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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Book of Ecclesiasticus]

THE Jews, who had returned to their country, lived in peace for two hundred years under the dominion of the successors of Cyrus. This peace was not disturbed even when Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, destroyed the Persian empire. Whilst Alexander lived, he treated the Jews with great kindness; but when, at his death, the Macedonian empire was divided, evil times came upon Judæa.

That province formed the object of dispute between the kings of Syria and those of Egypt, who made it the battle-ground for their contending armies, so that it was turned almost into a desert. As a natural consequence of these protracted wars, ignorance, corruption and vice struck daily deeper root among the Jewish people. This was one of the darkest periods of their history, all the more so as the succession of prophets seemed to have ceased.

While the Jews were under the sceptre of the king of Egypt, it happened that the king desired a Greek translation of the sacred books of the Jews. He therefore expressed his desire to the High Priest at Jerusalem, who granted the request and sent to Alexandria, the capital of Egypt, seventy-two wise men well versed both in Greek and in Hebrew. These men were kindly received by the king, and made a correct translation for him called for that reason the Septuagint. At that time educated men among the heathen nations knew and spoke the Greek language. Hence this translation of the Scriptures began to be read by the pagans, who thereby came to the knowledge of the true God, and to the belief in the Messias. Thus do we see the hand of Divine Providence, in His design to prepare the Gentiles for the coming of the Saviour.

Almighty God also inspired a pious Jew, called Jesus, the son of Sirach, to write a work on religious and moral instruction, which forms one of the books of the Catholic Bible, and is called Ecclesiasticus. The following beautiful maxims taken from it deserve careful study. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning and crown of wisdom. The word of God is the fountain of wisdom, and her ways are everlasting commandments. The fear of the Lord shall delight the heart, and shall give joy, and gladness, and length of days. It shall go well with him that feareth the Lord, and in the days of his end he shall be blessed. My son, from thy youth up receive instruction, and even to thy grey hairs thou shalt find wisdom.”

“Come to her as one that plougheth and soweth, and wait for her good fruits. For in working about her thou shalt labour a little, and shalt quickly eat of her fruits. Take all that shall be brought upon thee, and keep patience, for gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. Hear the judgment of your father and grieve him not in his life. The father’s blessing established the houses of the children, but the mother’s curse rooteth up the foundation.”

“Despise not a man in his old age, for we also shall become old. Despise not the discourse of them that are ancient and wise; but acquaint thyself with their proverbs. Praise not a man for his beauty, neither despise a man for his look. The bee is small among flying things, but her fruit hath the chiefest sweetness. Be in peace with many, but let one of a thousand be thy counsellor.”

“Nothing can be compared to a faithful friend, and no weight of gold and silver is able to countervail the goodness of his fidelity. If thou wouldst get a friend, try him before thou takest him, and do not credit him easily. For there is a friend for his own occasion, and he will not abide in the day of thy trouble. A lie is a foul blot in a man. In nowise speak against the truth, but be ashamed of the lie in thy ignorance.”

“Let not the naming of God be usual in thy mouth, and meddle not with the names of Saints. A man that sweareth much shall be filled with iniquity, and a scourge shall not depart from his house. Before thou hear, answer not a word, and interrupt not others in the midst of their discourse. Hast thou heard a word against thy neighbour, let it die within thee, trusting that it will not burst thee. Hedge in thy ears with thorns; hear not a wicked tongue; and make doors and bars to thy mouth.”

“Melt down thy gold and silver, and make a balance for thy words. Flee from sin as from the face of a serpent. All iniquity is like a two-edged sword; there is no remedy for the wound thereof. Observe the time and fly from evil. He that loveth danger shall perish therein, and he that toucheth pitch shall be defiled with it In every work of thine regard thy soul in faith, for this is the keeping of the commandments. In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.”

The fifteenth promise of the Messias (through Malachias) is of great importance for the Catholic faith, since, as the Council of Trent in union with the Fathers of the Church teaches, it contains a most clear prophecy of the unbloody Sacrifice of the New Testament, or, in other words, of the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Let us examine what it is that God promised by the mouth of the prophet Malachias.

By the words “From the rising of the sun—for my name is great among the Gentiles” God announced that many nations instead of only one would worship Him. Then He further foretold: a) that a sacrifice would be offered to Him, not in one place only as with the Jews, but in all places; b) that this sacrifice would be a clean oblation or offering, c) and a meat-offering or, in other words, an unbloody sacrifice; d) and that it would be a perfect sacrifice, and take the place of the Jewish sacrifices. Now, in what way does the holy Sacrifice of the Mass correspond with and fulfil this prophecy? a) The holy Sacrifice of the Mass was instituted at the Last Supper, and is offered up in every Catholic church all over the world. b) It is a clean oblation, nay, the most clean, the most holy oblation that can be, for in it is offered up Jesus Christ, the All-holy Son of God. c) It is an unbloody Sacrifice, and at the same time it is a meat-offering, for in it Jesus Christ offers Himself in an unbloody manner in the holy Mass, under the form of bread and wine, and gives Himself in Holy Communion to be the Food of both priest and people. d) It replaces the sacrifices of the Old Testament, which were only types of this, the spotless Sacrifice of the New Testament, and which are fulfilled by it.

APPLICATION. Thank God in an especial manner for the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and resolve that you will assist at it frequently and with devotion.








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