Memory of the Mother of the Lord

Share On

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 12, 1-23

When Jonathan saw that circumstances were working in his favour, he sent a select mission to Rome to confirm and renew his treaty of friendship with the Romans.

He also sent letters to the same effect to the Spartans and to other places.

The envoys made their way to Rome, entered the Senate and said, 'Jonathan the high priest and the Jewish nation have sent us to renew your treaty of friendship and alliance with them as before.'

The Senate gave them letters to the authorities of each place, to procure their safe conduct to Judaea.

The following is the copy of the letter Jonathan wrote to the Spartans:

'Jonathan the high priest, the senate of the nation, the priests and the rest of the Jewish people to the Spartans their brothers, greetings.

'In the past, a letter was sent to Onias, the high priest, from Areios, one of your kings, stating that you are indeed our brothers, as the copy subjoined attests.

Onias received the envoy with honour, and accepted the letter, in which a clear declaration was made of friendship and alliance.

For our part, though we have no need of these, having the consolation of the holy books in our possession,

we venture to send to renew our fraternal friendship with you, so that we may not become strangers to you, a long time having elapsed since you last wrote to us.

We, for our part, on every occasion, at our festivals and on other appointed days, unfailingly remember you in the sacrifices we offer and in our prayers, as it is right and fitting to remember brothers.

We rejoice in your renown.

'We ourselves, however, have had many trials and many wars, the neighbouring kings making war on us.

We were unwilling to trouble you or our other allies and friends during these wars,

since we have the support of Heaven to help us, thanks to which we have been delivered from our enemies, and they are the ones who have been brought low.

We have therefore chosen Numenius son of Antiochus, and Antipater son of Jason, and sent them to the Romans to renew our former treaty of friendship and alliance,

and we have ordered them also to visit you, to greet you and deliver you this letter of ours concerning the renewal of our brotherhood;

we shall be grateful for an answer to it.'

The following is the copy of the letter sent to Onias:

'Areios king of the Spartans, to Onias the high priest, greetings.

'It has been discovered in records regarding the Spartans and Jews that they are brothers, and of the race of Abraham.

Now that this has come to our knowledge, we shall be obliged if you will send us news of your welfare.

Our own message to you is this: your flocks and your possessions are ours, and ours are yours, and we are instructing our envoys to give you a message to this effect.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

With their appointment as generals over the entire region south of Antioch, the two Maccabee brothers, Jonathan and Simon, reached the height of their military success. Yet the Jewish nation, although it had received considerable benefits, was still without a stable and definitive juridical status. It lacked above all the recognition of its political independence, a condition that would guarantee stability over time and protection from the dangers of the overly volatile situation with-in the kingdom of Syria, upon which it was politically dependent. Thus Jonathan, reactivating the policy already followed with some success by his brother Judas towards the end of his career, sought external support and re-established diplomatic relations with both Rome and Sparta. The text, following a brief mention of ties with Rome, dwells in more detail on relations with the Spar-tans, quoting both the letter Jonathan sent to them and an earlier letter from the king of Sparta to the high priest of Jerusalem (19-23). It was on the basis of this latter missive, which testified to a long-standing friendship between the two peoples, that Jonathan sought to found the new relation-ship. Nonetheless, it is important to note that the friendship and the request for mutual support did not come about outside the context of the faith of Israel. We could say that Jonathan challenged diplomacy by reminding the Spartans that the Jews asked for nothing because they placed their trust in “Heaven” and the “holy books”. “Therefore, though we have no need of these things, since we have as encouragement the holy books that are in our hands, we have undertaken to send to renew our family ties and friendship with you, so that we may not become estranged from you, for considerable time has passed since you sent your letter to us” (9-10). The search for fraternity among different peoples is the way to stable peace, and in this light the words that follow are full of spiritual meaning: “We therefore remember you constantly on every occasion, both at our festivals and on other appropriate days, at the sacrifices that we offer and in our prayers, as it is right and proper to remember brothers. And we rejoice in your glory” (11-12). Through prayer, the believing people of Israel work to consolidate their friendship with other peoples. Praying to God for others is one of the most exalted expressions of love among believers, as joy for another’s glory arises in a heart that believes. None of this excludes the diplomatic dimension of an agreement; quite the contrary, it reinforces that dimension. It is good, then, that the letter mentions the fact that help for Israel comes from the Lord, and is expressed particularly forcefully at moments of trial: “But as for ourselves, many trials and many wars have encircled us; the kings around us have waged war against us. We were unwilling to annoy you and our other allies and friends with these wars, for we have the help that comes from Heaven for our aid, and so we were delivered from our enemies, and our enemies were humbled” (13-15). Fraternity among peoples leads to a new order of peace among different societies, and to a kind of shared possession of goods: “your livestock and your property belong to us, and ours belong to you” (23).