Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Holy Maccabees

The Shrine of the Holy Maccabees in the Church of St. Andrew, Cologne. (Source.)

In the more traditional calendars, today is the Commemoration of the Holy Maccabees, whose martyrdom is recorded in II Maccabees 7.  The martyrdom of these seven brothers and their mother for defying the Seleucid King, Antiochus Epiphanes, and refusing to break Jewish law is not light reading.  Death for the sake of conscience is one of the highest sacrifices a human being can make.  It is a bit more than annoying that so many bloggers liken themselves to the Maccabees in imagining that this election season holds analogous promise for persecution and martyrdom, be it from an Obama reelection or a Romney victory.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes, which translates “Antiochus, the God Made Manifest,” was a brutal ruler, given to destroying cities and conducting mass executions.  His contemporaries, very quietly I imagine, referred to him as Antiochus Epimanes, “Antiochus, the One Made Insane.”  Drawing parallels between Antiochus and contemporary politicians and between the brutality of war and occupation and minor political skirmishes in Washington seems to indicate a certain loss of perspective or a dangerous amount of hubris.  Much better to remember the eloquent confidence with which these eight met their fates than to prostitute their fortitude to fan sectarian flames.

May the brotherly crown of Your Martyrs, O Lord, give us joy and may it afford to our faith an increase of virtues and console us with many prayers. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
-Collect for the Holy Maccabees