The last day of Ordinary Time - S. Habacuc


Portrait of the prophet Habacuc, Girolamo Romanino (1485-1566) [image source]

In these last few hours before the first Sunday of Advent, we still celebrate the memorial day of the martyr-virgin S. Bibiana and the Old Testament Saint and prophet, S. Habacuc. Bibiana was a Roman martyr who watched her parents, Flavianus and Dafrosa, being persecuted by the Roman authority and then her sister Demetria also. Read about her here. The church that was built in her honour still stands near the big railway station in Rome today and contains her relics and those of her mother and sister.

But the reason I'm putting this post up is to reproduce the third chapter of the prophecy of S. Habacuc. It is not well known that the Holy Church has throughout her history honoured significant figures in the history of the Hebrew people and the nation of Israel as Saints of God. Habacuc is one and his prophecy is one of the latter books of the Old Testament, designed to step over from the greater prophecies of such men as Isaiah and Jeremiah to the Gospel of Christ. As such, and being rather small in size, the prophecy of Habacuc is usually overlooked, until it appears suddenly in the readings at Holy Mass. Anyway, here is Habacuc's prayer for Ignorances. I particularly like the end, but I shall highlight other things that I greatly appreciate in a bold font:

O Lord, I have heard thy hearing, and was afraid.
O Lord, thy work, in the midst of the years bring it to life:
In the midst of the years thou shalt make it known: when thou art angry, thou wilt remember mercy. God will come from the south, and the holy one from mount Pharan:
His glory covered the heavens, and the earth is full of his praise.
His brightness shall be as the light; horns are in his hands: There is his strength hid:
Death shall go before his face. And the devil shall go forth before his feet.
He stood and measured the earth. He beheld, and melted the nations:
and the ancient mountains were crushed to pieces.
The hills of the world were bowed down by the journeys of his eternity.
I saw the tents of Ethiopia for their iniquity, the curtains of the land of Madian shall be troubled.
Wast thou angry, O Lord, with the rivers? or was thy wrath upon the rivers?
or thy indignation in the sea?
Who will ride upon thy horses: and thy chariots are salvation.
Thou wilt surely take up thy bow: according to the oaths which thou hast spoken to the tribes.
Thou wilt divide the rivers of the earth.
The mountains saw thee, and were grieved: the great body of waters passed away.
The deep put forth its voice: the deep lifted up its hands. The sun and the moon stood still in their habitation, in the light of thy arrows,
they shall go in the brightness of thy glittering spear.
In thy anger thou wilt tread the earth under foot:
in thy wrath thou wilt astonish the nations
Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people: for salvation with thy Christ.
Thou struckest the head of the house of the wicked:
thou hast laid bare his foundation even to the neck.
Thou hast cursed his sceptres, the head of his warriors,
them that came out as a whirlwind to scatter me.
Their joy was like that of him that devoureth the poor man in secret.
Thou madest a way in the sea for thy horses, in the mud of many waters.
I have heard and my bowels were troubled: my lips trembled at the voice
Let rottenness enter into my bones, and swarm under me.
That I may rest in the day of tribulation: that I may go up to our people that are girded.
For the fig tree shall not blossom: and there shall be no spring in the vines.
The labour of the olive tree shall fail: and the fields shall yield no food
the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls.
But I will rejoice in the Lord: and I will joy in God my Jesus.
The Lord God is my strength: and he will make my feet like the feet of harts
and he the conqueror will lead me upon my high places singing psalms.

The reason I like this passage so very much is because, despite the turmoil of his time, the prophet seems to have written all of it with a great joy in his heart. He has seen a great light and, whether he knows the future precisely or not, hope burns in his heart. He acknowledges God as omnipotent, a great force standing beyond and within history, death and the devil at his feet. If you are a Christian, you cannot help but see Christ in all of this, God himself all-conquering, even before you come to the third-last line, where the old translation from the Latin actually seems to name Christ. The sense of joy is contagious and this is undoubtedly the reason that the this book found its way to its current position at the end of the Hebrew Bible and before the Gospel of the Lord. Rejoice always, no matter the battle.