Advent Series - December 23
We have seen how the Persians, under Cyrus the Great took over the Chaldean Empire. King Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Judea,their homeland, and rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem.
The Persians went on to conquer most of the known world. They took over Egypt, putting an end to the dynasty of the great Pharaohs.
India also became a Persian province. The Persians tried to take over Greece as well, but they were defeated at the battle of Marathon. (This victory was remembered by the Greeks with the Marathon races.)
The Persians ruled for many years, but eventually their empire came to an end. A young man named Alexander the Great led armies out of Greece and in a few short years, he took over the civilized world.
In 331 B.C. the Greeks took over Judea and Judea became a Greek province. Many Jews moved to Alexandria in Egypt and to other parts of the Greek Empire (This spreading out of the Jews all over the world is called the “Diaspora” which is Greek for “Dispersion”.)
Greek became the world language. At Alexandria in Egypt, 70 Jews worked to translate the Bible into Greek. This translation was called the “Septuagint” (from the Latin, “septuaginta” which means 70.)
The Greek Septuagint was a factor that the Catholic Church used to decide which books belonged to the Old Testament (The list of books which have been inspired by God is called the Canon of Scripture)
Alexander the Great died in the year 323 B.C. After his death, Alexander’s generals and later on, their families fought for power. 2 families in particular; the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucidae of Syria fought over Judea. The Seleucids won.
In 168 B.C., Seleucid leader Antiochus IV (also called Antiochus Epiphanes) decided to force the Jews to live like Greeks. He made a new law, forbidding the Jewish religion. He took over Jerusalem and profaned the Temple; stealing the sacred vessels and setting up an altar to the false god Zeus. He persecuted the people, destroying their homes and killing those who did not worship Greek idols.
One man stood up against Antiochus. This man was Mathathias. Mathathias and his 5 sons lived in the mountain of Modin. When the king’s men came to force everyone to sacrifice to idols, Mathathias pulled down the altar, and crying with a loud voice, said, “Every one that hath zeal for the law…let him follow me”
So the Jews formed an army under Mathathias, and they fought Antiochus, tearing down his altars.
But Mathathias was a very old man. He died shortly after when he was 146 years old, and his oldest son, Judas Machabeus continued the fight against the Seleucids. In December, 165 B.C. Judas (or Judah) Machabeus led the Jews into Jerusalem.
Throwing out the idols, he purified the Temple, and the small amount of good oil they had, by God's miracle lasted 8 days. The Jews remember this event with the festival of Hanukkah.Antiochus IV also died, but other Seleucid leaders continued the battle.
While all this was happening, there was another power rising; the power of Rome.
Judas Machabeus heard of these Romans; that they ruled with justice and fairness, and he sent men to Rome to make an alliance with them. The Jews promised to help the Romans fight their battles and the Romans promised to help the Jews.
During this time, the Bible tells of another family; a mother and her 7 sons. The Greek Seleucids tortured and killed each one of them because they would not deny God. The family remained steadfast and firm to the end, encouraging one another. (2 Maccabees chapter 7)
Judas Machabeus died in battle, but his brothers took up the fight.
Now we come to the end of the Old Testament.
The Old Testament ends with the victory over Nicanor who was sent by the Seleucid king to fight the Jews. The head of Nicanor was cut off (!) and hung on top of the castle as a sign of God’s help.
Today’s O Antiphon is, “O Emmanuel”
"O God With Us our King and Lawgiver, the Expectation of the nations, and their Savior: come and save us, O Lord our God."