Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus

“Now when the seventh month came, the whole people gathered as one in the square in front of the Water Gate, and they called upon Ezra the scribe to bring forth the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had commanded for Israel.” (Nehemiah 8:1.)

Saint Bede the Venerable comments on this verse from today’s First Reading:

“As Nehemiah was seeking to make plans and decide who should reside in the city that they had built, the seventh month arrived, for it was not far off. For since the wall had been completed on the twenty-fifth day of the sixth month, not more than five days remained until the beginning of the seventh month. The whole of this seventh month, from its first day until the twenty-second, was consecrated with ceremonies prescribed by the Law; when these had been duly celebrated, only then did he return with the leaders and common people to decide who should be residents of the rebuilt city. The point to note here is the devotion and also the like-mindedness of the people who as one person (that is, with one and the same faith and love) came together at the Lord’s temple; and they themselves asked their pontifex to bring the book and recount for them the commandments of the Law that they must observe, so that along with the rebuilt city, a structure of good works pleasing to God might spring up in case, just as before, neglect of religion should lead to the ruination of the city as well. And it is appropriate that the city was completed in the sixth month and that the people gathered in it to hear the Law in the seventh; for in the Law there are six days for working and a seventh for resting. And this, after we have done good work, is the form of our rest that is most beloved and most acceptable to the Lord: to abstain from servile work (that is, from sin) and devote ourselves to hearing and fulfilling his commandments with due diligence. This is why the Feast of Trumpets, by whose blast the people, amid their prayers and offerings, were more fervently moved to remembrance of the divine law, was placed in the beginning of this seventh month also.

Even today too, according to the spiritual meaning, the construction of the holy city should be followed by divine reading and the frequent sounding of trumpets, no doubt because it is necessary that when a people has been initiated into the heavenly sacraments they should also, as occasion requires, be carefully instructed by divine discourses how they should live. Now he says that the people assembled “in the square that is before the Water Gate.” I think that by the Water Gate is meant the gate in the courtyard of the priests that surrounded the temple on all its sides in a square, especially on the temple’s eastern side, where there was the bronze sea for washing the hands and feet of those going into the temple, the ten bronze washbasins for washing the victims and the altar of burnt offering between which and the temple Zechariah son of Berechiah was stoned to death. The people did not have permission to enter inside the gate of this court but only the priests and ministers of the Lord; the people were accustomed to stand outside of this gate and especially in the square that was at its eastern side, in order to listen to the word or to pray. Therefore, it is appropriate that the people gathered before the Water Gate, because they were to be given spiritual drink by their high priest from the streams of Scripture.” (On Ezra and Nehemiah, 3.)

O God,
Who open your Kingdom
to those who are humble and to little ones,
lead us to follow trustingly
in the little way of Saint Thérèse,
so that through her intercession
we may see your eternal glory revealed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen