Judith: A Foreshadow of
Our Lady in Courage and Virtue
Editor’s Note: Our Lord said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not.” (Mark 10:14) The following is a fourth grade essay sent to us by the 10-year-old girl who wrote it. It centers on the Old Testament figure of Judith as a type of Our Blessed Mother. Indeed, as the ancient leaders of Israel invoked the intercession of Judith, we say to Our Lady: “Pray for us, for You are a holy woman.”
by Elizabeth Vennari
Holofernes, an Assyrian general marched against Israel under order of the king, Nebuchonezer. He burned all the cities and stole all their goods and killed all the people. When he and his army came to the city, Bethulia, he besieged it. He cut off their water supply including the secret springs inside the walls of Bethulia. Holofernes consulted his advisers and asked them if they knew Israel’s history.
Achior one of Holofernes’ advisers told him the whole history of Israel. He said that if the people were not in God’s favor, God would use the Assyrians to punish the Israelites. If they were in God’s favor, the Assyrians would be defeated. Holofernes was angry at Achior and did not want to believe him. He banished him to Bethulia saying, “When we defeat Bethulia, Achior will be among them that are defeated and we shall slit his sides.”
Achior went into the city and told them Holofernes’ plan. The people came to despair and decided to surrender. But Ozias the high priest ordered that they should wait five days and if during that time there was no help, at the end of five days they would surrender.
But in Bethulia there was a young widow named Judith. Her husband had died of heatstroke during the harvest season and had been dead for three years and six months. Judith heard that the people wanted to surrender. She went to the leaders of the city and told them that they were sinning greatly by not trusting the Lord. “Pray for us, for you are a holy woman,” the leaders begged her.
Judith went home and put ashes on her head as a sign of penance. She prayed that she would be able to help her people in this time of need. Then, she dressed in her finest clothes and with her maid, she went to the Assyrians and asked to see the general. Holofernes was attracted by her beauty. He commanded that she should be able to go and come as she wished.
For three nights, Judith prayed to God that He might help her in this dangerous work. On the fourth night Holofernes made a dinner for his friends. He invited Judith also. The general overcome with wine, fell into a deep sleep.
Judith waited until the army had left. She ordered her maid to stand outside the tent and keep watch. Then with tears in her eyes she prayed this prayer: “Strengthen me, O Lord God of Israel and in this hour look upon the works of my hands, that as Thou hast promised, Thou mayst raise up Jerusalem Thy city: and that I may bring to pass that which I have purposed, having a belief that it might be done by Thee.” (Judith 13:7)
Then she took Holofernes’ sword from the pillar that it was tied to and said, “Strengthen me O Lord God at this hour.” She struck twice upon his neck and rolled his headless body away and took his canopy and brought the head and canopy to her maid and bade her to put it in her bag.
And they two went out according to their custom, as it were to prayer, and they passed the camp, and having compassed the valley, they came to the gate of the city. And Judith from afar off cried to the watchmen upon the walls: “Open the gates for God is with us, Who hath shown His power in Israel.”
When they opened the gates to Judith and her maid they greeted her with torches and happy words for nobody had expected her to return to Bethulia. Judith climbed to a hill and asked for silence to be made. When there was nobody talking, Judith said, “Praise ye the Lord our God Who hath not forsaken them who have hope in Him. And He hath killed the enemy of His people by my hand this night.” And then she brought forth Holofernes’ head and told them that when she killed him, she was not harmed in doing so.
Then they called Achior and he came and Judith showed him the head of Holofernes and said that God had shown power over Israel and He had killed the head of His enemies by the hand of a woman. And Achior seeing the head of his general was astonished and swooned as soon as he saw it. But when he had recovered, he blessed the Lord and Judith.
Early in the morning, Judith told the people to hang up the head of Holofernes on the city walls. Then she told the people to take up their arms and go after the Assyrians.
The Assyrians heard a great noise and went to the tent of Holofernes and called out to him for no one dared go into the tent of the king’s head army general. So when Holofernes did not come to them, they sent Vageo into the tent. And Vageo returned saying: “The body of Holofernes lies there without any head. An Israelite woman has mixed with us.” The Assyrians then were filled with fear and without gathering any of their goods, they fled from the city in all different directions.
The Israelites went after them and killed all they could. And when Achior saw the faith of Judith, he circumcised himself and joined the Jews.
When they went to gather all the spoils, it took them over thirty days. Judith was given all of the belongings of Holofernes. They celebrated the victory of Judith for three months. It is still celebrated unto this day.
The story of Judith can represent Our Lady in four different ways.
First, the humility that she had; not showing off that she killed the enemy and being proud about what she did. No. She told everyone that God did it through the hand of a woman. She fully trusted in God and had no intention of displeasing Him.
Second, the holiness that she had; fasting and praying to do something dangerous.
Third, the courage she had; not weeping because she was afraid but weeping with humility, that was how they prayed in those days.
And fourth, she foreshadows Our Lady by crushing the head of the enemy as it says in Genesis 3:15: “She shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for Her heel.”
Pray that you shall be like Her in every way.