Memorial of St. Daniel and The Three Youths

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The art above is “Golden Calf” by Damien Hirst.

The Byzantine calendar lists the Three Youths by their Hebrew names, rather than by the Babylonian names used in the account from Daniel, chapter 3. Most of us know them as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Daniel’s book brought comfort and solace to people who were daily dying for their faith.

Though the book of Daniel is set in Babylon, under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar, it was actually written several hundred years after Nebuchadnezzar’s time, during the terrible reign of King Antiochus IV, a Syrian who had taken over Palestine and then set out to destroy the Jews and their practices. Daniel covers the same period as the two books of Maccabees, though Daniel is written in a kind of code intelligible only to its intended Hebrew audience. Maccabees are written as an historical account.

Take the time today to read, or re-read this story. Daniel and the three young men are Hebrews in exile from their homes. They are chosen to serve the king and his court. The king demands that the three young men eat food forbidden to them by Hebrew law. He demands that they fall down and worship a golden statue he has erected.

The king is enraged by their refusal to obey him. He orders them cast into a fiery furnace. They answer,

There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, you should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you have set up. (Daniel 3:16-18)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace by Lois Cordelia

(The art above is “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace” by Lois Cordelia, loiscordelia.com)

Nebuchadnezzar knows only obedience through fear. If he is not obeyed, there will be consequences. The three young men say, whatever the consequences, they will obey the living and true God. Not because he is powerful (though he is), but because he alone is the Lord. They will serve the truth and follow God wherever that leads them, even into the fire.

Daniel’s book brought comfort and solace to people who were daily dying for their faith.

It has also produced some of the finest American gospel music ever written and sang. Listen to The Larks sing the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego here:

And Louis Armstrong’s version here: