Today is the feast of St. Ezra or Esdras.
In the 5th c. BC, the Persian Artaxerxes allowed a scribe named Ezra to return to Jerusalem to restore the Temple worship and the law of Moses. At Jerusalem he finds that the people have fallen into pagan practices. Some years later, Nehemiah will go to Jerusalem.
2. Commemoratio santi Esdrae, sacerdotis et scribae, qui, tempore Artaxerxis regis Persarum, Babylone in Iudaeam rediens populum dispersum congregavit et omni studio enisus est, ut legem Domini investigaret, impleret et doceret in Israel.
You can give us your own perfect but still smooth and elegant version in English.
Here is a pic from A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament by John Bergsma and Brant Pitre published by Ignatius Press. It shows the variant divisions of books, across the different versions. As you can see, it’s complicated.
I warmly recommend this book, especially to my fellow priests.
Speaking of Artaxerxes…
I can’t help but mention one of the more enlightening but weirdest baroque operas I have ever seen, Artaserse by Leonardo Vinci after a libretto by Metastasio. It premiered in Rome in 1730 in a theater on the Via Margutta (which I wrote about during my last trip to Rome… the street, not the theater). In those days, women were forbidden on the stage, and so male sopranos and castrati, also en travesti, sang the roles.
Now for the weird.
There was a production of Artaserse in 2012 with an all male cast, of countertenors. It was an odd thing to watch, since the artistic approach seemed to blend in support aspects of Japanese Noh theater. This is reflected in makeup and the fact that you see the stagehands in black, as if they are “invisible” and you are taken out of the stage and into the wings, which becomes part of the stage as a result. US HERE – UK HERE
It is hard to imagine that a male, human voice can do some of these things.
You have to imagine an over-the-top baroque theater in Rome in the early 18th century, full of people with wigs and snuff boxes, perhaps wearing cloaks and masks.
The opera premiered during carnovale on 4 Feb 1730. The old Benedict XIII, Orsini, once a Dominican friar, would die on 21 February. He had dedicated the Spanish Steps built by the French as a gift to the city (and their own glory). He was a terrible ruler as Pope – may have been, as we know – and allowed a corrupt cardinal to run amok, later excommunicated by Clement XII. Benedict’s cause has been opened and closed and opened several times, including in 2017! He is instantly recognizable.
Try to get your mind around the fact that, in 1730, these singers, especially the famous castrati, were fanatically acclaimed, more than great rock stars of our day. People went nuts for them. Composers, such as Handel, wrote operas around their voices, to showcase them.
Here’s Franco Fagioli… yes, you read that right… with “Vo solcando un mar crud”.
Artaxerxes… Ezra… Artaserse… Fagioli. That’s how we got here.