The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 months ago

Maccabean Zeal

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar is pleased to offer a new nine part series entitled the Mother of God in our lives. This offering is the fruit of a three day conference hosted by Patristic Nectar Publications, a collaboration of many clergy scholars, including the keynote speaker, His grace Bishop Irenae of London, as well as his Grace Bishop Basil of Wichita, Archimandrite Maximos Konstas, Father Kalinique Burgher, Father Chad Hatfield and father John Parker. The lectures are dedicated to an edifying examination of the great feasts of the Mother of God, as well as additional lectures on particular aspects of the life of the most holy Theotokos and her role in the lives of Christian believers. For these and other available titles, please visit our website at patristic nectar. God work, and now the arena with Father Josiah Trenna, in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, a blessed Lord's they to all of you, brothers and sisters. I've entitled my homily this morning maccabean zeal, macabean zeal. You heard the teaching on zeal, I hope, just now from the epistle lesson. It's St Paul's most potent teaching on zeal in his Corpus from Romans Chapter Twelve, where Paul says that we should be consumed overflowing with zeal, a glow in the spirit, competing with one another on how much we can honor each other. What a magnificent text. Competing with each other on giving the greater honor. No, really, you know after you know, after you. This is the disposition of the Christian heart. This is what is produced in us by the presence of the spirit of God inside of us. It just so happens, there ones, that today is the first of August. We always bring the sacred cross out on the first of August, but it rarely falls on Sunday. It's your blessing to be here. Normally we bring the cross out to a small congregation, maybe on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. August first, besides being the procession of the Cross, bringing the cross out as our token of victory and in commemoration of the deliverance that God has given to us through the cross against all sorts of enemies, seen and unseen, not just against the devils but also, as you heard in the Synaxarian, against the Muslims and against the Pagans, the bullgards when they were pagans, and against the Bolsheviks. We mentioned these historical realities. When Earthly Kingdoms turned away from God and began to persecute believers, we took refuge under the Cross, and the cross protected us and has saved us and will always save us. August first is also the commemoration of the Holy Maccabees. You may be wondering who the maccabees are. Some of you, I know, are good scripture scholars and you know that in the Old Testament, in the longer cannon of the Old Testament, there are in fact in the Orthodox text multiple books called Maccabees, first maccabees, second...

...maccabees, third maccabees and for maccabees. In fact, in some in some canonical collections, in the Orthodox tradition, some of our bibles only have three. The West only had to first and second maccabees and the Protestants had the maccabees in the bibles that they were full formed and fashioned by the original Protestant reformers, but had great concerns with some aspects of them and so place them in a separate section. They were always in the Protestant bibles and they were even used in Protestant worship quotations from these texts. But in the late nineteen century, for the first time in the history of Christianity, and that since the Bible came to be able to be published, a Bible was published without the maccabees in it. was published by the United Bible Society in the late nineteenth century and since that time most Protestant bibles don't have the maccabees and therefore a great loss has taken place in the lives of our Protestant friends, because most of them don't know who the maccabees are. I hope that's not you. I hope that's not you. The maccabees are a model for us, and especially those that we commemorate today, are a model for us of this zeal that St Paul says the spirit births in us and that he has an apostle commands us to have. These maccabe's got their name. In fact, not from their surname, although they started with an incredible family that we now called the founder of that family, Judas maccabeus. The word maccabee actually means Hammer, Hammer, and we gave this title the Maccabee to them because they were a hammer of God against the Pagan Greeks. This is the second century BC. You might remember that for a hundred fifty years, the Greeks, since the time of Alexander the Greek, had conquered the Holy Land. Alexander was very tolerant. Actually, the Holy Land had been conquered many times and the people of God had gone through many trials. First the Assyrians, who conquered the northern ten tribes and the eighth century. Then the Babylonians, who destroyed even the Temple of God in five hundred and eighty seven and took captive people like the Prophet Daniel and his friends as Aria, Sazeria and Messiah. Then after the Babylonians, the Persians, and after the Persians the Greeks, and then after the Greeks, the Romans, who are governing the holy land at the time of the incarnation of our Savior, when the Gospel became to life for us we're just before the Roman period. The maccabees were living under the end of the Greek period and the Greek hegemony was fracturing and, like a lot of kingdoms, when they start fracturing, they start losing their minds, like we're seeing in our own country, as the American Empire is fracturing and losing its interior consistency. All sorts of strange authoritarian strains are rising. Same thing happened in Greece, and that tolerance that they used to have for us and for our forbears began to dissipate. And so under a wild person, a king named Antiachis epiphanies. He gave that name to himself. It means God manifest. Our people gave him a nickname instead of epiphanies. We call him epiphany, epiphanies, epipmanies, which means Madman, and Tiakis, Madman not I tie on Tike as God in the flesh. He began to impose not just an exterior Greek rule, which we were prospering under fairly fine.

