Memory of the Mother of the Lord

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Memory of Zechariah and of Elizabeth, who in her old age conceived John the Baptist.

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 8, 1-32

Now Judas had heard of the reputation of the Romans: how strong they were, and how well disposed towards any who made common cause with them, making a treaty of friendship with anyone who approached them.

(And, indeed, they were extremely powerful.) He had been told of their wars and of their prowess among the Gauls, whom they had conquered and put under tribute;

and of all they had done in the province of Spain to gain possession of the silver and gold mines there,

making themselves masters of the whole country by their determination and perseverance, despite its great distance from their own; of the kings who came from the ends of the earth to attack them, only to be crushed by them and overwhelmed with disaster, and of others who paid them annual tribute;

Philip, Perseus king of the Kittim, and others who had dared to make war on them, had been defeated and reduced to subjection,

while Antiochus the Great, king of Asia, who had advanced to attack them with a hundred and twenty elephants, cavalry, chariots and a very large army, had also suffered defeat at their hands;

they had taken him alive and imposed on him and his successors, on agreed terms, the payment of an enormous tribute, the surrender of hostages, and the cession

of the Indian territory, with Media, Lydia, and some of their best provinces, which they took from him and gave to King Eumenes.

Judas had also heard how, when the Greeks planned an expedition to destroy the Romans,

the latter had got wind of it and, sending a single general against them, had fought a campaign in which they inflicted heavy casualties, carried their women and children away into captivity, pillaged their goods, subdued their country, tore down their fortresses and reduced them to a slavery lasting to the present day;

and how they had destroyed and subjugated all the other kingdoms and islands that resisted them.

But where their friends and those who relied on them were concerned, they had always stood by their friendship. They had subdued kings far and near, and all who heard their name went in terror of them.

One man, if they determined to help him and advance him to a throne, would certainly occupy it, while another, if they so determined, would find himself deposed; their influence was paramount.

In spite of all this, no single one of them had assumed a crown or put on the purple for his own aggrandisement.

They had set up a senate, where three hundred and twenty councillors deliberated daily, constantly debating how best to regulate public affairs.

They entrusted their government to one man for a year at a time, with absolute power over their whole empire, and this man was obeyed by all without envy or jealousy.

Having chosen Eupolemus son of John, of the family of Accos, and Jason son of Eleazar, Judas sent them to Rome to make a treaty of friendship and alliance with these people,

in the hope of being rid of the yoke, for they could see that Greek rule was reducing Israel to slavery.

The envoys made the lengthy journey to Rome and presented themselves before the Senate with their formal proposal:

'Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers, with the Jewish people, have sent us to you to conclude a treaty of alliance and peace with you, and to enrol ourselves as your allies and friends.'

The proposal met with the approval of the senators.

Here is a copy of the rescript which they engraved on bronze tablets and sent to Jerusalem to be kept there by the Jews as a record of peace and alliance:

'Good fortune attend the Romans and the Jewish nation by sea and land for ever; may sword or enemy be far from them!

'If war comes first to Rome or any of her allies throughout her dominions,

the Jewish nation will take action as her ally, as occasion may require, and do it wholeheartedly.

They will not give or supply to the enemy any grain, arms, money or ships: thus has Rome decided, and they are to honour their obligations without guarantees.

In the same way, if war comes first to the Jewish nation, the Romans will support them energetically as occasion may offer,

and the aggressor will not be furnished with grain, arms, money or ships: such is the Roman decision, and they will honour these obligations without treachery.

Such are the articles under which the Romans have concluded their treaty with the Jewish people.

If, later, either party should decide to make any addition or deletion, they will be free to do so, and any such addition or deletion will be binding.

'As regards the wrongs done to them by King Demetrius, we have written to him in these terms: Why have you made your yoke lie heavy on our friends and allies the Jews?

If they appeal against you again, we shall uphold their rights and make war on you by sea and land.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The eighth chapter is devoted to the alliance that bound the Jews with the Romans. The author, perhaps to counter those who- (contrary to Jewish tradition) opposed the alliance with the pagan peoples, emphasizes the goodness of the initiative as well as its opportunities. Rome in the second century BC had already extended his empire across the Mediterranean; it certainly had impressed that small people squeezed between the great empires of the Middle East. The author notes, “Now Judas heard of the fame of the Romans, that they were very strong and were well disposed towards all who made an alliance with them, that they pledged friendship to those who came to them, and that they were very strong” (v. 1-2) . The text succinctly describes a series of Roman victories that gave reason for the strength of Rome. It is reminiscent of the military operations in Gaul and then in Spain. The focus then shifts to Macedonia, where the Romans in 197 had defeated King Philip V. It then refers to Antiochus, “the great king of Asia” who “went to fight against them with one hundred and twenty elephants and with cavalry and chariots and a very large army. He was crushed by them” (v. 6). It is clear the emphasis on the extraordinary power that the Romans had reached, so that: “Those whom they wish to help and to make kings, they make kings, and those whom they wish they depose; and they have been greatly exalted” (v. 13). But the text underlines that, opposed to the states of the East, the power of the Romans was not linked to a hereditary and despotic dynasty. “Yet for all this not one of them has put on a crown or worn purple as a mark of pride” (v. 14). And maybe this allowed the Roman Empire to have a religious tolerance also guaranteed by civil and not theocratic legislature. “They have built for themselves a senate chamber, and every day three hundred and twenty senators constantly deliberate concerning the people, to govern them well. They trust one man each year to rule over them and to control all their land; they all heed the one man, and there is no envy or jealousy among them” (vv. 15-16). Judah, to throw off the yoke of Hellenism, decided to propose a treaty of alliance and friendship with the Romans. For this purpose he sent two of his plenipotentiaries, Eupolemus and Jason, to Rome so that they could sign the agreement. Judas hoped to emancipate themselves from the power of Greek, but in fact it was the first step towards Roman rule in his region.