidding the Hebrews to take wives from the idolatrous nations round about. Religion to a woman’s heart becomes an absorbing passion. She will employ all her powers of persuasion, all her characteristic perseverance, and all the means at her disposal, to make the cause of her gods prevail within the entire sphere of her influence, whether household or kingdom.
Achab, without either religious conviction or strength of character, was a mere plaything in the hands of a woman as determined as Jezabel. Hence, immediately after his marriage, “he went to serve Baal, and adored him. And he set up an altar for Ball which he had built in Samaria. And he planted a grove [for the rites of Ashtarte]; and Achab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, than all the kings of Israel that were before him.” The worship of the Sidonian Ashtarte had been first authorized in Israel by Solomon. The building of this temple, and the planting of the grove, by Achab, probably occurred before his accession to the throne. After that event, the abominable worship of the Phoenician deities formed such a magnificent establishment in the capital, that “four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and four hundred prophets of the grove” (or Ashtarte), ate at Jezabel’s table. There were almost as many at Jezrahel in after-years.
What is to become of the faith of Abraham and Mirima and Debbora during the reign of this young, beautiful, powerful woman, with the greater part of a century to carry out her plans, and three kings of Israel, her husband and two sons, and two kings of Juda, her son-in-law, and grandson, as her zealous tools? Sensual and enervating pleasures are ever the means employed by those who want to corrupt the faith and the morals of a nation; and from Achab’s court at Samaria, with the fascinations of the temple and grove, and the blandishments and bribes that a young and unscrupulous queen could wield to a good purpose, corruption and idolatry spread from above, downward and around, ever deeper and wider, from the ruling classes to every hamlet and hovel in the land.
But amid the gloom and despair that settled on those who remained faithful to the old belief and worship, suddenly stands forth to confront that queen, the sublime figure of a Nazarite—Elias the Thesbite. A countryman of Jephte, but one whose only arms were prayer and abstinence, clad in his long sheepskin mantle, tied round his loins by a girdle of camel’s hair, with his Nazarite locks hanging down below his shoulders, Elias had come at God’s bidding, with the swift and invisible advance of an angel, to Samaria. He appears, unheralded and unexpected, in the midst of the gay and splendid court, before the astonished eyes of Achab and his queen, and their circle of priests and damsels. And he “said to Achab, as the Lord liveth, the God of Israel, in whose sight I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to the word of my mouth.” He is gone, before the stupor caused by his apparition, and the terrible import of his prophecy, have allowed any attempt toward detaining him.
But Jezabel soon recovers from the stunning effect of his message. She is well acquainted with the schools established by Samuel, and maintained ever since for the culture of sacred science, and the arts connected with the splendor of public worship—“the schools of prophets:” she also knows the salutary influence exercised over the popular minds and morals by the institution of the Nazarites; and she resolves forthwith to exterminate them. The work was done with the thoroughness characteristic of her every measure of persecution. Only a hundred out of many thousands of these devoted men were saved, and concealed in caves by Abdias, the governor of the royal household, who fed them there “with bread and water,” till the heat of the pursuit was over. But Elias was sought for in vain throughout the length and breadth of Palestine, and in the surrounding kingdoms, the rulers of which had to affirm on oath that the prophet was not hidden within their realms.
During three years and six months God protected Elias miraculously in various retreats. But drought came, and continued the while; and a fearful famine reigned throughout the guilty land. When the distress was at its height, Elias once more comes forth boldly to do battle in his own way with Achab and Jezabel, and Baal and Ashtarte. It is a passage of sacred history familiar to every Sunday-school child, that memorable sacrifice on Mount Carmel, where all Israel, king and court, with the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal, and the four hundred priests of Ashtarte, surrounded the altars of their impure gods; while the great Thesbite on the other side stood near the scattered stones of an altar once sacred to Jehovah, and, with his single servant, set about collecting the fragments, and building up the altar of his God. What conflicting emotions must have filled the breasts of the vast multitude of beholders! Few indeed were those who dared to profess openly their belief in the God of Israel. The majority of the Israelites present had been brought up in unbelief, or had been led by fear or interest to feign it; and none among these crowds were more bitterly opposed to the prophet, of more desirous that he should be confounded on that day. But around the prophets of Baal and Ashtarte, what a magnificent pageant attracted the eye, and excited the admiration, of the spectator. Eight hundred and fifty ministers of the foul Phoenician and Syrian deities, attired in the gorgeous vestments of their office, with numberless inferior assistance, musicians, and devotees, contemplated with mingled derision and hatred the patient labors of the insignificant Thesbite and his servant, while the king and his courtly throng of nobles and warriors watched the proceedings with an apprehension founded on their knowledge of the mysterious powers of Elias.
From early morn till noon, the brilliant crown of priests called on their gods to send down fire from heaven on their holocaust. They sang, they danced, they leaped, they shrieked their invocations, and cut themselves with knives and lancets, to propitiate their demon deities. But all in vain.
And then the recreant Israelites are challenged to draw near the man of God. On the altar built up anew, the victim is laid, and the attentive multitude hears the prayer, “O Lord, God of Abraham and Isaac and Israel, show this day that thou art the God of Israel, and I thy servant… Hear me, O Lord, hear me; that this people may learn that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart again.” The fire descends, the people confess that Jehovah is God; and the eight hundred and fifty prophets are seized by the multitude, and dragged down to the Kishon, whose waters bear their corpses to the Phoenician shore.
It is now a life-struggle between Elias and Jezabel. She was at this time in Jezrahel, at the western extremity of the Gelboe ridge. On the hill-top she had built herself a fortified palace, a temple to Baal, and planted a grove to Ashtarte; and around these a beautiful city had sprung up, as Versailles arose round the palace of the Fourteenth Louis.
Thither Achab had sped in all haste after the issue of this solemn contest, pursued by the rain-storm, which, at Elias’ prayer, had burst from the skies; and thither, borne swifter on foot than the king in his chariot, Elias hastens to confront the terrible queen, his hands still reeking with the blood of her priests.
“And Achab told Jezabel all that Elias had done, and how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. And Jezabel sent a messenger to Elias, saying, Such and such things may the gods do to me, and add still more, if, by this hour tomorrow, I make not thy life as the life of one of them.”
This paints the woman well. Elias knew her well; nor did he wait to brave her revenge.
Her influence thenceforward may be traced in the system of terrorism established in the kingdom, and the abject submission with which every act of the government was accepted; for she was the government. One single fact will prove this, and show, as well, in its full light, her grasping and sanguinary disposition.
We have seen that she had created for herself a magnificent establishment at Jezrahel, or Jezreel (God’s sowing”) so called from the lovely and fertile country in the midst of which it is situated. From the lofty tower of her palace, this ambitious and masculine princess commanded a view of the valleys that stretched away eastward to the Jordan, and the Mountains of Galaad beyond; and westward the eye embraced the wide plain that ended at the foot of Mount Carmel and the sea. Even for strategic purposes, the choice of the position for a semi-official residence was most admirable. On this hill-top a city sprung up; and Jezabel spared no means to make of the abode a paradise for her courtiers, for the minister of Baal and Ashtarte, and for all who did her unquestioning service. Eastward of the city lay a tract of land , cultivated chiefly as a vineyard, and belonging to Naboth, the descendant of one of the early proprietors, odious, on that account, to Jezabel, and perhaps still more odious for his attachment to Jehovah. He is therefore bidden to come to the king in Samaria.
“And Achob spoke to Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may make me a garden of herbs, because it is nigh adjoining to my house, and I will give thee for it a better vineyard; or, if thou think it more convenient for thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money. Naboth answered him, The Lord be merciful t me, and not let me give thee the inheritance of my fathers.”
It is the answer of a true-hearted man, to whom the homestead transmitted to him by his ancestors is dearer than any other spot on earth, and the sacred memories of which no treasure can purchase. Besides, other homesteads, adjoining Naboth’s had been bought or usurped to make way for the temple of Baal and the Grove of Ashtarte; and Naboth may have been one not willing to desecrate the home of his fathers by giving it up to a like purpose.
The king returns to his palace “angry and fretting… And casting himself upon his bed, he turned away his face to the wall, and would eat no bread.”
Such is the pusillanimous to whom Jezabel is wedded. But now attend to her. She learns the cause of his dejection; and we can almost fancy we see the contempt that curls her proud lips as she exclaims, “Thou art of great authority indeed, and governest well the kingdom of Israel! Arise, and eat bread, and be of good cheer: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezrahelite. So she wrote letters in Achob’s name, and sealed them with his ring, and sent them to the ancients and the chief men that were in his [Naboth’s] city… And this was the tenor of the letters: Proclaim a fast, and make Naboth sit among the chief of the people; and suborn two men, sons of Belial, against him, and let them bear false witness that he hath blasphemed God and the king; and then carry him out and stone him.”
The bold, bad woman takes no roundabout way to her end. She knows the pliant material of which her nobles are made, and that “sons of the devil,” ready to swear away the honor and life of the innocent, are everywhere at her beck. The iniquity in consummated without a moment’s faltering or delay. Lest Naboth should leave heirs to denounce the murderers, and contest even with royalty the unjust possession of their patrimony, that same night Naboth and his children are stoned to death together.
“Arise,”—such is the triumphant bidding of the murderess—“and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth… for Naboth is… dead.”
The ground is still reeking with the blood of this father and his unoffending children, when Achab sets out from Samaria to take possession of their homestead; but then, at the gate of the city, God’s justice stand before him in the person of Elias.
“And Achab said to Elias, Hast thou found me thy enemy? He said, I have found thee, because thou art sold to do evil in the sight of the Lord.” There is no pause in the awful utterance. Elias addresses him in the words of the divine judgement, “Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and I will cut down thy posterity… In this place, wherein the dogs have licked the blood of Naboth, they shall lick thy blood also... The dogs shall eat Jezabel in the field of Jezrahel.” Jehu, who was doomed to execute this double sentence, was there in attendance on his master, Achab. For a moment, the awful messenger stood erect before the trembling and guilty king; and he was gone the next.
“And, when Achab had heard these words, he rent his garments, and put haircloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and slept in sackcloth, and walked with his head cast down.”
The doom pronounced by Elias was so far changed, in consideration of his remorse, that Achab’s children were not cut off in his lifetime. But the dogs of Samaria licked up his blood from his chariot when he was brought back mortally wounded from battle; and the more literal part of this doom was fulfilled afterward in his son Joram.
Jezabel survived her husband fourteen years. Her eldest son, Ochozias (Ahaziah) reigned only two; walked in his father’s footsteps; showed himself a true son of his mother; was a faithful worshiper of her god, and tolerated, if he did not abet, the immoralities and sorceries of which Jehu afterward accused her. That she watched unweariedly over him in death, as in life, can be surmised from his sending to consult Beezlebub at Accaron, when fatally injured by a fall.
The messengers had not sped far on their road, when Elias stood before them in the well-known garb. “Is there not a God in Israel, that ye go to consult Beezlebub, the god of Accaron? Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, From the bed on which thou art gone up, thou shalt not come down… And Elias went away.”
But the king, informed of this, sent, in succession, two companies of fifty men to command and compel the presence of Elias. They are consumed by fire from heaven. A third company is sent to entreat him humbly; and he yields, presents himself to the dying prince, as well, most likely, as his detestable mother, and reiterates, with unchanging sternness, “Thou shalt surely die.”
Jezabel loved not any the more, for this, the fearless prophet, the bane of her house and her life.
