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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

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Maccabees 11, 1-37

The king of Egypt then assembled an army as numerous as the sands of the seashore, with many ships, and set out to take possession of Alexander's kingdom by a ruse and add it to his own kingdom.

He set off for Syria with protestations of peace, and the people of the towns opened their gates to him and came out to meet him, since King Alexander's orders were to welcome him, Ptolemy being his father-in-law.

On entering the towns, however, Ptolemy quartered troops as a garrison in each one.

When he reached Azotus he was shown the burnt-out temple of Dagon, with Azotus and its suburbs in ruins, corpses scattered here and there, and the charred remains of those whom Jonathan had burnt to death in the battle, piled into heaps along his route.

They explained to the king what Jonathan had done, hoping for his disapproval; but the king said nothing.

Jonathan went in state to meet the king at Joppa, where they greeted each other and spent the night.

Jonathan accompanied the king as far as the river called Eleutherus, and then returned to Jerusalem.

King Ptolemy for his part occupied the coastal towns as far as Seleucia on the coast, all the while maturing his wicked designs against Alexander.

He sent envoys to King Demetrius to say, 'Come and let us make a treaty; I shall give you my daughter, whom Alexander now has, and you shall rule your father's kingdom.

I regret having given my daughter to that man, since he has tried to kill me.'

He made this accusation because he coveted his kingdom.

Having carried off his daughter and bestowed her on Demetrius, he broke with Alexander, and their enmity became open.

Ptolemy next entered Antioch and assumed the crown of Asia; he now wore on his head the two crowns of Egypt and Asia.

King Alexander was in Cilicia at the time, since the people of those parts had risen in revolt,

but when he heard the news, he advanced on his rival to give battle, while Ptolemy for his part also took the field, met him with a strong force and routed him.

Alexander fled to Arabia for refuge, and King Ptolemy reigned supreme.

Zabdiel the Arab cut off Alexander's head and sent it to Ptolemy.

Three days later King Ptolemy died, and the Egyptian garrisons in the strongholds were killed by the local inhabitants.

So Demetrius became king in the year 167.

At the same time, Jonathan mustered the men of Judaea for an assault on the Citadel of Jerusalem, and they set up numerous siege-engines against it.

But some renegades who hated their nation made their way to the king and told him that Jonathan was besieging the Citadel.

The king was angered by the news. No sooner had he been informed than he set out and came to Ptolemais. He wrote to Jonathan, telling him to raise the siege and to meet him for a conference in Ptolemais as soon as possible.

When Jonathan heard this, he gave orders for the siege to continue; he then selected a deputation from the elders of Israel and the priests, and took the deliberate risk

of himself taking silver and gold, clothing and numerous other presents, and going to Ptolemais to face the king, whose favour he succeeded in winning;

and although one or two renegades of his nation brought charges against him,

the king treated him as his predecessors had treated him, and promoted him in the presence of all his friends.

He confirmed him in the high-priesthood and whatever other distinctions he already held, and had him ranked among the First Friends.

Jonathan asked the king to exempt Judaea and the three Samaritan districts from taxation, promising him three hundred talents in return.

The king consented, and wrote Jonathan a rescript covering the whole matter, in these terms:

'King Demetrius to Jonathan his brother, and to the Jewish nation, greetings.

'We have written to Lasthenes our cousin concerning you, and now send you this copy of our rescript for your own information:

"King Demetrius to his father Lasthenes, greetings.

"The nation of the Jews is our ally; they fulfil their obligations to us, and in view of their goodwill towards us we have decided to show them our bounty.

We confirm them in their possession of the territory of Judaea and the three districts of Aphairema, Lydda and Ramathaim; these were annexed to Judaea from Samaritan territory, with all their dependencies, in favour of all who offer sacrifice in Jerusalem, instead of the royal dues which the king formerly received from them every year, from the yield of the soil and the fruit crops.

As regards our other rights over the tithes and taxes due to us, over the salt marshes, and the crown taxes due to us, as from today we release them from them all.

None of these grants will be revoked henceforth or anywhere.

You will make yourself responsible for having a copy of this made, to be given to Jonathan and displayed on the holy mountain in a conspicuous place." '


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Chapter 11 is almost entirely dedicated to the internal history of the kingdom of Syria, still troubled by internal fights which, however, the Maccabees managed to exploit to their own advantage. This passage narrates yet another struggle for power which, now as then, is a dynamic that continues to characterise the course of history. The author relates the activities of the Egyptian King Ptolemy who, in order to achieve his long-held dream of expanding his empire into southern Syria - which had passed under Seleucid rule in the year 198 BC - organised covert action against the Seleucid monarch, Alexander: “Then the king of Egypt gathered great forces, like the sand by the seashore, and many ships; and he tried to get possession of Alexander’s kingdom by trickery and add it to his own kingdom. He set out for Syria with peaceable words, and the people of the towns opened their gates to him and went to meet him, for King Alexander had commanded them to meet him, since he was Alexander’s father-in-law. But when Ptolemy entered the towns he stationed forces as a garrison in each town” (1-3). In order to achieve his aims the king of Egypt did not hesitate to betray his former ally, Alexander, and even joined with Alexander’s historical enemy, Demetrius II. The text also recounts how the inhabitants of Azotus attempted to put Jonathan in a bad light before Ptolemy by showing the atrocities committed in the destruction of Beth-dagon and the massacre of the people in the surrounding territories. But Ptolemy remained unmoved and preferred to ally himself with Jonathan.. For his part Jonathan, having seen the direction events were taking and seeking to profit therefrom, went out to meet Ptolemy “with pomp.” The two men met at Joppa where they spent the night, both of them seeking to gain by making an alliance against Alexander. Ptolemy also sent his messengers to Demetrius in order to make an alliance with him. He agreed to give his daughter Cleopatra in marriage even though he had previously promised her as a wife to Alexander. At this point Ptolemy’s designs were clear: he wanted to conquer all Asia. In fact, he entered Antioch and “put two crowns on his head, the crown of Egypt and that of Asia” (13). Alexander’s resistance was in vain; defeated by Ptolemy, he had to take refuge in Arabia. In the meantime Jonathan, taking advantage of the situation, decided to attack the Akra, the citadel, in Jerusalem in order to free the city from the foreign presence. The usual pro-Hellenist Jews sought to oppose Jonathan by going to complain to the king, who ordered to lift the siege. However Jonathan was not swayed by the king’s orders, and even managed to convince the monarch of his cause. Indeed, Jonathan was clever enough to obtain further exemptions from payment of tribute; and Demetrius II, to endorse the new situation, wrote a letter (addressed to Jonathan, whom he calls “brother”, and to “the nation of the Jews”) confirming all the privileges he had granted. It is also worth noting that the king ordered the letter be “put up in a conspicuous place on the holy mountain” (37). Carved into stone or bronze tablets, this was also a juridical endorsement of the alliance between Jonathan and his people, and the Seleucid monarch. The strategy of peace which Jonathan had so wisely followed had produced its extraordinary fruits.

Memory of the Church

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 15 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 16 October
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 17 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 18 October
Memory of the Apostles
Thursday, 19 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 20 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 21 October
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday