Saturday, August 16, 2008

Feminism in the Ancient Roman Rite

Looking at my 1962 Missal for the Feast of the Assumption, I was struck by one of the most feminist passages in the Missal of John XXIII, which is missing from the from the modern Lectionary.

from the book of Judith 13. 22-25; 15; 10

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, who hath directed thee to cutting off the head of the prince of our enemies. Because he hath so magnified the 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....Thou art the glory of jerusalem, thou art the joy of israel, thou art the honour of our people.

The painting is the Naples version of "Judith Slaying Holofernes". I have seen this painting when it came to Sydney in 2004, and the original, with the figures life size, comes over a lot more disturbing than when you see an electronic copy. It was meant to shock when it was painted in 1620, and it is still shocking in the 21st century. That is a sign of great art.

Mind you the reading from the book of Revelations in the modern rite about the woman of the sun is probably more relevant, but I assume that the compiler of the old lectionary wanted to emphasise the continuity of great women through history, and that Judith was a precurser to Mary in driving out evil from the midst of the people of God. This is a good reason, as I have mentioned before of keeping the two lectionaries side by side, equally valid.

1 comment:

Summa Theologica said...

I'm not sure that feminism is the right word...