Saturday, 15 October 2011

Susanna the Righteous

Icon, Susanna the Righteous, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011
The story of Susanna or Shoshana (Hebrew: שׁוֹשַׁנָּה) is included in the Book of Daniel (see chapter 13 in a Catholic or Orthodox Bible). I have always loved this story. It is a story that particularly speaks to women and I have thought it very sad that the Protestants decided to remove it from the canon of Scripture. This means that Protestant women cannot take solace in this story about a woman who chooses to obey God’s law rather than give into the threats of abusive men.

As the story goes, an extremely beautiful Hebrew wife named Susanna is falsely accused by lecherous voyeurs. As she bathes in her garden, having sent her attendants away, two lustful elders secretly observe the lovely Susanna. When she makes her way back to her house, they accost her, threatening to claim that she was meeting a young man in the garden unless she agrees to have sex with them. She refuses to be blackmailed and says, in effect, that she would rather go to her death than to break God’s commandments. The elders make good on their threat to accuse her and Susanna is arrested and about to be put to death for promiscuity when a young man named Daniel interrupts the proceedings, shouting that the elders should be questioned to prevent the death of an innocent person.

After being separated, the two men are questioned about details of what they saw but disagree about the tree under which Susanna supposedly met her lover. In the Greek text, the name of each tree and the sentence Daniel imposes actually form puns. I like puns very much, but I would have to be able to read Greek in order to appreciate these so I will leave the puns to the Greek scholars. So, on with the story. The first elder says they were under a Mastic tree and Daniel says that an angel stands ready to cut him in two. The second says they were under an Evergreen Oak tree and Daniel says that an angel stands ready to saw him in two. The great difference in size between a Mastic and an Oak makes the elders' lie plain to all the observers. The false accusers are put to death instead of Susanna and virtue triumphs.

In the icon, I wanted to show Susanna looking as she might have looked before Daniel came on the scene -- knowing she was innocent, but sadly resigned to the sentence she expects to receive.  The text on the scroll in her hand is from Daniel 13:42-43 and is what Susanna has to say in her defense when it looks as though she will shortly be put to death.



There are those moments in life when the Act of Contrition comes instantly to your lips -- you don't even have to try to remember the words that you memorized in Grade 2!  Events such as when those little oxygen masks drop down suddenly during your transatlantic flight or when you put your foot on the brake pedal as you start down a steep incline only to realize that nothing is happening, you are just going faster and faster.  Well, hopefully, none of us have been in any such situations recently.  What brought this to mind was an email I received recently with some interesting photos in it of situations where one might be saying "God, help me" or "O, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee..."  Let me show you some of them and you will see what I mean.

"HELP!"  "O, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee and I detest all my sins..." 

"...because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell..." "HELP!"

"HELP!"  "...but most of all because they offend you, my God, who art all good..."

"...and deserving of all my love and I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace,..."  "HELP!"

"... to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen"   "HELP!"  "SOMEBODY, HELP"



Suki is sound asleep after downing a huge supper.  At the moment I cannot think of anything new that she has done these past few days.

Of course, I am not able to think too well at this point.  I am still battling a migraine that started yesterday so just the fact that I have been able to pull this posting together is almost a miracle in and of itself.

So, for tonight, I think I will just declare this section closed.


By the way, I should have saved the icon of St. Teresa for today since today is the feast of St. Teresa of Jesus (or Avila).  However, I wasn't thinking far enough into the future, I guess.  So, in honour of St. Teresa, I ask her to pray for us as we remember her on her feast day.

May the peace of God be with us all.

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