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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

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Maccabees 13, 31-53

Now Trypho, betraying the trust of young King Antiochus, put him to death.

He usurped his throne, assuming the crown of Asia, and brought great havoc on the country.

Simon built up the fortresses of Judaea, surrounding them with high towers, great walls and gates with bolts, and stocked these fortresses with food.

He also sent a delegation to King Demetrius, to get him to grant the province a remission, since all Trypho did was to despoil.

King Demetrius replied to his request in a letter framed as follows:

'King Demetrius to Simon, high priest and Friend of Kings, and to the elders and nation of the Jews, greetings.

'It has pleased us to accept the golden crown and the palm you have sent us, and we are disposed to make a general peace with you, and to write to the officials to grant you remissions.

Everything that we have decreed concerning you remains in force, and the fortresses you have built may remain in your hands.

We pardon all offences, unwitting or intentional, hitherto committed, and remit the crown tax you now owe us; and whatever other taxes were levied in Jerusalem are no longer to be levied.

If any of you are suitable for enrolment in our bodyguard, let them be enrolled, and let there be peace between us.'

The gentile yoke was thus lifted from Israel in the year 170,

when our people began engrossing their documents and contracts: 'In the first year of Simon, eminent high priest, commander-in-chief and ethnarch of the Jews'.

About that time Simon laid siege to Gezer, surrounding it with his troops. He constructed a mobile tower, brought it up to the city, opened a breach in one of the bastions and took it.

The men in the mobile tower sprang out into the city, where great confusion ensued.

The citizens, accompanied by their wives and children, mounted the ramparts with their garments torn and loudly implored Simon to make peace with them:

'Treat us', they said, 'not as our wickedness deserves, but as your mercy prompts you.'

Simon came to terms with them and stopped the fighting; but he expelled them from the city, purified the houses which contained idols, and then made his entry with songs of praise.

He banished all impurity from it, settled in it people who observed the Law, and having fortified it, built a residence there for himself.

The occupants of the Citadel in Jerusalem, prevented as they were from coming out and going into the countryside to buy and sell, were in desperate need of food, and numbers of them were being carried off by starvation.

They begged Simon to make peace with them, and he granted this, though he expelled them and purified the Citadel from its pollutions.

The Jews made their entry on the twenty-third day of the second month in the year 171, with acclamations and carrying palms, to the sound of lyres, cymbals and harps, chanting hymns and canticles, since a great enemy had been crushed and thrown out of Israel. Simon made it a day of annual rejoicing.

He fortified the Temple hill on the Citadel side, and took up residence there with his men.

Since his son John had come to manhood, Simon appointed him general-in-chief, with his residence in Gezer.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Continuing his series of crimes, Trypho had his protégée Antiochus VI killed and proclaimed himself king of Asia; that is, of the Seleucid empire. In the meantime Simon took defensive measures as a prelude to changing sides: Trypho had imposed taxes which were literally stripping Judea bare, and he had killed Jonathan, so Simon decided to pass to Demetrius’ side and, as a first step, sent ambassadors with the gift of a golden crown and a palm. Demetrius, who was himself in a difficult situation, was happy at the prospect of an alliance with Simon and granted him all those favours that could guarantee his friendship. In his letter Demetrius repeats many of the concessions he had previously granted, including exemption from the annual tribute. This amounted to removing the “pagan yoke”; in other words, a de facto independence. It was 142 BC, and from that year the Jewish people began a new era named after Simon who was given three titles (“high priest, commander, and leader of the Jews”) to underscore the fullness of his religious, political and military authority. Simon acted immediately with great tactical and political skill, eradicating all hotbeds of Syrian resistance which undermined his kingdom from within. He conquered Gazara, the city that had been fortified by Bacchides and that hindered the union of Judea with the costal region. The inhabitants of the city, especially the women and children, went up to the walls and tore their clothes in sign of penance, pleading for Simon’s mercy and saying: “Do not treat us according to our wicked acts but according to your mercy” (46). This prayer is full of biblical allusions which are normally referred only to God. In this case, however, the women made this extraordinary invocation from the depth of their being, as if to express the hope that lies in the hearts of all women, especially when defending the life of their little ones. Simon was moved by what he heard and did not massacre the inhabitants. He did, however, drive them out to ensure the security of the people of Judea was not in any way compromised. Simon also had another victory, this time at the citadel of Jerusalem. The siege had exhausted the defenders and they pleaded to Simon to accept their surrender, which he granted. But they too were forced to leave, in order ensure the unity of the people without pagan infiltrations. The liberation of the citadel - in early June of the year 141 BC - was experienced as a historic moment and it was decided to be celebrated it every year. Finally, Simon was able to live in Jerusalem and to raise his son John there, eventually making him commander of the army with a view to his succession.

Sunday Vigil