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 14, 25-49

When these events were reported to our people, they said, 'What mark of appreciation shall we give to Simon and his sons?

He stood firm, he and his brothers and his father's house: he fought off the enemies of Israel and secured its freedom.' So they recorded an inscription on bronze tablets and set it up on pillars on Mount Zion.

This is a copy of the text: 'The eighteenth of Elul, in the year 172, being the third year of Simon, eminent high priest:

'In Asaramel, in the Grand Assembly of priests and people, of princes of the nation and of elders of the country: 'We are acquainted with the matters following:

'When there was almost incessant fighting in the country Simon, son of Mattathias, a priest of the line of Joarib, and his brothers courted danger and withstood their nation's enemies to safeguard the integrity of their sanctuary and of the Law, and so brought their nation great glory;

'For when, Jonathan having rallied his nation and become its high priest and having then been gathered to his ancestors,

the enemy planned to invade the country, intending to devastate their territory and to lay hands on their sanctuary,

Simon next came forward to fight for his nation: spending much of his personal wealth on arming his nation's fighting men and on providing their pay;

fortifying the towns of Judaea, as well as Beth-Zur on the Judaean frontier where the enemy arsenal had formerly been, and stationing in it a garrison of Jewish soldiers;

fortifying Joppa on the coast, and Gezer on the borders of Azotus, a place formerly inhabited by the enemy, founding a Jewish colony there, and providing the settlers with everything they needed to set them on their feet;

'In consequence of which, the people, aware of Simon's loyalty and of the glory which he was determined to win for his nation, have made him their ethnarch and high priest, for all his services and for the integrity and loyalty which he has shown towards his nation, and for having by every means sought to enhance his people's power;

'It has fallen to him in his time to expel the foreigners from his country, including those in the City of David in Jerusalem, who had converted it into a citadel for their own use, from which they would sally out to defile the surroundings of the sanctuary and to violate its sacred character;

to station Jewish soldiers there instead for the security of the country and the city; and to heighten the walls of Jerusalem;

'And since King Demetrius has heard that the Romans call the Jews their friends, allies and brothers,

and that they have given an honourable reception to Simon's ambassadors, and, furthermore,

that the Jews and priests are happy that Simon should, pending the advent of a genuine prophet, be their ethnarch and high priest for life

therefore he has confirmed him in the high-priestly office, has raised him to the rank of Friend and has showered great honours on him, also confirming him as their commander-in-chief,

with the right to appoint officials to oversee the fabric of the sanctuary and to administer the country, munitions and fortresses;

he is to have personal charge of the sanctuary, and to be obeyed by all; all official documents in the country must be drawn up in his name; and he may assume the purple and may wear golden ornaments;

'Furthermore, it is against the law for any member of the public or of the priesthood to contravene any of these enactments or to contest his decisions, or to convene a meeting anywhere in the country without his permission, or to assume the purple or wear the golden brooch;

and anyone acting contrary to, or rejecting any article of, these enactments is liable to punishment;

'And since the people have unanimously agreed to grant Simon the right to act as aforesaid, and

since Simon, for his part, has given his assent, and has consented to assume the high-priestly office and to be commander-in-chief and ethnarch of the Jews and their priests, and to preside over all:

'So, be it now enacted: that this record be inscribed on bronze tablets and be erected at some conspicuous place within the precincts of the Temple,

and that copies be deposited in the Treasury for Simon and his descendants.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The people’s assembly, probably meeting in Jerusalem, decided to honour Simon and his brothers for their efforts in service to the Jewish people and, as was customary at that time especially in Greek cities, it was decided to express that honour with a public decree carved in bronze tablets to be placed on Mount Zion, probably in the courtyard of the Temple. Following a collective eulogy of all Mattathias’ family, specific mention is made of Jonathan’s endeavours, for they were more directly linked with the latest developments under Simon, whose achievements in saving the Jewish people are summarised in the text. In fact, the text makes it clear that Simon worked not for himself and his own glory, but rather to save the people from submission to a foreign yoke and the consequent loss of faith. The assembly writes, “Simon son of Mattathias, a priest of the sons of Joarib, and his brothers, exposed themselves to danger and resisted the enemies of their nation, in order that their sanctuary and the law might be preserved; and they brought great glory to their nation. Jonathan rallied the nation, became their high priest, and was gathered to his people. When their enemies decided to invade their country and lay hands on their sanctuary, then Simon rose up and fought for his nation. He spent great sums of his own money; he armed the soldiers of his nation and paid them wages” (29-32). the fact that his faith is at the root of his action is acknowledged and praised. It is also thereason whythe people trust him: “The people saw Simon’s faithfulness and the glory that he had resolved to win for his nation, and they made him their leader and high priest, because he had done all these things and because of the justice and loyalty that he had maintained towards his nation. He sought in every way to exalt his people” (35). The decision to make Simon the sole guide of the people is an expression of the desire to overcome the rift between pro-Hellenist Jews and those who wished to maintain the purity of tradition, a division which had caused considerable damage to the Jewish people as a whole. Obedience to a man, who had dedicated his entire life to the common cause and not to himself, was a guarantee of the unity of the people and the purity of their faith; this is something which goes beyond Simon’s age and remains part of the community life of believers even today. The text, clearly aware of how extraordinary the situation was, nonetheless calls for obedience to Simon “until a trustworthy prophet should arise” (41). Whatever interpretations may be made of this affirmation, it is indisputable that the search for unity always requires obedience to the person responsible for unity within the community of believers, though clearly this does not mean denying the responsibility of individuals. Within the Christian community, responsibility for communicating the Gospel - which is the prophecy we are required to live - is entrusted to everyone within the order of the community.