Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sirach 23

*A Prayer for Wisdom*
1. O Lord, Father and Master of my life,
Do not leave me to their counsel,
Nor let me fall because of them.+

2. Who will set whips over my thoughts
And the discipline of wisdom over my heart,
So they may not spare me in my errors, nor neglect me in my sins?

3. Lest my mistakes be multiplied
And my sins abound.
Then I would not fall before my adversaries,
And my enemy would not rejoice over me.

4. O Lord, Father and the God of my life, do not give me haughty eyes,

5. But turn me away from evil desire.

6. Do not let gluttony or lust overcome me,
Nor give me up to a shameless soul.

*Warning to Children*
7. My children, hear the teaching of my mouth,
For he who keeps it will not be conquered.

8. A sinner will be overtaken by his lips,
And a slanderer and arrogant man will be made to stumble by them.

9. Do not accustom your mouth to vows,
Not make a habit of using the name of the Holy One.+

10. For as a servant who is continually beaten will not lack bruises,
So also he who makes a vow and continually names the Holy One
Will never be cleansed from sin.

11. A man who swears many oaths will be filled with lawlessness,
And that plague will not depart from his house.
If he offends, his sin will be on him,
And if he overlooks it, he has sinned doubly.
If he swears in vain, he will not be declared righteous,
For his house will be filled with trouble.

12. There is a way of speaking comparable to death.
May it not be found in the inheritance of Jacob;
For all these things will be far from godly,
And they will not be involved in sins.

13. Do not accustom your mouth to lewd expressions,
For this is sinful speech.

14. Remember your father and mother
When you sit in council with great men
Lest you forget yourself in their presence
And by habit act foolishly.
Then you will wish you had never been born,
And you will curse the day of your birth.

15. A man accustomed to abusive words
Will never discipline himself as long as he lives.

*Men of Sin*
16. Two kinds of men multiply sins,
And a third kind will bring down wrath;

17. A soul heated like a burning fire
Will not be quenched until it is consumed;
A man whose whole body is given to fornication
Will not cease until the fire burns out.
To a man who is a fornicator, all bread is sweet.
He will not grow weary until he dies.

18. The man who transgresses against his marriage bed
Says to himself, "Who sees me?
Darkness encircles me.
The walls of my house hide me,
And no one sees me.
Why should I be afraid?
The Most High will not remember my sins."

19. His fear is the eyes of men.
Yet he does not know that the eyes of the Lord
Are ten thousand times brighter than the sun
And look upon all the ways of men,
And observe even the secret places.

20. Before all things were created,
Everything was known to Him,
And the end of all things is also known to Him.+

21. This adulterer will be punished in the city streets,
And where he does not suspect it, he will be seized.

*Women of Sin*
22. So also the woman who forsook her husband
And brought in an heir by another man.

23. For she first disobeyed the law of the Most High;
And second, she transgressed against her husband;
And third, in her fornication she committed adultery
And bore children by a stranger.

24. She will be brought before the assembly,
And there shall be a visitation of her children.

25. Her children will not take root,
And her branches will not bear fruit.

26. She will leave behind her memory as a curse,
And her disgrace will not be blotted out.

27. Those left behind will know
There is nothing better than the fear of the Lord;
And there is nothing sweeter
Than to give heed to the Lord's commandments.

+23:1-6 - It appears this prayer may have formed the basis for the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian, the prayer of repentance which Orthodox Christians pray repeatedly throughout Great Lent, though that prayer is simpler and shorter.

+23:9 - Sirach's warning reflects the serious matter of making vows and not fulfilling them. To break a vow made in the name of the Holy One would be to take God's name in vain (Ex 20:7).

+23:20 - This verse is very clear on God's foreknowledge: all things are known to Him.

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