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The Everyday Prayer

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

Memory of St. Jerome, doctor of the Church, who died in Bethlehem in 420. He translated the Bible into the Latin language. Prayer that the voice of the Scripture may be heard in every language.

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 1, 1-15

Alexander of Macedon son of Philip had come from the land of Kittim and defeated Darius king of the Persians and Medes, whom he succeeded as ruler, at first of Hellas.

He undertook many campaigns, gained possession of many fortresses, and put the local kings to death.

So he advanced to the ends of the earth, plundering nation after nation; the earth grew silent before him, and his ambitious heart swelled with pride.

He assembled very powerful forces and subdued provinces, nations and princes, and they became his tributaries.

But the time came when Alexander took to his bed, in the knowledge that he was dying.

He summoned his officers, noblemen who had been brought up with him from his youth, and divided his kingdom among them while he was still alive.

Alexander had reigned twelve years when he died.

Each of his officers established himself in his own region.

All assumed crowns after his death, they and their heirs after them for many years, bringing increasing evils on the world.

From these there grew a wicked offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes son of King Antiochus; once a hostage in Rome, he became king in the 107th year of the kingdom of the Greeks.

It was then that there emerged from Israel a set of renegades who led many people astray. 'Come,' they said, 'let us ally ourselves with the gentiles surrounding us, for since we separated ourselves from them many misfortunes have overtaken us.'

This proposal proved acceptable,

and a number of the people eagerly approached the king, who authorised them to practise the gentiles' observances.

So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, such as the gentiles have,

disguised their circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant, submitting to gentile rule as willing slaves of impiety.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

We begin with the first book of Maccabees. The author, an educated Jew of the time of the experiences of the three Maccabee brothers, delineates already in the first two chapters the perspective of the entire narration: the people of Israel defend the Law from the pollution of the neighbouring peoples who wish to impose pagan traditions on them. Therefore, the author praises the behaviour of the believers who refuse every concession to the Hellenic mentality, even to the point of death. The believers are seen as martyrs. The first book of Maccabees, which includes Israel’s history from 167 B.C. to 134 B.C., opens with a brief historical summary on Alexander the Macedonian (Alexander the Great) who had his empire stretching throughout the East, “until the ends of the Earth.” In order to combine the diverse peoples into one civilization, Alexander made Greek the official language of his empire and ordered that centres of Hellenist civilization be built, both building new cities and reconfiguring the existing ones to conform to the Greek model. Hellenism grew in theatres and gymnasiums, and temples and Greek divinities spread all over. As a way to demonstrate the hegemonic strength and cultural influence of Alexander, he observes, “the earth became quiet before him.” Yet pride for such enormous power would take possession of the Emperor’s heart, and divine justice would check him: Alexander fell sick and died. Beforehand, however, he divided up his kingdom between his officials, one of whom, Antiochus Epiphanes “a sinful root”, who among his enterprises, would eventually sack Jerusalem. During the reign of Antiochus, a few renegade men of Israel (literally “transgressors of the Law”) seduced other Jews into accepting the Hellenist attitude and lifestyle. “Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles round about us, for since we separated from them many disasters have come upon us.” The initiative of the Hellenisation of Jewish customs was also the work of a part of Jewish society who wished to be like all the citizens of the other nations. This sort of assimilation had already occurred Samuel’s time when the people wanted a king “like all other nations” (1 Sam 8:5, 20). In Jerusalem, a gymnasium was built that had at its core a “gymnasium”, a clear expression of Hellenistic culture. For the Jews, however, there was the issue of circumcision. While the Greeks would exercise and perform naked, the Jews sought to hide their circumcision. Such an attitude, however, meant hiding their covenant with God, which was the foundation of Israel’s existence. Defending their connection with God above everything else was the people of Israel’s reason for living. Only on the solid basis of their alliance with God could they have relationships with other peoples, otherwise they would jeopardize the very reason of being as a people of Israel. This is a lesson that speaks to us today when we adapt worldly attitudes that only seem to give in to ourselves. As believers, we are called to stay faithful to God and friends to men and women, especially to the poor.

Memory of the Poor

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 23 October
Memory of the Poor
Tuesday, 24 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 25 October
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 26 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 27 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 28 October
Memory of the Apostles
Sunday, 29 October
Liturgy of the Sunday