Memory of the Mother of the Lord

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Maccabees 3, 27-45

The news of these events infuriated Antiochus, and he ordered mobilisation of all the forces in his kingdom, a very powerful army.

Opening his treasury, he distributed a year's pay to his troops, telling them to be prepared for any eventuality.

He then found that the money in his coffers had run short and that the tribute of the province had decreased, as a result of the dissension and disaster brought on the country by his own abrogation of laws that had been in force from antiquity.

He began to fear that, as had happened more than once, he would not have enough to cover the expenses and the lavish bounties he had previously been accustomed to make on a larger scale than his predecessors on the throne.

In this grave quandary he resolved to invade Persia, there to levy tribute on the provinces and so accumulate substantial funds.

He therefore left Lysias, a nobleman and member of the royal family, to manage the royal affairs between the River Euphrates and the Egyptian frontier,

making him responsible for the education of his son Antiochus, until he should come back.

To him Antiochus made over half his forces, with the elephants, giving him instructions about what he wanted done, particularly with regard to the inhabitants of Judaea and Jerusalem,

against whom he was to send a force, to crush and destroy the power of Israel and the remnant of Jerusalem, to wipe out their very memory from the place,

to settle foreigners in all parts of their territory and to distribute their land into lots.

The king took the remaining half of his troops with him and set out from Antioch, the capital of his kingdom, in the year 147; he crossed the River Euphrates and made his way through the Upper Provinces.

Lysias chose Ptolemy son of Dorymenes, with Nicanor and Gorgias, influential men from among the Friends of the King,

and, under their command, despatched forty thousand foot and seven thousand horse to invade the land of Judah and devastate it, as the king had ordered.

The entire force set out and reached the neighbourhood of Emmaus in the lowlands, where they pitched camp.

The local merchants, hearing the news of this, arrived at the camp, bringing with them a large amount of gold and silver, and fetters as well, proposing to buy the Israelites as slaves; they were accompanied by a company from Idumaea and the Philistine country.

Judas and his brothers saw that the situation was going from bad to worse and that armies were camping in their territory; they were also well aware that the king had ordered the people's total destruction.

So they said to each other, 'Let us restore the ruins of our people and fight for our people and our sanctuary.'

The Assembly was summoned, to prepare for war, to offer prayer and to implore compassion and mercy.

Jerusalem was as empty as a desert, none of her children to go in and out. The sanctuary was trodden underfoot, men of an alien race held the Citadel, which had become a lodging for gentiles. There was no more rejoicing for Jacob, the flute and lyre were mute.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In this passage the author describes the concerns of the government of Antioch after the failures of Seron. Despite the shortage of treasury, King Antiochus IV decided to recruit more soldiers. In order to reaffirm his authority and restore the finances with the collection of special taxes and the plundering of temples, he decided to go to Persia and left Lysias as his substitute for the southern part of the kingdom with the mandate to eliminate any insubordination and suppress every revolt in Judea. The rebel movements in Palestine were dangerous also for the expansive aims of the empire of the Parthians. The king left the organization of the expedition against the Jews to Lysias who organized a large army to be led by Ptolemy, governor of Coelesyria, who laid in wait near Emmaus. Their victory was considered so certain that many merchants in the region joined the army sure to make great profits after the defeat of the Jews. Although they saw such a strong array of forces, Judas and his brothers did not lose faith in God’s help, as opposed to the people who were demoralized. The author points out the difficulty of the situation that had arisen: “Now Judas and his brothers saw that misfortunes had increased and that the forces were encamped in their territory. They also learned what the king had commanded to be done to the people to cause their final destruction” (v. 42). But they did not lose heart. They decided to call an assembly; the author, with a Semitic expression, emphasizes the common feeling shared between Judas and his brothers: “But they said to one another.” The unity of the feeling of those in charge had its positive conclusion: “Let us restore the ruins of our people, and fight for our people and the sanctuary.’ So the congregation assembled to be ready for battle, and to pray and ask for mercy and compassion” (vv. 43-44). Gathered together in the name of the Lord they invoked “mercy and compassion” as the psalmist urges to do in times of trial: “The Lord ... redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” (Ps 103:4). The deplorable condition, in which Jerusalem found itself, being occupied by the Gentiles, is recalled by the author: “Jerusalem was uninhabited like a wilderness; not one of her children went in or out. The sanctuary was trampled down, and aliens held the citadel; it was a lodging-place for the Gentiles” (v. 45). Not being able to continue staying in Jerusalem, the joy “was taken” from their faces and “the flute and the harp ceased to play.” One can comprehend even more the psalmist’s prayer for the pilgrimage towards the temple: “How lovely is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! My soul yearns, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord ... For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Ps 84:2-3, 10). The Lord is attentive to the unanimous prayer of his people. It was here, in their faith, the true strength of this small people in front of the adversaries.