Leonard, Hermit, 6th century
William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, Teacher of the Faith, 1944
In the Lord have I taken refuge; how then can you say to me,
‘Flee like a bird to the hills, for see how the wicked bend the bow and fit their arrows to the string, to shoot from the shadows at the true of heart. When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?’
The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold, his eyelids try every mortal being. The Lord tries the righteous as well as the wicked, but those who delight in violence his soul abhors. Upon the wicked he shall rain coals of fire and burning sulphur; scorching wind shall be their portion to drink. For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds, and those who are upright shall behold his face.
Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?
Who may rest upon your holy hill?
Whoever leads an uncorrupt life and does the thing that is right;
Who speaks the truth from the heart and bears no deceit on the tongue;
Who does no evil to a friend and pours no scorn on a neighbour; in whose sight the wicked are not esteemed, but who honours those who fear the Lord.
Whoever has sworn to a neighbour and never goes back on that word;
Who does not lend money in hope of gain, nor takes a bribe against the innocent;
Whoever does these things shall never fall.
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you his angels; praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you stars of light.
Praise him, heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the Lord; for he commanded and they were created.
He made them fast for ever and ever; he gave them a law which shall not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps; fire and hail, snow and mist, tempestuous wind, fulfilling his word; mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars; wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and birds on the wing; kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the world; young men and women, old and young together; let them praise the name of the Lord. For his name only is exalted, his splendour above earth and heaven. He has raised up the horn of his people and praise for all his faithful servants, the children of Israel, a people who are near him.
King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counsellors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counsellors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the herald proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.’ Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshipped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘O king, live for ever! You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O king. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.’
Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, ‘Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?’
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defence to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.’
‘And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:
‘I know your works; you have a name for being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is at the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. Yet you have still a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
‘And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens:
‘I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Almighty and eternal God, you have kindled the flame of love in the hearts of the saints: grant to us the same faith and power of love, that, as we rejoice in their triumphs, we may be sustained by their example and fellowship; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.