Memory of Jesus crucified

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Maccabees 4, 36-37.52-59

Judas and his brothers then said, 'Now that our enemies have been defeated, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and dedicate it.'

So they marshalled the whole army, and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth of the ninth month, Chislev, in the year 148 they rose at dawn

and offered a lawful sacrifice on the new altar of burnt offering which they had made.

The altar was dedicated, to the sound of hymns, zithers, lyres and cymbals, at the same time of year and on the same day on which the gentiles had originally profaned it.

The whole people fell prostrate in adoration and then praised Heaven who had granted them success.

For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering burnt offerings, communion and thanksgiving sacrifices.

They ornamented the front of the Temple with crowns and bosses of gold, renovated the gates and storerooms, providing the latter with doors.

There was no end to the rejoicing among the people, since the disgrace inflicted by the gentiles had been effaced.

Judas, with his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel, made it a law that the days of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated yearly at the proper season, for eight days beginning on the twenty-fifth of the month of Chislev, with rejoicing and gladness.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The passage belongs to the section that narrates the exploits of Judah Maccabeus marked by six years of war against internal and external enemy. As soon as he entered Jerusalem, Judah wants to purify the temple that had been profaned by idolatrous practices and to lead it back to its original form of worship. But as soon as they went towards the temple a dramatic scene enfolded before their eyes: "There they saw the sanctuary desolate, the altar profaned, and the gates burned. In the courts they saw bushes sprung up as in a thicket, or as on one of the mountains. They saw also the chambers of the priests in ruins" (v. 38). The sacred author mentions the sorrow and grief of the entire people of Judah for what they saw. It is written in the text, "Then they tore their clothes and mourned with great lamentation; they sprinkled themselves with ashes and fell face down on the ground. And when the signal was given with the trumpets, they cried out to Heaven" (vv. 39-40). Judas decided that a group of his should block the Syrian garrison that was barricaded in the Akra [citadel] of the city, while he took care of the purification of the temple and the restoration of worship. First he had the altar that the pagans had transformed and used to celebrate the "desolating sacrilege" (1:54) destroyed. The stones that had been profaned were put in a secluded spot awaiting the rise of a prophet who could determine what to do with them. It is not always clear what needs to be done and it can be wise to wait for the Lord to inspire appropriate words. In any case, it was urgent to rebuild the sanctuary. So, they immediately began to work reconstructing the altar, "according to the law", that is, with unhewn stones, untouched by iron, because that would desecrate the stone, as the law of Moses directed (Ex 20:25). According to Jewish tradition, even the Torah could not be written with a metal pen, the material used to make instruments of war. The story of the construction of the altar and its consecration reveals the centrality that the worship of God assumes in the religious zeal that Judas affirms in his people. The celebration took place in 164 BC, exactly three years after Antiochus had begun to offer sacrifices to idols (1:59). The celebration lasted eight days, the same as the dedication of Solomon’s temple (1 K 8:65-66) and the Feast of Booths. The author confirms that the sacrifice was celebrated "according to the Law." The true worship of the Lord was restored, and all the people could express their joy, which repaid them for the pain they had felt before, when they saw the desecration of the altar. It was not simply a restoration of the stones, but a recovery of the covenant that was to be lived with fidelity. This is why the festival of the Dedication was established to be celebrated every year in the month of December. It is a celebration that the evangelist John remembers with the Greek name Encaenia (10:22) and is still celebrated today by the Jews with the name of Hanukkah, which means, precisely, "dedication."