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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 9, 1-22

Demetrius, hearing that Nicanor and his army had fallen in battle, sent Bacchides and Alcimus a second time into Judaea, and with them the right wing of his army.

They took the road to Galilee and besieged Mesaloth in Arbela, and captured it, putting many people to death.

In the first month of the year 152, they encamped outside Jerusalem;

they then moved on, making their way to Beer-Zaith with twenty thousand foot and two thousand horse.

Judas lay in camp at Elasa, with three thousand picked men.

When they saw the huge size of the enemy forces they were terrified, and many slipped out of the camp, until no more than eight hundred of the force were left.

With battle now inevitable, Judas realised that his army had melted away; he was aghast, for he had no time to rally them.

Yet, dismayed as he was, he said to those who were left, 'Up! Let us face the enemy; we may yet have the strength to fight them.'

His men tried to dissuade him, declaring, 'We have no strength for anything but to escape with our lives this time; then we can come back with our brothers to fight them; by ourselves we are too few.'

Judas retorted, 'That I should do such a thing as run away from them! If our time has come, at least let us die like men for our countrymen, and leave nothing to tarnish our reputation.'

The army marched out of camp and drew up, facing the enemy. The cavalry was drawn up in two squadrons; the slingers and archers marched in the van of the army, and all the best fighters were put in the front rank;

Bacchides was on the right wing. The phalanx advanced from between the two squadrons, sounding the trumpets; the men on Judas' side also blew their trumpets,

and the earth shook with the noise of the armies. The engagement lasted from morning until evening.

Judas saw that Bacchides and the main strength of his army lay on the right; all the stout-hearted rallied to him,

and they crushed the right wing, pursuing them as far as the Azara Hills.

But when the Syrians on the left wing saw that the right had been broken, they turned and followed hot on the heels of Judas and his men to take them in the rear.

The fight became desperate, and there were many casualties on both sides.

Judas himself fell, and the remnant fled.

Jonathan and Simon took up their brother Judas and buried him in his ancestral tomb at Modein.

All Israel wept and mourned him deeply and for many days they repeated this dirge.

'What a downfall for the strong man, the man who kept Israel safe!'

The other deeds of Judas, the battles he fought, the exploits he performed, and all his titles to greatness have not been recorded; but they were very many.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After the parenthesis on the agreement of Judas with the Romans, the narrative resumes in chapter nine with the decision of Demetrius I to deliver a strong attack against Judas. Evidently, the political defeat of Nicanor had greatly annoyed him, and perhaps he came to know of the agreement with the Romans. Therefore he prepared a large army, entrusting it to the leadership of general Bacchides, governor of the region, and to the high priest Alcimus, one of the Jewish leaders who had accepted Hellenization. Once entered into Galilee, the bulk of the troops encamped at Arbela, where many Jews were taken and killed. The army marched towards Jerusalem, but not finding Judas, went to Berea a few kilometres to the north. At the sight of such a numerous and fierce army, the majority of Judas’ men fled. Judas was strongly discouraged from the flight of his men, however, he did not want to give up and decided, nevertheless, to attack the Seleucid army. Indeed, even the others who had remained with him, tried to dissuade him. But Judas said: “Far be it from us to do such a thing as to flee from them. If our time has come, let us die bravely for our kindred, and leave no cause to question our honour” (v. 10). The words were certainly high and noble. Judas fought for the triumph of the Jahvistic cause, but it is remarkable that this time the text does not recall his invoking God’s help before the battle against a far more powerful enemy. The enemy army closed in around the small group of Jewish fighters. Judas chose to oppose the stronger wing led by Bacchides and fended it off, but was surprised from the rear and was killed and the rest of them scattered. Judas’ death meant an incalculable loss for the Jews. All Israel wept and mourned: “How is the mighty fallen, the saviour of Israel!” (v. 21). The figure of Judas is seen as a “saviour” like the other Judges of Israel, in the sense that with his victories he had managed to break the yoke of the religious and political oppression to which Israel was subjected. However we should not forget that in the biblical perspective, including that of the Maccabees, the true “saviour of Israel” is the Lord. He is the one who grants his power to those who are faithful. And Judas Maccabaeus is one of them.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 19 November
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 20 November
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 21 November
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 22 November
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 23 November
Memory of the Church
Friday, 24 November
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 25 November
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 26 November
Liturgy of the Sunday