Fourth Saturday and Sunday of September: the Book of Judith

At Matins this Sunday the readings start the book of Judith, one of the deutero-canonical books that have always been part of the Catholic tradition, but were rejected by protestants because they were excluded from the Jewish canon towards the end of the first century AD (along with a number of other books probably excluded because they supported the claims of Christianity too strongly).  Yet the historicity and canonicity of the Book of Judith in early Christianity was never disputed: a quote from it can be found as early as the 1st century AD First Epistle of Clement.


The Wikipedia summarises the book thus:

"The story revolves around Judith, a daring and beautiful widow, who is upset with her Jewish countrymen for not trusting God to deliver them from their foreign conquerors. She goes with her loyal maid to the camp of the enemy general, Holofernes, with whom she slowly ingratiates herself, promising him information on the Israelites. Gaining his trust, she is allowed access to his tent one night as he lies in a drunken stupor. She decapitates him, then takes his head back to her fearful countrymen. The Assyrians, having lost their leader, disperse, and Israel is saved. Though she is courted by many, she remains unmarried for the rest of her life."

For Catholics, Judith can be seen as a type of Our Lady, hence the Magnificat antiphon for Saturday (I Vespers of Sunday) this week says:

" O Adonai, Lord God, great and wonderful, who didst give salvation by the hand of a woman: hear the prayers of Thy servants."

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