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The Everyday Prayer

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

Memory of Saint Charles Borromeo (†1584), bishop of Milan.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Maccabees 7, 26-50

The king sent Nicanor, one of his generals ranking as Illustrious and a bitter enemy of Israel, with orders to exterminate the people.

Reaching Jerusalem with a large force, Nicanor sent a friendly, yet treacherous, message to Judas and his brothers, as follows:

'Let us have no fighting between you and me; I shall come with a small escort for a peaceful meeting with you.'

He met Judas and they exchanged friendly greetings; the enemy, however, had made preparations to abduct Judas.

When Judas became aware of Nicanor's treacherous purpose in coming to see him, he took fright and refused any further meeting.

Nicanor then realised that his plan had been discovered, and took the field against Judas, to give battle near Caphar-Salama.

About five hundred of Nicanor's men fell; the rest took refuge in the City of David.

After these events Nicanor went up to Mount Zion. Some of the priests came out of the Holy Place with some elders, to give him a friendly welcome and show him the burnt offering being presented for the king.

But he ridiculed them, laughed at them, defiled them and used insolent language, swearing in his rage,

'Unless Judas is handed over to me this time with his army, as soon as I am safely back, I promise you, I shall burn this building down!'

Then he went off in a fury. At this, the priests went in again, and stood weeping in front of the altar and the Temple, saying,

'You have chosen this house to be called by your name, to be a house of prayer and petition for your people.

Take vengeance on this man and on his army, and let them fall by the sword; remember their blasphemies and give them no respite.'

Nicanor left Jerusalem and encamped at Beth-Horon, where he was joined by an army from Syria.

Judas, meanwhile, camped at Adasa with three thousand men, and offered this prayer,

'When the king's envoys blasphemed, your angel went out and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand of his men.

In the same way let us see you crush this army today, so that everyone else may know that this man has spoken blasphemously against your sanctuary: pass judgement on him as his wickedness deserves!'

The armies met in battle on the thirteenth of the month Adar, and Nicanor's army was crushed, he himself being the first to fall in the battle.

When Nicanor's soldiers saw him fall, they threw down their arms and fled.

The Jews pursued them a day's journey, from Adasa to the approaches of Gezer; they sounded their trumpets in warning as they followed them,

and people came out of all the surrounding Judaean villages to encircle the fugitives, who then turned back on their own men. All fell by the sword, not one being left alive.

Having collected the spoils and booty, they cut off Nicanor's head and the right hand he had stretched out in a display of insolence; these were taken and displayed within sight of Jerusalem.

The people were overjoyed and kept that day as a great holiday:

indeed they decided to celebrate it annually on the thirteenth of Adar.

For a short while Judaea enjoyed peace.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After the failure of Alcimus, Demetrius sent to Jerusalem Nicanor, who had fled with him from Rome. Nicanor, considered one of the most experienced Syrian generals, was put in charge of the new troop with the elephants of Demetrius’ army. The author notes that he “hated and detested Israel” (v. 26). He received the order “to destroy the people,” and went toward Jerusalem with a great army. After a first clash with Judas he sought the way of agreement and offered acceptable terms of peace, probably also promising Judah that he would succeed Alcimus in the high priesthood. The latter, fearful of the growing friendship between Judas and Nicanor, went to complain to the king, with the result that the king ordered that Judah be captured and sent in chains to Antioch, as it is written in 2 Maccabees (14:26-27). In order to capture Judah, Nicanor thought of a ploy to avoid the arousal of riots. But Judah sensed the change in attitude of Nicanor and fled, leaving him free reign of Jerusalem. Nicanor suspected that the temple priests betrayed him and threatened them if they did not deliver Judah: “But he mocked them and derided them and defiled them and spoke arrogantly, and in anger he swore this oath, ‘Unless Judas and his army are delivered into my hands this time, then if I return safely I will burn up this house.’” (vv. 34-35). The priests, in tears, called upon Heaven so that the temple may be saved: “You chose this house to be called by your name, and to be for your people a house of prayer and supplication. Take vengeance on this man and on his army, and let them fall by the sword; remember their blasphemies, and let them live no longer” (vv. 37-38). While Nicanor lined up his army to battle against the Jews, Judah stood before the Lord in prayer. He was aware that his true weapon was prayer and his true strength was the Lord. His faith led him to dare God; he reminded him what he had done with his people: “When the messengers from the king spoke blasphemy, your angel went out and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrians. So also crush this army before us today; let the rest learn that Nicanor has spoken wickedly against the sanctuary, and judge him according to this wickedness” (vv. 41-42). On the 13th of Adar (March, 160 BC), Judah went out to battle and won. Nicanor was killed and his troops fled to Gazara; but they were intercepted by the partisans of Judah, they were driven back to their pursuers and exterminated. The author concludes the episode emphasizing the joy of victory, especially because it meant the freedom to practice one’s faith and a time of peace after the harsh Syrian repression: “So the land of Judah had rest for a few days” ( v. 50).

Prayer for the Sick