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 30, 2006

To The Faithful: Bible Comment on II Maccabees 15 with poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Judas Maccabaeus

Daily Readings
Proverbs 30, Joshua 20, II Maccabees 15, Philippians 3:1b-4:1

Daily Text: II Maccabees 15

To the Faithful
There has been a question as to whether this Nicanor was the same Nicanor of chapter 8. One would think not, however, since the same description is used of both that he is ‘thrice-accursed’ (cf. 8:34; 15:3), ultimately one must conclude that the Nicanor in chapter 8 and chapter 15 is the same man. Obviously, he learned his first lesson poorly, that one cannot oppose the Lord of Heaven. Not only has he not learned it, he sets himself up as a sovereign in opposition to the same Lord of Heaven, vs. 5. Before the battle is over, Nicanor is lying in full armor, dead on the field.

Judas in encouraging his men to fight with confidence, relays to them a dream or a vision that he has had of the former high priest, Onias III, with Jeremiah, showing approval to the troops and supporting their cause. This is probably some indication that Judas did not support Alcimus’ claim to the chair of the high priest. Ultimately, Judas reminds his troops that the battle is not to the strong, but to the faithful and prays publicly before them, calling on the Lord to send a good angel and strike down those who oppose the people of God. In II Maccabees 15:36 there is a tie-in with the Greek book of Esther, Nicanor being compared to the wicked Haman (also ‘thrice-accursed’) and the battle taking place on the day before Mordecai’s day. This is evidence that our author knew the book of Esther and likely the day of celebration, the 14th of Adar was the same for both Mordecai and Judas, otherwise known as the Feast of Purim. They both fought and won on the 13th of Adar and celebrated on the 14th, at least, that seems to be the implication.

from Judas Maccabaeus
ACT III, Scene IV (fragment)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow1807-1882

JUDAS. And let our watchword be,
“The Help of God!”
Last night I dreamed a dream; and in my vision
Beheld Onias, our High-Priest of old,
Who holding up his hands prayed for the Jews.
This done, in the like manner there appeared
An old man, and exceeding glorious,
With hoary hair, and of a wonderful
And excellent majesty. And Onias siad:
“This is a lover of the Jews, who prayeth
Much for the people and the Holy City,--
God’s Prophet Jeremias.” And the prophet
Held forth is right hand and gave unto me
A sword of gold; and giving it he said:
“Take thou this holy sword, a gift from God,
And with it thou shalt wound thine adversaries.”
CAPTAINS. The Lord is with us!
JUDAS. Hark! I hear the trumpets
Sound from Beth-horon; from the battle-field
Of Joshua, where he smote the Amorites,
Smote the Five Kings of Eglon and of Jarmuth,
Of Hebron, Lachish, and Jerusalem,
As we today will smite Nicanor’s hosts,
And leave a memory of great deeds behind us.
CAPTAINS and SOLDIERS. The Help of God!
JUDAS. Be Elohim Jehovah!
Lord, thou dist send thine Angel in the time
Of ezekias, King of Israel,
And in the armies of Sennacherib
Didst slay a hundred fourscore and five thousand.
Wherefore, O Lord of heaven, now also send
Before us a good angel for a fear,
And through the might of thy right arm, let those
Be stricken with terror that have come this day
Against thy holy people to blaspheme!

Collect for the Day
Grant us, Lord, the vision to see and the courage to do Your will. Imbue our hearts with the fidelity of Mordecai and the devotion of Esther, that we may never swerve from the path of duty and loyalty to our heritage. Endow us with patience and strength, with purity of heart and unity of purpose, that we may continue to proclaim Your law of love and truth to the peoples of the earth, until all have learned that they are one, the children of the Eternal God. Amen. [471:403 A prayer for the Feast of Purim]


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