She lived on, as she had ever lived, the open profligate, and the apostle of Baal. During the twelve years the Joram sat on the throne of Samaria after his brother’s death, she was supreme in the land. Age had not quenched her passions; and the doom partially fulfilled in Achab and Ochozias could not shake her intrepid spirit.
It came for her at length. Joram, sorely wounded in battle, had sought his mother’s delicious retreat in Jezrahel, and the hopeful succor of her magic arts. Thither, too, came Ochozias, King of Juda, Jezabel’s grandson. Jehu, Achab’s former attendant, was now captain of Joram’s army, with his headquarters across the Jordan, at Ramoth-Galaad. Eliseus, the disciple and successor of Elias in the prophetic office, sent one of his attendants to the general to anoint him in secret, as Saul and David had been anointed before him; and the messenger delivered this charge to the new king: “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I have anointed thee king over Israel, the people of the Lord. Thou shalt cut off the house of Achab thy master, and I will revenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord at the hand of Jezabel… and the dogs shall eat Jezabel in the field of Jezrahel, and there shall be no one to bury her. And he opened the door, and fled.”
The message is delivered into no unwilling ears. His brother officers espouse his cause. Orders are given that no man leave the camp or city, lest the tidings of his approach should be borne to Jezabel; and he sets out with a select body of men.
“The watchman, therefore, that stood upon the tower of Jezrahel, saw the troop of Jehu coming, and said, I see a troop.
…So there went one in a chariot to meet him, and said, Thus saith the king, Are all things peaceable? And Jehu said, What hast thou to do with peace? Pass, and follow me.” A second messenger receives the same answer; and finally Joram and Ochozias, “each in his chariot, went out to meet Jehu, and met him in the field of Naboth of Jezrahelite.”
Joram falls there while fleeing like a coward, “shot between the shoulders; and the arrow went out through his heart. And Jehu said to Badacer his captain, Take him, and cast him into the field of Naboth the Jezrahelite.” Ochozias, in his turn, is overtaken, and meets with a like fate. But where is Jezabel, the chief culprit?
From her watch-tower on the brow of the hill, she has beheld the tragedy enacted beneath her on the plain, and feels that the hour predicted by the Thesbite is upon her, big will all the vengeance due to a long life of impiety, oppression, and blood. Not even with her awful fate staring her full in the face, does her indomitable pride and queenly spirit forsake her. She will neither flee nor hide, but meet death in regal attire. “Jezabel, hearing of his [Jehu’s] coming, painted her face with stibic stone [antimony] and adorned her head, and looked out of a window… And Jehu lifted up his face to the window, and said, Who is this? And two or three eunuchs bowed down to him. And he said to them, Throw her down headlong. And they threw her down; and the wall was sprinkled with her blood.”
The victor stops not one moment to consider this royal wreck: the train of chariots and horsemen pass onwards over it. It was only when the possession of the city was secured, and Jehu was seated at table, that he bethought him “to see after that cursed woman, and bury her, because she is a king’s daughter. And, when they went to bury her, they found nothing but the skull, and the feet, and the extremities of her hands. And, coming back, they told him. And Jehu said, It is the word of the Lord, which he spoke by his servant, Elias the Thesbite.”
Ah! One would think that a man who had thus beheld the terrific realities of God’s judgement, and been himself the agent in this just retribution, would so fear the Lord of Might as never to be untrue to him. “But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart.”
