The Holy See
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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 17


For great are your judgments, and hardly to be described; therefore the unruly souls were wrong.


For when the lawless thought to enslave the holy nation, shackled with darkness, fettered by the long night, they lay confined beneath their own roofs as exiles from the eternal providence.


For they who supposed their secret sins were hid under the dark veil of oblivion Were scattered in fearful trembling, terrified by apparitions.


For not even their inner chambers kept them fearless, for crashing sounds on all sides terrified them, and mute phantoms with somber looks appeared.


No force, even of fire, was able to give light, nor did the flaming brilliance of the stars succeed in lighting up that gloomy night.


1 But only intermittent, fearful fires flashed through upon them; And in their terror they thought beholding these was worse than the times when that sight was no longer to be seen.


And mockeries of the magic art were in readiness, and a jeering reproof of their vaunted shrewdness.


For they who undertook to banish fears and terrors from the sick soul themselves sickened with a ridiculous fear.


For even though no monstrous thing frightened them, they shook at the passing of insects and the hissing of reptiles,


And perished trembling, reluctant to face even the air that they could nowhere escape.


For wickedness, of its nature cowardly, testifies in its own condemnation, and because of a distressed conscience, always magnifies misfortunes.


For fear is nought but the surrender of the helps that come from reason;


and the more one's expectation is of itself uncertain, the more one makes of not knowing the cause that brings on torment.


2 So they, during that night, powerless though it was, that had come upon them from the recesses of a powerless nether world, while all sleeping the same sleep,


Were partly smitten by fearsome apparitions and partly stricken by their souls' surrender; for fear came upon them, sudden and unexpected.


Thus, then, whoever was there fell into that unbarred prison and was kept confined.


For whether one was a farmer, or a shepherd, or a worker at tasks in the wasteland, Taken unawares, he served out the inescapable sentence;


for all were bound by the one bond of darkness. And were it only the whistling wind, or the melodious song of birds in the spreading branches, Or the steady sound of rushing water,


or the rude crash of overthrown rocks, Or the unseen gallop of bounding animals, or the roaring cry of the fiercest beasts, Or an echo resounding from the hollow of the hills, these sounds, inspiring terror, paralyzed them.


For the whole world shone with brilliant light and continued its works without interruption;


Over them alone was spread oppressive night, an image of the darkness that next should come upon them; yet they were to themselves more burdensome than the darkness.



1 [6] Fires: that is, lightnings.

2 [14] Powerless: the nether world, the home of darkness, has no power against God, nor even against such men as do not submit to it of themselves; cf Wisdom 1:14-16.

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