He began to impose Greek idolatry, the Greek culture, the pagan culture. He in fact shut down the worship of God in the temple. He forced people not to circumcise their children. Remember, that'd be like asking us not to baptize our children. Circumcision was an old testament type of baptism. He said that the law of God couldn't be kept. All the food regulations for the Jews of the Old Testament, he made them break in public or he punished them severely. Finally, God Rose Judas macabeus up to be a deliver for for his people. Judas stood against this onslaught and he took to the hills and he stirred everyone up. He encouraged them to hold to the faith in times of hopelessness. He gave them confidence in God. He rallied troops and he in fact drove off in a series of raids that he conducted, his sons and their sons conducted over three generations. He protected the people of God and reinstituted the worship of God and eventually made a treaty with Rome and was able to break the power of Greece and their authority to hurt us. In fact, that Jewish feast was instituted to commemorate the overthrow of the Greek oppression and the reliding of the men Orah, of the candle. It's called Hanaka. This is a macabean work, this freedom they were, these incredible freedom fighters. Today we commemorate very special Maccabees, the best of the best. One woman, a mother named Solomonia, her seven sons and their spiritual father, their common spiritual father, named Eliezar. Listen to their account now, these holy Maccabees that we commemorate on August. First, these holy martyrs lived during the reign of the Syrian king, Anti Achis epiphanies of the cell cellfkid dioceses, one hundred seventy five to one, sixty four B C who, having reduced the Jewish nation to slavery, sought to constrain the children of Israel to renounce the customs and the institutions handed down by their fathers and to adopt the ways of the Pagans. To this end, he decreed that everyone must eat pork and unclean animal forbidden by the law. They tried first to compel the scribe Eliezer to eat, opening his mouth by force, but the holy old man spat out the mouthful with disdain, remaining deaf to those who counseled him to feign submission in order to save his life. He replied this way, at our age it is not fitting to fake for fear that many young people, seeing that Eliezar had, at the age of ninety, adopted foreign ways, might do the same thing themselves because of me and my dissimulation, and that, for a brief span of life, I would thus bring on my old age defilement and dishonor and were I to escape the temporal punish men of men, I would not, living or dead, escape the hands of the Almighty. Having thus spoken, he went straight to offer himself for torture on the wheel and under the torture he showed the valor of a young warrior and he called forth the admiration of his executioners. At the point of his death, he declared with a smile, it is manifest to the Lord, Who Hath Holy Knowledge, that whereas I might have been delivered from...