2. Sixty years elapsed from the division of Robaom’s kingdom to the accession of the good King Josaphat (Jehosaphat) to the throne of Juda. Jeroboam was allowed to reign twenty-two years, dying, as he had lived, the enemy of Jehovah. His dynasty ended with his son Nadab, who was slain, in the second year of his reign, by one of his own officers. This usurper’s son met with a like fate at the hands of Zimri (Zamri) who, in his turn, perished in the flames of his palace, while besieged by Omri, Achab’s father. Under Roboam and his immediate successor, Abias (Abijah), idolatry was encouraged by the royal examples, as well as by statues of toleration. In the kingdom of Juda, Asa and Josaphat, the latter especially, labored to restore the national religion to its former splendor and supremacy, while promoting the temporal welfare of their subjects. But, during Asa’s long reign of forty-one years, no motive could induce him to contract either friendship or alliance with the idolatrous kings of Israel. Fortunate had it been for Josaphat his son, and still more so for his people, had he pursued in this his father’s upright policy. On the contrary, the courts of Jerusalem and Samaria, so opposed in religious spirit and political interests, were drawn together by familiar intercourse; and the friendship was soon cemented by matrimonial alliances. The princes born in both families received the same names—a fact occasioning no little confusion to students of Jewish history—and Josaphat consented to have his son and heir Joram (Jehoram) wed Athalia, daughter of Achab and Jezabel. Joram, during the last years of his father’s reign, had a principal part in the government; and one may thence deduce the influence that Athalia began to exercise over the affairs of the kingdom. Her mother’s uncompromising idolatry led in Samaria, and throughout the whole of the northern kingdom, to the setting-aside the mongrel Egyptian worship introduced by Jeroboam, and the establishment of the Phoenician deities with their priesthood and ritual. It came the aim of Athalia, from her wedding-day, to effect a like sweeping revolution in the worship of the kingdom of Juda; and in this she completely succeeded. Joram, her husband, became, under her inspiration, and zealous apostle of Baal, and died dishonored and unmourned, his body being case out from the sepulchers of his fathers. But let us take up the thread of our narrative where we left it, at the death of Jezabel.
“And Athalia, the mother of Ochozias, seeing that her son was dead, arose, and slew all the royal seed. But Josaba [or Josabeth]… sister of Ochozias, took Joas, the son of Ochozias, and stole him from among the king’s sons that were slain, out of the bed chamber with his nurse, and hid him from the face of Athalia.”
The tigress will defend her whelps at the risk of her life; but here is Jezabel’s daughter pitilessly slaughtering all her own descendants. This horrifies us even in Achab’s evil brood. But let us consider the provocation.
While the dogs were yet wrangling over the bones of Jezabel, beneath the walls of her fairy palace, Jehu had issued orders for the extermination of every one of the seventy sons of Achab still living in the kingdom. Their tutors and guardians, as well as the governors of the cities in which they dwelt, were forced to be their executioners, and bring forthwith their heads to Jezrahel. When the new king rode out of the city, he found these sad trophies placed in two heaps at the city gate. But, ere he left it, “Jehu slew… all [Achab’s] chief men, and his friends, and his priests, till there were no remains left of him.”
The royal family of Juda, through the marriage of Athalia with Joram, son of Josaphat, had identified itself with that of Israel. They, too, became the object of Jehu’s sanguinary pursuit. As he and his followers rode toward Samaria, forty-two princes of the house of Juda, “brethren of Ochozias,” met him at Beth-Eked (“the shearing-house”) and were there slaughtered, and cast into an adjoining well. In Samaria itself, Jehu, by simulating zeal for the worship of Baal, convened all the ministers and worshipers of the god, from far and near, to a solemn sacrifice in his honor, to be offered up in Jezabel’s great temple. “There was not one left that did not come.”
When the edifice was thus filled, and hymn and dance were proceeding amid the clouds of incense, a chosen band of Jehu’s soldiers set upon the unarmed crowd, and cut down, to the last man, woman, and child, every worshipper there.
It was this total annihilation of the work and family of Achab and Jezabel, that filled their daughter with a murderous frenzy, and made her kill every one of her son’s children; so that, after her, the line of David, like that of Achab, should be blotted out forever. But she had long before given a taste of her sanguinary temper. No sooner had her husband Joram been acknowledged as sole king of Juda that (by Athalia’s advice, it is thought) he massacred every one of his brothers. Thenceforward Athalia, Baal, and Ashtarte ruled in Jerusalem.
