Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Temple Schism: Bible Comment on II Maccabees 1 with poem by Caroline Deutsch, The Miraculous Oil

Daily Readings
Proverbs 17, Joshua 6, II Maccabees 1, II Corinthians 12

Daily Text: II Maccabees 1

Temple Schism
In the third and second centuries B. C. the Jewish peoples learned that if they kept the commandments, even though they were under the rule of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, they would prosper. But then came a period when that was not enough. In fact, obedience to the Torah became a crime under the Seleucid, Antiochus IV, 167 to 164 B.C. [499 3]. The Jews fought back and for awhile did so successfully. II Maccabees documents this period.

In II Maccabees one there are two letters, the second beginning in verse 10b and continuing through the 18th verse of chapter two. In the first letter there is an account of Jason rebelling. Jason had begun an alternate and schismatic temple in Egypt, and the Jews of Jerusalem were appalled. In this letter they have become convinced that the Jerusalem temple is the one true temple and they are calling upon their brothers in Egypt to celebrate the Feast of Booths which they themselves are doing.

The second letter, as the first, is focussed in opposition to the schismatic temple and claiming that the Second Temple in Jerusalem is now God’s holy place. The references to Nehemiah and the discovery of naptha, petroleum, serves to reinforce the claim that the Second Temple is now the one to look towards.

The Miraculous Oil
Caroline Deutsch

Little cruet in the Temple
That dost feed the sacrificial flame,
What a true expressive symbol
Art thou of my race, of Israel’s fame!
Thou for days the oil didst furnish
To illume the Temple won from foe—
So for centuries in my people
Spirit of resistance ne’er burnt low.
It was cast from home and country,
Gloom and sorrow were its daily lot;
Yet the torch of faith gleamed steady,
Courage, like thy oil, forsook it not.
Mocks and jeers were all its portion,
Death assailed it in ten thousand forms—
Yet this people never faltered,
Hope, its beacon, led it through all storms.
Poorer than dumb, driven cattle,
It went forth enslaved from its estate,
All its footsore wand’rings lighted
By its consciousness of worth innate.
Luckless fortunes could not bend it;
Unjust laws increased its wondrous faith;
From its heart, exhaustless streamng,
Freedom’s light shone on its thorny path.
Oil that burnt in olden Temple,
Eight days only didst thou give forth light!
Oil of faith sustained this people
Through the centuries of darkest night!

Collect for the Day
Master of the universe,
let there be no good hope that is not a command,
let there be no prayer that does not ask to become a deed,
let there be no promise unless it be kept.

Upon this earth may just and reverent nations arise:
needing no challenge like war,
no more undone by poverty and injustice.
Let them be places where every person matters.
So shall the human community,
rich in beginnings and poor in conclusions,
grow mature in wisdom and ripe in understanding.

Upon this earth may women of spirit arise,
men of integrity and compassion,
creators of God-seeking peoples;
slow to judge others,
quick to judge themselves:
so may they be all their days and years.
We ask for messiahs,
a new age of the spirit,
Your kingdom on earth.

Let the Eternal be King over all the earth.


Blogger Norm said...

Regarding 1.19: The Jews were exiled to Babylon, not Persia. Babylon had become part of the Persian Empire by Nehemiah’s time.

Regarding 1.18-36: Fire was sacred to the Persians, who sometimes built temples around it. The miracle of the fire is a precedent for the purification of the temple commemorated at Hanukkah. The somewhat strained search for precedents here and in 2.1-18 suggest that observing Hanukkah was controversial.

10:18 AM  

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