...death, I now endure sore pains in the body by being beaten, but in soul and well, content to suffer these things because I fear him. He gave his soul to God. Seven brothers who had been taught by Eliezar, in the traditions of their people, were arrested and appeared before the king like a harmonious choir, in the midst of which, as a conductor, stood their mother. One thing alone was important to them that the choir, with its sacred number, should not be torn apart by the defection of one or other of them. They encourage one another in their confession with words such as these. If we do not perish now, surely we will die one day. Let us make of our necessity of nature a chance for honor. The sovereign had the instruments of torture spread out before them and he tried to persuade them. But, refuting his arguments with inspired philosophy, they replied to him, through the voice of the firstborn, quote, we are ready to die rather than to transgress the laws of our father's unquote. and Ti Achus, beside himself, ordered that this insolent youth's tongue be cut out, and then that his skin be torn and his limbs cut off, put to the torment of the wheel and then stretched on a Gridiron. He declared, cut off my limbs and burn my flesh, dislocate my joints through all these tortures, I will show you that the sons of the Hebrews are invincible where virtuous concerned. transfigured by the fire, he appeared incorruptible and thus fulfilled his witness without giving the slightest Groan, while his mother and brothers, encouraged by the sight, prayed that God would grant them the grace of dying with valor, just as he had. The second of them was then put to torture. They lacerated his flesh with nails and then stretched him on a catapult, ready to give his soul to the Lord. He cried out in the Hebrew tongue thou like a fury, take us us out of this present life, but the king of the world shall raise us up, who have died for his laws, unto everlasting life. The third fearlessly stretched out his hands to the executioner, declaring that he was sure of finding his limbs in the future life. He Suc come to the torture of the wheel. The fourth called on the tyrant to find the direst of tortures that he might show antiachus that he was ready to rival his brothers in courage, and before his tongue was torn out, he said, even if you deprive me of the organ of speech, God hears the Voice of the silent. How sweet it is to have one's limbs severed for God, in his haste to carry off the trophies. In his turn, the fifth went voluntarily to the torturers. The next was made to suffer on the wheel, and when they pierced his side, he cried out the knowledge that we have from piety is invincible. What it takes. The knowledge that we have from piety is invincible. These valiant athletes thus sacrifice their lives one after the other, showing that reason, illumined by faith, cannot only master the passions of the soul, but is able also to triumph over the torments of death, for it gives us the assurance of eternal life and incorruption. Their mother, Solomonia, was present at the torture of her son's and, far from letting herself be overcome by grief, it was she who exhorted each of them, in the tongue of her father's, to endure the trial with courage in the name of the Lord and their hope of Resurrection. She said this to them. I cannot tell how you can't came into my womb, for I neither gave you breath nor life. Neither was...

I the one who formed the members of every one of you, but doubtless the creator of the world, who formed the generation of man and found out the beginnings of all things, will also, of his own mercy, give you breath and life again, as you now regard not your own selves. For the sake of his law, the youngest of the seven brothers still being alive, the tyrant made him promises and, having summoned his mother, sought her help in saving her son's life. triumphing over every carnal attachment, Solomonia threw herself on the boy and exhorted him, on the contrary, to endure all the torments so that she might join him and his brothers in the kingdom. Impelled by a new impulse, her son then began to curse the tyrant, predicting to him that he would soon suffer the just punishment of his pride. He finished by praying that his sacrifice and that of his brothers would appease the divine wrath that had been unleashed against their oppressed people. And tekis wounded in his self esteem raged against this holy martyr even more cruelly than against the others. In the end, when the last of them had gloriously given his soul to God, Solomonia was, in her turn, offered as a holocost and departed to join her sons in the choir of the holy martyrs. In fact, although their witness has been, had been before the coming of Christ, these holy martyrs are in no way less than those who followed the Lord, imitating his life giving passion, for it is faith in Christ, who already living in them, through the hope of Resurrection, made them triumph over all that held them to the earth. He rinds the reading from the synaxarian. These are the devotees of our God that our Savior honored when he celebrated the Feast of Hanaka, as recorded in the tenth chapter of Saint John's Gospel. There Jesus went up to the Feast of Hannacot to participate with his Jewish brethren in honoring these incredible heroes, these people who put faith above everything else, these ones who didn't fear death as much as they feared God. It's interesting, I think, that these martyrs were fashioned because of a madman who thought he was God in the flesh, and Jesus chose, on this occasion, when he was in the temple to celebrate Honka, to make some of his most audacious claims with regards to his own deity. It was here, and John Tipter ten, that Jesus spoke these words to those who were listening. I and the father are one. They knew exactly what he was saying and, as a result, they picked up stones to kill our Lord. I find that fascinating. They were celebrating, in the litter liturgy of Hanaka, the remembrance of a man who claimed to be God on the earth, but he was lying. But that didn't mean that one day, in God's wisdom, God would not become a man on the earth. In fact, he did. The fulfillment of Hannaka came to pass. I want to give you an encouragement, dear ones, much like our fathers have these these incredible zealots who tried to outdo one another in honor. That's what the seven brothers did, that each one wanted to have more faith than the last. These incredible servants, and especially solemonia, have been loved and cherished, not just by the Jews in the Old Testament, by by Christians who celebrate their lives.

