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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 15, 1-24

Antiochus son of King Demetrius addressed a letter from the Mediterranean Isles to Simon, priest and ethnarch of the Jews, and to the whole nation;

this was how it read: 'King Antiochus to Simon, high priest and ethnarch, and to the Jewish nation, greetings.

'Whereas certain scoundrels have seized control of the kingdom of our fathers, and I propose to claim back the kingdom so that I may re-establish it as it was before, and whereas I have accordingly recruited very large forces and fitted out warships,

intending to make a landing in the country and to hunt down the men who have ruined it and laid waste many towns in my kingdom;

'I now, therefore, confirm in your favour all remissions of taxes granted to you by the kings my predecessors, as well as the waiving of whatever presents they may have conceded.

I hereby authorise you to mint your own coinage as legal tender for your own country.

I declare Jerusalem and the sanctuary to be free; all the arms you have manufactured and the fortresses you have built and now occupy may remain yours.

All debts to the royal treasury, present or future, are cancelled henceforth in perpetuity.

Furthermore, when we have won back our kingdom, we shall bestow such great honour on yourself, your nation and the sanctuary as will make your glory known throughout the world.'

Antiochus invaded the land of his ancestors in the year 174 and, since the troops all rallied to him, Trypho was left with few supporters.

Antiochus pursued the usurper, who took refuge in Dora on the coast,

knowing that misfortunes were piling up on him and that his troops had deserted him.

Antiochus pitched camp outside Dora with a hundred and twenty thousand fighting men and eight thousand cavalry.

He laid siege to the city while the ships closed in from the sea, so that he had the city under attack from land and sea, and allowed no one to go in or come out.

Numenius and his companions, meanwhile, arrived from Rome, bringing letters addressed to various kings and states, in the following terms:

'Lucius, consul of the Romans, to King Ptolemy, greetings.

'The Jewish ambassadors have come to us as our friends and allies to renew our original friendship and alliance in the name of the high priest Simon and the Jewish people.

They have brought a golden shield worth a thousand mina.

Accordingly, we have seen fit to write to various kings and states, warning them neither to molest the Jewish people nor to attack either them or their towns or their country, nor to ally themselves with any such aggressors.

We have seen fit to accept the shield from them.

If, therefore, any scoundrels have fled their country to take refuge with you, hand them over to Simon the high priest, to be punished by him according to their law.'

The consul sent the same letter to King Demetrius, to Attalus, Ariarathes and Arsaces,

and to all states, including Sampsames, the Spartans, Delos, Myndos, Sicyon, Caria, Samos, Pamphylia, Lycia, Halicarnassus, Rhodes, Phaselis, Cos, Side, Arados, Gortyn, Cyprus and Cyrene.

They also drew up a copy for Simon the high priest.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The text continues the narration of some Judean events as they intertwine with the history of Syria. It tells of Antiochus rising to the throne to replace his brother Demetrius II, who had been imprisoned by the Parthians. He had grown up in Side, in Pamphylia, and as soon as he seizes power, so as to receive the support of the Jewish people in his claim to the throne of Antioch, the king writes to Simon, acknowledging all the titles and concessions previously attained by the Jewish people from the kings of Syria (1-9). Antiochus was closely following the policies of his father and his brother: he granted great concessions in times when he needed allies, and then denied his promises as soon as the danger disappears. The Jews had also become increasingly aware of their independence de facto and were aware that the concessions were a concrete sign of this, including the possibility to mint coin, which is mentioned here for the first time (6). The entire Judea was in Judean power, and it eluded Antiochus’ control. Trypho had tried to seize all power during the imprisonment of Demetrius, by fighting against the princes of the royal family who ruled the various provinces of the empire. Due to his tyranny, however, many troops had abandoned him and rejoined in Seleucia, at the court of Cleopatra, Demetrius’ wife. In order to prevent the city from being forsaken to Trypho, Cleopatra called upon Antiochus, offering him her hand and the kingdom. Landing in Seleucia, Antiochus found the troops ready to join his side and he attacked Trypho, who was forced to flee towards Phoenicia and take shelter in Dor, a city close to the Carmel. Here the author chooses to interrupt the history of the siege of Dor initiated by Antiochus, in order to present the results of Simon’s embassy to Rome, with the homage of a golden shield for the Roman Senate. The story seems to underline the difference between the Roman benevolence for the Jewish people and the ingratitude of the Seleucid sovereigns. The letter was probably written by Consul Lucius Calpurnius Piso. The Roman recommendations to Ptolemy and the other addressees go beyond the mere renewal of friendship and alliance. The Romans authoritatively intervene upon peoples alien to the alliance – the letter mentions them in a list – pronouncing themselves in favour of the Jewish people, and recommending not to harm them by fighting them directly or aiding their enemies. The words give the neighbouring peoples a hint of Rome’s care for Simon as a person and for the Jewish people. This is an example of global strategy directed at introducing a peaceful order that Rome could now enforce.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets