Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Egypt And The Three Boys In The Fiery Furnace





WE KNOW THAT BETWEEN 500 AND 600 YEARS BEFORE THE BIRTH OF JESUS, the Hebrew people were exiled to Babylon where Nebuchadnezzar ruled. While he ordered the people to worship the golden god he'd made, three  Jewish slave boys, Shadrach, Mischach and Abednago refused.

Bad-tempered Nebuchadnezzar threatened, but the young men persisted in their belief. Finally, the king had them thrown into a furnace which he ordered to be intensified seven times. The number seven shouldn't surprise us, as it is the biblical number of utterly, completely, fully. The fire was so intense the guards were unable to stand anywhere nearby.

When Nebuchadnezzar came to see for himself that the boys were turned to ash, he witnessed them alive within the flames and with a fourth - like an angel. They were singing a magnificent hymn, glorifying God and summoning every aspect of creation to join them in their praises.

Armenian Christians sing this Canticle of the Boys in the Fiery Furnace before the start of the Christmas and Easter Celebrations, extolling the nearness of God who saves. The angel in the flames prefigures Christ, who is God with us in the flames of this life (name them!) and who at Easter in his rising overcomes the worst that sin can do - saving us even from the flames we might call hell. Orthodox believers attest that in the end, Christ's resurrection will vanquish hell itself.

As we pray this Canticle of the Boys in the Fiery Furnace, we might do so in solidarity with the Christians of Egypt who are trying bravely to stay standing in faith while in their own furnace of flames. The massacring of Christians is not unusual in Egypt. Churches are burned, Christians are driven from their neighborhoods. It is the intention of some Islamists to rid the country of Christians, while here in the land of freedom, we continue in our apostasy.

While the story of the boys in the fiery furnace can be found in most bibles, (Daniel 3) their hymn of praise is found only in Orthodox and Catholic bibles. Here is a translation of the Canticle taken from The Jerusalem Bible. We'll notice that the boys are identified by a different set of names. The litany is full of exuberant joy - an exuberant dancing joy in the midst of flames!


May you be blessed, Lord, God of our ancestors,
be praised and extolled for ever.
Blessed be your glorious and holy name,
praised and extolled for ever.
May you be blessed in the Temple of your sacred glory,
exalted and glorified above all forever;
blessed on the throne of your kingdom,
exalted above all, glorified for ever:
blessed in the expanse of the heavens,
exalted and glorified for ever.

Bless the Lord, all the Lord's creation:
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, angels of the Lord,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord heavens,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, all the waters above the heavens,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, powers of the Lord,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, sun and moon,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, stars of heaven,
praise and glorify him forever!

Bless the Lord, all rain and dew,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, every wind,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, fire and heat,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, cold and warmth,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, dew and snow-storm,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, frost and cold,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord nights and days,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, light and darkness,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, lightning and cloud,
praise and glorify him for ever!

Let the earth, bless the Lord;
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, mountains and hills,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, every plant that grows,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, springs of water,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, seas and rivers,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, whales and everything that moves in the waters,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, every kind of bird,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, all animals wild and tame,
praise and glorify him for ever!

Bless the Lord, all the human race,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, O Israel,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, priests,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, his servants,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the upright,
praise and glorify him for ever!
Bless the Lord, faithful, humble-hearted people,
praise and glorify him for eve!

Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, bless the Lord,
praise and glorify him for ever !
For he has rescued us from the Underworld,
he has saved us from the hand of Death,
he has snatched us from the burning fiery furnace,
he has drawn us from the heart of the flame!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his love is everlasting.
Bless the Lord, the God of gods, all who fear him,
give praise and thanks to him,
for his love is everlasting.

The link below is of an Armenian Deacon singing the Canticle of the Three Boys. It is very beautiful.

The Canticle of Daniel ~ The Three Youths in the Fiery Furnace

5 comments:

  1. With the situations in Egypt and now Syria, it is hard to imagine living as a Christian in those places. How blessed are we that we can pray freely in our own personal flames. God be with us all!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Pope John Paul II's favorite word was "solidarity". To pray in solidarity with people matters - even people far away. And to take nothing for granted. Everything is a gift.

    ReplyDelete
  3. We will pray as we continue to watch these world situations unfold. Thank you for your words, serving as a reminder that God is with us through all of these struggles. May that knowledge bring comfort and peace.

    ReplyDelete
  4. As always, your choice of icon is beautiful. The singing of the canticle by the Armenian Deacon added a whole new dimension. Mesmorizing to listen to. Everything is a gift indeed. Amen.

    ReplyDelete
  5. When I was in N. Africa, we used to welcome the Egyptian Orthodox Christians in our house for their mass gatherings which lasted for 2-3 hours or so. Listening to the link you've shared made me reminisce this part of my journey. The Egyptians have a special place in my heart and we do pray for them. We shall join Pope Francis' call for prayer on September 7.

    The next time I pray this Canticle, I will be more aware of the 'exuberant dancing joy' you've mentioned while the three young boys were in the midst of the flames.

    Thank you for this post Fr. Stephen.

    ReplyDelete