A canticle for a time of persecution

 Martyrdom today takes places not only through violence, but through mockery and irony - Pope John Paul said in his general audience yesterday. "We know that the persecutor does not always assume the violent and macabre countenance of the oppressor, but often is pleased to isolate the righteous with mockery and irony," the Pope told more than 10,000 pilgrims in the Pope Paul VI Hall. The Holy Father was reflecting on the canticle of the three young Israelites in the Book of Daniel who sang in the fiery furnace. "Despite the extreme danger, when the flames were already licking their bodies, they found the strength 'to praise, glorify and bless God,' certain that the Lord of the cosmos and history would not abandon them to death and nothingness," John Paul II said. He called this canticle, "a magnificent hymn in praise of God's transcendent glory." The Pope recalled that this is the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, "three young Jewish men, placed by the author in the historical context of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the terrible Babylonian sovereign who annihilated the holy city of Jerusalem in 486 and banished the Israelites 'along the rivers of Babylon'." The canticle is similar to a torch that brings light to the darkness at the time of persecution and oppression, a time that has often been repeated in the history of Israel and the very history of Christianity." "Sung by the three young men condemned to the fiery furnace for their fidelity to the God of Israel," he said, "the Canticle evokes the holiness and power of the Creator, Who dwells among His people in Jerusalem. This prophetic celebration of God's closeness to His People prefigures the coming of the Son of God, Who in the fullness of time 'took flesh and dwelt among us'. In her liturgy the Church in every age takes up this song of gratitude for God's merciful love, which guides all history to its appointed end." John Paul II said that "in their blessing, the three young men praise the Lord all powerful, who is in heaven, but also the God who is close to His people, who wished to inhabit 'his holy temple of glory'." source: VIS

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