Advent Series - December 19
So the Assyrians conquered the kingdom of Israel and the 10 tribes became known as the “Lost Tribes of Israel”.
For many years the Assyrians were the strongest nation in the world. Their capital city was Ninive. The Assyrians spent their time fighting wars and destroying other countries.
In 650 B.C. , about 70 years after Israel was overrun, the Assyrian king told his general, Holofernes to take over the kingdoms of the west, and destroy all other gods so that he might be the god of the world.
Holophernes led an army of 120 000 soldiers, and 12 000 archers and horsemen as well as flocks of sheep and countless camels and provisions so that they covered the earth like locusts. (Jud 2:11)
The Assyrians wreaked havoc and destruction. They killed men, women and children or sold them into slavery. They leveled cities and burned crops so that everyone was afraid of Holophernes and his army.
The day came when the Assyrian army invaded the kingdom of Judah also and surrounded the city of Bethulia. Now the Jewish leaders did not know what to do. Some said that it was better to surrender rather than be killed. So they decided that if no one came to help after 5 days, they would surrender to the Assyrians.
Now there was a woman living in the same city by the name of Judith. Judith was a rich widow; a good woman who spent her days praying and fasting.
“and she was exceedingly beautiful and her husband left her great riches, and very many servants, and large possessions of herds of oxen, and flocks of sheep. And she was greatly renowned among all, because she feared the Lord very much, neither was there any one that spoke an ill word of her.” (Jud 8:7-8)
When Judith heard about the leader’s decision, she called them together and counseled them to trust in God. Then Judith prayed to God for courage and strength. She dressed up in her finest clothes and jewels and went out to the enemy’s camp.
When she got there, Judith asked to see the general, Holophernes. Holophernes was taken with Judith’s beauty so that he let her visit the camp and come and go as she pleased.
On the fourth day, Holophernes had a banquet, and invited Judith to come and eat with him, for he had fallen in love with her. Judith came and Holophernes drank much wine so that he became drunk and fell asleep.
All was dark and quiet. Holophernes was sleeping in his tent with only Judith and her maid for company. Judith sent her maid outside the tent to keep watch. Praying to God for courage, Judith took the sword of Holophernes and cut off his head. Then she hid his head in a basket and walked through the camp and back into the city.
When she got inside the walls of the city, Judith took the head of Holophernes out of the basket and showed it to the people, saying, “Behold the head of Holophernes…the Lord hath not suffered me his handmaid to be defiled…Give all of you glory to him, because He is good, because His mercy endureth forever.” (Jud 13)
“And Ozias the prince of the people of Israel, said to her: Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth…because he hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord forever..” (Jud 13)
Judith is a type of Our Lady in her victory over the enemy. As she was worthy of praise and blessing, so much so is Our Lady; the mother of God, who by her “fiat” brought the Savior to the world.
When the Assyrians found their general dead, they were seized with fear, and all ran away.
The Jews went to Jerusalem, to offer sacrifices in thanksgiving to God and there was a joyful celebration for 3 months. Judith never married again. She lived until the ripe old age of 105 and all that time, the Hebrew people lived in peace.
The O Antiphon for today is, “O Radix Jesse”
“O Root of Jesse, Who standest for an ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall keep silence, and to Whom the Gentiles shall pray: come to deliver us and tarry no more.”
Jesus is called “Root of Jesse” because His humanity came from Our Lady, who was from the line of King David, son of Jesse. The Jesse tree is Our Lord’s family tree!