All Israel, too, cried out with all their strength, for death was staring them in the face.
Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the Lord. Taking off her splendid garments, she put on garments of distress and mourning. In place of her precious ointments she covered her head with dirt and ashes. She afflicted her body severely; all her festive adornments were put aside, and her hair was wholly disheveled.
Then she prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, saying: “My Lord, our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.”
Divine Office, Office of Readings for October 20, Esther 4C:11-14
I was very taken with this passage because I saw a powerful and symbolic undressing of the soul in preparation for meeting with the Lord. I’m certain that Queen Esther took off her outer royal garments and covered herself with dirt and ashes, laying herself out practically naked before the Lord, to show Him the state of her soul, in anguish. She knew to present herself as nothing before God so that she could beg mercy for her people.
It’s a very powerful metaphor for the state of my soul. I’m wondering what I need to peel off from myself in order to see it in its true state. That kind of undressing requires humility and courage, to lay oneself bare, and make oneself truly vulnerable.
Queen Esther received the answer she desired from her heartfelt prayer to the Lord and her people were spared. They were very fortunate to have such a wise ruler who understood the need to lay herself bare before her Creator.
It leaves me much to think about as I consider the casual way in which I approach the Lord or do my examination of conscience. This story is a great reminder of my need to take the time to appear naked before my God.