In fact, Saint Paul writes about them in his epistle to the Hebrews in chapter eleven, when he's describing the great people of faith. In Chapter Eleven, Verse Thirty Five, he talks about mothers who refused to receive their children from the fire because they were hoping for them a better resurrection. St Gregory, the theologian wrote the first surviving sermon on the maccabees that we know. St John Chrysostom loved the maccabees and had a special attachment to them for a special reason. We have three sermons that St John chrysostom preached on the maccabees, as well as his meditations, especially in his commentary on the forty Fourth Psalm, which he thought was written and inspired by God to prepare his people for the Greek domination that would culminate in the maccabees. Chris is them also was very interested in the macabees because he was for many years a priest of our cathedral and Antioch, and in fact the bought the bones, the bodies of the maccabean martyrs were being preserved in Antioch. In fact, it was just slightly before chrys system's ascension to become cathedral preacher there that the bones were transferred from the synagogue to a beautiful church in Antioch. Chriy system spoke a lot about their sacred relics, and he was especially taken by Solomonia. He wrote such beautiful words about this mother, and I want to read them to you. This is from St John Chrysostom's homily, first homily on the macabees, as he reflects on the life of Saint Selimonia and how she's an example. Listen to this. Let mothers especially hear these things. Those are his words, but I'm taking them up. Let mothers especially hear these things. Let them emulate the woman's courage, her love for her offspring. Let them raise their children this way, forgiving birth is not the defining characteristic of a mother, for that is a matter of nature. The defining characteristic of a mother is raising her child, for that is a matter of choice, and that you may learn that it isn't giving birth that makes a mother, but raising her children. Well, listen to Paul Crowning the widow, not because of giving birth, but because of her raising her children and his writings, for when he said, quote, let a widow be enrolled who is no less than sixty years of age, who has been observed in doing good works, he added the ultimate in good works, the ultimate in good works. What is it? If she has raised children. He didn't say if she has produced children, but if she has raised children, so then let's reflect on what it's likely that the woman suffered, if that is one should call her a woman at all. When we she saw fingers shaking over the burning coals, she saw a head flying off. Can you imagine for own son, when she saw an iron fist pounding the head of another child and skin tearing away and the child suffering these tortures still standing and talking? How did she open her mouth? How did she move her tongue? How did her soul not fly from her flesh? Let me tell you how. She didn't look towards the Earth, but she prepared herself for all things to come. She feared just one thing, that the tyrant would spare some and stop the contest early, and that he would split up the group of children, that some would remain uncrowned. And because she was afraid of this. She all but took the last one in her own hands and put him into caldron herself, using in place of her hands the comfort and advice of the words...

...that she addressed to him. What kind of a mother is this? The mother of the sons of zebede became a mother of apostles, yes, but only of two. I know of no single womb that produced seven martyrs and itself in turn added to their number, not just in the addition of a single martyr, but in that of many more. For while her children were just seven martyrs, their mother's body, though it was just a single body, when added, filled the space of fourteen martyrs, both because she was a witness for each one and everyone and because she fashioned them into such witnesses and so bor for us an entire Church of martyrs. She gave birth to seven children and gave birth to none for the earth, but all for heaven. She raised them for the King of Heaven, having borne them all for the life to come. What a woman we celebrate today. Dear dear ones Solomonia, the ultimate model of zeal for God. She died watching each one of her sons died, and then she offered herself. I encourage you. I encourage you. I find so much of relevance in the maccabean history, so important. It is it for us to resist assimilation to an aggressive paganism, and we can apply that to our own life. Their example shows us that there's every reason to be courageous, there's every reason to hoping God, there's every reason to say no to becoming fashioned in the secular image, the aggressive propagation of secular ways of living. We have to resist them. We have to say the same thing today that was said by the maccabees then. No, we have to be faithful and not lose heart. We have to fight and not lose hope. We have to be courageous and know that God's salvation is at hand and the enemies of truth and love will certainly fail. And, brothers and sisters, we need to our honor martyrdom and prepare for it, which means we have to wear our crosses honestly, not as jewelry but as a pledge of our fidelity to die for the sake of the faith. Beautiful Day, Huh, Beautiful Day, happy feast. We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles, or if you would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org.

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