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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memory of the apostle Andrew

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If we die with him, we shall live with him,
if with him we endure, with him we shall reign.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Ezra 1,1-11

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia -- to fulfil the word of Yahweh spoken through Jeremiah -Yahweh roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom:

'Cyrus king of Persia says this, "Yahweh, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah.

Whoever among you belongs to the full tally of his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem, in Judah, and build the Temple of Yahweh, God of Israel, who is the God in Jerusalem.

And let each survivor, wherever he lives, be helped by the people of his locality with silver, gold, equipment and riding beasts, as well as voluntary offerings for the Temple of God which is in Jerusalem." '

Then the heads of families of Judah and of Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, in fact all whose spirit had been roused by God, prepared to go and rebuild the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem;

and all their neighbours gave them every kind of help: silver, gold, equipment, riding beasts and valuable presents, in addition to their voluntary offerings.

Furthermore, King Cyrus handed over the articles belonging to the Temple of Yahweh which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his god.

Cyrus king of Persia handed them over to Mithredath the treasurer who checked them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.

The inventory was as follows: thirty gold dishes; one thousand silver dishes, twenty-nine repaired;

thirty gold bowls; a thousand silver bowls, four hundred and ten damaged; one thousand other articles.

In all, five thousand four hundred articles of gold and silver. Sheshbazzar took all these with him when he led the exiles back from Babylon to Jerusalem.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If we die with him, we shall live with him,
if with him we endure, with him we shall reign.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The word of the Lord is never pronounced in vain. This is what the beginning of the book of Ezra affirms. Even through the work of the foreign king Cyrus the prophetic word can find fulfilment, as he becomes the instrument in God’s hands to free the people of Israel from exile so that they may return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. This king of the Persians had conquered and subdued Babylonia, the ancient empire responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple and the deportation of the Israelites. Isaiah had already glimpsed in him God’s envoy: "Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him..." (Is 45:1). Hence, he is presented as the chosen one, as God’s messiah. God does not act exclusively for Israel, but extends himself to all peoples. God’s word performs miracles in whomever he desires. To see in a foreign king the God of Israel’s envoy must have been surprising not only to the prophet’s contemporaries, but also to the readers of the book of Ezra. The main task to which he is called to undertake concerns the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The temple and the Torah—the divine teaching—are the heart of post-exilic Israel. Indeed it was in the temple that one could encounter the Lord, turn to him in prayer and offer sacrifices. Israel needed a physical space to encounter God just as we, too, need a place for such an encounter. In the Lord’s house each person can turn to the Lord personally and communally with sisters and brothers, invoking God’s mercy and receiving forgiveness. The exiled community shares a common concern for the temple. Everyone offers valuable objects because God’s presence is the most precious thing that anyone could possibly have. For this reason the whole beginning of the book will be dedicated to the work of the temple’s reconstruction.

Memory of the Apostles