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 10, 22-50

Demetrius was displeased when he heard what had happened.

'What have we been doing,' he said, 'for Alexander to forestall us in winning the friendship of the Jews and so improving his own position?

I too shall address an appeal to them, offering them advancement and riches as an inducement to support me.'

And he wrote to them as follows: 'King Demetrius to the Jewish nation, greetings.

'We have heard how you have kept your agreement with us and have maintained friendly relations with us and have not gone over to our enemies, and it has given us great satisfaction.

If you now continue to keep faith with us, we shall make you a handsome return for what you do on our behalf.

We shall accord you many exemptions and grant you privileges.

'Henceforth I release you and exempt all the Jews from the tribute, the salt dues and the crown levies,

and whereas I am entitled to one-third of the grain and one-half of the fruit of the trees, I release from this levy, from today and for the future, Judaea and the three districts annexed to it from Samaria-Galilee, from this day henceforth in perpetuity.

Jerusalem will be sacred and exempt, with its territory, from tithes and dues.

I relinquish control of the Citadel in Jerusalem and make it over to the high priest, so that he may man it with a garrison of his own choosing.

Every Jewish person taken from Judaea into captivity in any part of my kingdom I set free without ransom, and decree that all will be exempt from taxes, even on their livestock.

All festivals, Sabbaths, New Moons and days of special observance, and the three days before and three days after a festival, will be days of exemption and quittance for all the Jews in my kingdom,

and no one will have the right to exact payment from, or to molest, any of them for any matter whatsoever.

'Jews will be enrolled in the king's forces to the number of thirty thousand men and receive maintenance on the same scale as the rest of the king's forces.

Some of them will be stationed in the king's major fortresses, and from among others appointments will be made to positions of trust in the kingdom. Their officers and commanders will be appointed from their own number and will live under their own laws, as the king has prescribed for Judaea.

'As regards the three districts annexed to Judaea from the province of Samaria, these will be integrated into Judaea and considered as coming under one governor, obeying the high priest's authority and no other.

Ptolemais and the land thereto pertaining I present to the sanctuary in Jerusalem, to meet the necessary expenses of public worship.

And I make a personal grant of fifteen thousand silver shekels annually chargeable to the royal revenue from appropriate places.

And the entire surplus, which has not been paid in by the officials as in previous years, will henceforth be paid over by them for work on the Temple.

In addition, the sum of five thousand silver shekels, levied annually on the profits of the sanctuary, as shown in the annual accounts, is also relinquished as the perquisite of the priests who perform the liturgy.

Anyone who takes refuge in the Temple in Jerusalem or any of its precincts, when in debt to the royal exchequer or otherwise, will be discharged in full possession of all the goods he owns in my kingdom.

As regards the building and restoration of the sanctuary, the expense of the work will be met from the royal exchequer.

The reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem and the fortification of the perimeter will also be a charge on the royal exchequer, as also the reconstruction of other city walls in Judaea.'

When Jonathan and the people heard these proposals, they put no faith in them and refused to accept them, remembering what great wrongs Demetrius had done to Israel and how cruelly he had oppressed them.

They decided in favour of Alexander, since he seemed to offer the better inducements of the two, and they became his constant allies.

King Alexander now mustered large forces and advanced against Demetrius.

The two kings met in battle. Alexander's army was routed, and Demetrius pursued him and defeated his troops.

He continued the battle with vigour until sunset. Demetrius himself, however, was killed the same day.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Having heard of the letter sent by Alexander to Jonathan, Demetrius immediately wrote a letter of his own. It contained proposals even more advantageous than the first and was addressed, not only to Jonathan, but to all the Jews, perhaps also with the intention of garnering the sympathies of the pro-Hellenist party. The letter begins with a eulogy of the people: “Since you have kept your agreement with us and have continued your friendship with us, and have not sided with our enemies, we have heard of it and rejoiced. Now continue still to keep faith with us, and we will repay you with good for what you do for us. We will grant you many immunities and give you gifts” (26-28). In exchange, he was offering an exemption from tribute, including taxation on the salt coming from the Dead Sea and from the money paid to “the crown.” The king renounced “the third of the grain” and “half of the fruit of trees.” He exempted Jerusalem and the surrounding area from taxation since, being “holy,” the money had to be used for the Temple as it once had. Like-wise, the citadel in Jerusalem was given to “the high priest” (here Demetrius seems to be implicitly recognising the new kingdom of Jonathan, which had been given to him by Alexander). Further concessions concerned the release of prisoners and the exemption of Jews throughout the kingdom from civil duties on holy days. Moreover, service in the king’s army was to be at the expense of the king himself, not of Judea as had been the custom. One particularly important aspect was the granting of religious freedom (including exemption from the obligation to fight on Saturday). The Jews also obtained three cities and the right to detract further revenue for the Temple from other taxes. Debts were annulled and property restored to people who had fled to take refuge in the Temple of Jerusalem. The reconstructions of the Temple as well as the system of defences were to be at the king’s expense. Perhaps because the concessions were many, as is evident from the list, and because of the cruelty Demetrius had shown in the past that neither Jonathan (who is not even mentioned in the letter) nor the Jewish people believed what Demetrius wrote in the letter. Thus they rejected Demetrius’ offer and accepted Alexander’s. The two sovereigns then met in battle and Alexander defeated Demetrius. Jonathan and the people, having sensed that Demetrius’ offer was fraudulent, had made a wise decision. Indeed, what emerges from this part of the First Book of the Maccabees is the importance of defending the people and their faith. We must ignore the adulation of the world, avoid naivety and place our trust in the Lord alone.