Peter Constantine reads
from Judith: Beheading Holofernes
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Infernal Holofernes, illustrious king, wild with wine raged and roared, hollered and howled, unruly in carousing. Far and wide the sons of man heard his stalwart storming haughtily summoning his warriors to raise their horns of wine. The stern strewer of treasures drowned his warriors in wine till they sank into stupor, the wicked fiend plying them with drink till they lay as in death, shedding their spirits. Thus the king goaded his valiant warriors, the children of man, late into darkness. Steeped in evil, he ordered the maiden with rings and bracelets brought to his bed. And the shield-bearers did as their evil king bade, entering the tent where Judith lingered, wisest of women, and the warriors took the most beautiful of maidens to where Holofernes, despised by our Savior, rested at night. A wondrous fly-nit, all of gold covered the bed of the mighty king, so he could look on every man but no son of man could look on him, unless the lord commanded him closer. Swiftly they brought wise Judith to his bed and went, stouthearted, to tell their lord the holy woman was now in his lair. The resplendent ruler rejoiced in triumph eager to stain the radiant maiden with foul filth and terrible sin. But our Celestial Judge, our Glorious Shepherd, God our King, would not consent. The lustful lord arrived with his warriors, seeking in evil his bed of death. A terrible end awaited the king, toward which he had striven all his life walking beneath the roof of clouds. Senseless with drink he fell on his bed, and the wine-sated warriors marched from the tent, leaving the mighty false king-faithed king, the tyrannical torturer, in his last place of rest. Now our Great God’s glorious maiden resolved to destroy the filthy fiend before he awoke in foul lust. God’s true servant with braided locks seized from its sheath a shining sword sharpened in the clash of storming battles, and called up the Great Guardian of Heaven, naming His name, Lord of all who dwell on earth, and uttered these works: “God of Creation, Spirit of Comfort, All-Powerful Son, Triumphant Trinity, I crave Your mercy in my hour of need. Fiery flames rage in my heart but my thoughts are heavy with grief and gloom. Grant me, Great Lord, victory and faith, that I may cut down this bringer of death, Great Giver of Glory, avenge the evil grieving my mind and burning my heart.” And our highest Judge filled her with courage, as with all on earth who seek His help praying in wise and humble faith. Renewed with hope, her spirit soared, and she seized the heathen by the hair drawing him toward her to his shame, skillfully placing the miserable man, the fiendish foe, for her deadly deed. Then Judith of the braided locks s truck the ruthless robber, formidable foe, with flashing sword, slicing his neck. Senseless and stunned, wine-drunk and wounded, he was not dead, not wholly lifeless, so the unwavering woman struck again, brought down her sword on the idolatrous dog and his head went rolling over the ground. The king’s coarse carcass lay unstirring as his spirit tumbled down death’s sharp cliff, hampered and humbled, tortured and tormented, forever fettered in a tangle of serpents, trapped in the eternal fires of Hell.