One is relieved, as from the weight of a hideous nightmare, after being forced to look upon fiendish men and woman, and scenes of appalling carnage, to find the stately form and beautiful character of Josabeth, a noble scion of David, and the only princess of her line ever to wed a high priest. She was the daughter of Joram, but not by Athalia, and was the wife of the high priest Joiaga. When she heard of the massacre of her brother’s children, and while the men of Juda, indifferent to the preservation of these sole remnant of David’s dynasty, kept aloof, and dared not brave the bloody dagger of a woman, another woman rushed into the chamber of death, reckless of every peril, and sought out among the corpses of her kinsfolk the babe infolded in its nurse’s arms, and bore them both swiftly and safely to the secrecy of God’s house.
She was, doubtless, well acquainted with the deep subterranean passages connecting the palace with the holy place; and through one of them she may have borne her precious charge.
“And he was wither six years, hid in the house of the Lord. And Athalia reigned over the land.” In her lived and ruled all her mother Jezabel.
When one reflects that it was the holy King Josphat—a man enlightened, zealous for the divine honor, for the religious unity, the intellectual and moral education of his people, and all that could conduce to their temporal prosperity—who did not hesitate to contract an alliance with the house of Achab, and sanctioned or tolerated the marriage of his son and heir with the daughter of Jezabel, her mother’s peer intellect, ability, and wickedness--one is struck dumb with amazement. The law forbidding such marriages was fundamental in the theocratic economy of the Hebrew nation. Its violation inevitably entailed the most disastrous consequences; yet none of the heavy judgements that fell on the transgressors seem to have served as a warning to the best kings.
Nevertheless God kept the lesson before the eyes of the nation, by chastisements increasing in severity with each successive generation. And here is a woman, the savage daughter of a savage mother, who has her heel on the neck of the same people, that, under David, balanced the power of Egypt and Assyria.
For six long years, this woman, without any title to the scepter of Juda, held it with a hand so firm, that it required a miracle of audacity in Josabeth and her husband to wrest it from her, and bring her to condign punishment. At the end of the sixth year, the garrison of Jerusalem were mad acquainted by the high priest with the existence of the royal child, and sworn, within the precincts of the temple, to support his right to the throne. Dividing their forces on the day appointed by the revolution, one-third stood on guard at Athalia’s palace: The remained two-thirds, with the armed priests and Levites, lined the approaches to the temple and its courts. The king was anointed, crowned, and proclaimed, with sound of trumpet, amid the acclamations of the soldiers; and Athalia, roused by the shouting, and the rush of the people toward the holy place, hurried thither incautiously, and without escort.
“She saw the kind standing pong a tribunal, as the manner was, and the singers and the trumpets near him, and all the people of the land rejoicing … and she rent her garments, and cried, ‘A conspiracy, a conspiracy!’ But Joiada commanded the centurions… Have her forth without the precinct of the temple… And they laid hands on her, and thrust her out by the way which horses go in, by the palace; and she was slain there… And all the people of the land went into the Temple of Baal, and broke down his altars; and his images they broke in pieces thoroughly. They slew, also, Mathan, the priest of Baal, before the altar.”
But the evil blood of Jezabel and Athalia had so poisoned every germ implanted and nurtured in the heart of this child-king, that in after-years, “between the temple and the altar,” in the sanctuary where he was reared, he caused to be stoned to death the high priest Zacharias, Josabeth’s own son. Because the holy man reproved him for reviving the worship of Baal and Ashtarte. Thus was this heroic princess the mother of a martyr who was canonized by the lips of our Lord himself (Matt. Xxiii. 35).
But woe to the people who tolerate such martyrdoms!
"In thy resurrection, O Christ, alleluia.
Holy Mother Church dedicates May to: