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The Everyday Prayer

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

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Maccabees 12, 24-53

Jonathan learned that Demetrius' generals had returned with a larger army than before to make war on him.

He therefore left Jerusalem and went to engage them in the area of Hamath, not giving them the time to invade his own territory.

He sent spies into their camp, who told him on their return that the enemy were taking up positions for a night attack on the Jews.

At sunset, Jonathan ordered his men to keep watch with their weapons at hand, in readiness to fight at any time during the night, and posted advance guards all round the camp.

On learning that Jonathan and his men were ready to fight, the enemy took fright and, with quaking hearts, lit fires in their bivouac and decamped.

Jonathan and his men, watching the glow of the fires, were unaware of their withdrawal until morning,

and although Jonathan pursued them, he failed to overtake them, for they had already crossed the river Eleutherus.

So Jonathan wheeled round on the Arabs called Zabadaeans, beat them and plundered them;

then, breaking camp, he went to Damascus, thus crossing the whole province.

Simon, meanwhile, had also set out and had penetrated as far as Ascalon and the neighbouring towns. He then turned on Joppa and moved quickly to occupy it,

for he had heard of their intention to hand over this strong point to the supporters of Demetrius; he stationed a garrison there to hold it.

Jonathan, on his return, called a meeting of the elders of the people and decided with them to build fortresses in Judaea

and to heighten the walls of Jerusalem and erect a high barrier between the Citadel and the city, to cut the former off from the city and isolate it, to prevent the occupants from buying or selling.

Rebuilding the city was a co-operative effort: part of the wall over the eastern ravine had fallen down; he restored the quarter called Chaphenatha.

Simon, meanwhile, rebuilt Adida in the lowlands, fortifying it, and erecting gates with bolts.

Trypho's ambition was to become king of Asia, assume the crown, and overpower King Antiochus.

He was apprehensive that Jonathan might not allow him to do this, and might even make war on him, so he set out and came to Beth-Shean, in the hopes of finding some pretext for having him arrested and put to death.

Jonathan went out to intercept him, with forty thousand picked men in battle order, and arrived at Beth-Shean.

When Trypho saw him there with a large force, he hesitated to make any move against him.

He even received him with honour, commended him to all his friends, gave him presents and ordered his friends and his troops to obey him as they would himself.

He said to Jonathan, 'Why have you given all these people so much trouble, when there is no threat of war between us?

Send them back home; pick yourself a few men as your bodyguard, and come with me to Ptolemais, which I am going to hand over to you, with the other fortresses and the remaining troops and all the officials; after which, I shall take the road for home. This was my purpose in coming here.'

Jonathan trusted him and did as he said; he dismissed his forces, who went back to Judaea.

With him he retained three thousand men, of whom he left two thousand in Galilee, while a thousand accompanied him.

But as soon as Jonathan had entered Ptolemais, the people of Ptolemais closed the gates, seized him, and put all those who had entered with him to the sword.

Trypho sent troops and cavalry into Galilee and the Great Plain to destroy all Jonathan's supporters.

These, concluding that he had been taken and had perished with his companions, encouraged one another, marching with closed ranks and ready to give battle,

and when their pursuers saw that they would fight for their lives, they turned back.

All reached Judaea safe and sound, and there they lamented Jonathan and his companions, being very frightened indeed; all Israel was plunged into mourning.

The surrounding nations were all now looking for ways of destroying them: 'They have no leader,' they said, 'no ally; we have only to attack them now, and we shall blot out their very memory from all peoples.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This passage begins with the resumption of military operations. Jonathan, having learned of the intentions of Demetrius’ generals to invade Palestine, left Jerusalem and headed out to meet the enemy in the land of Hamath; meaning the great plain between Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon. Certain Jewish spies who had infiltrated the enemy camp revealed their plans to Jonathan who was thus able to organise his defence. Demetrius’ generals, aware of Jonathan’s strength, thought they could take him by surprise but, as soon as they learned that Jonathan was ready for battle, the soldiers faithful to Demetrius lost heart and fled under cover of night, with-drawing beyond the Eleutherus River. Although he followed in pursuit, Jonathan was unable to overtake them, but he did not cease his activities and continued to advance, determined to impose his military power over all his territory. In the meantime Simon had established himself on the coast in his own military district, and reached as far as Joppa which he conquered and garrisoned. Having returned in triumph to Jerusalem, Jonathan called the elders of the people in order to plan further defensive structures for Judea. He was particularly concerned about the defences of Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by Antiochus IV and Antiochus V and only partially rebuilt; he also decided to starve out the troops holding the citadel. Repair work was completed in the neighbourhood of Caphenatha, which seems to have been the “second neighbourhood”, located northeast of Jerusalem. In the meantime Trypho, hungry for power and busy plotting against King Antiochus VI, realised that in order to succeed in his attempts he needed to pluck back the growing power of Jewish leaders, especially that of Jonathan; and so he decided to neutralise the opposition by capturing Jonathan. He drew him into a trap and Jonathan - who often paid a bitter price for his ingenuousness - fell into it. Meeting with Trypho at Beth-shan, he allowed himself to be convinced to dismiss the large army he had brought with him. Trusting Trypho’s word, he let the vast majority of his soldiers go, keeping with him just one thousand men. But having entered Ptolemais, Trypho made Jonathan his prisoner and ordered the massacre of the soldiers who had accompanied him. He then sent his army into Galilee to defeat Jonathan’s men. However, having heard that Jonathan had been taken, they did not lose heart but resisted proudly and were able to powerfully oppose the enemy and organise a strategic retreat towards Judea. Having reached their homeland they all went into mourning for the loss of Jonathan whom, they thought, had been killed along with his men. In the meantime, news of Jonathan’s death caused all the surrounding nations to rise up against the Jews with the intention of defeating and abasing them: “All the nations around them tried to destroy them, for they said, ‘They have no leader or helper. Now therefore let us make war on them and blot out the memory of them from humankind” (53).

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets