Friday, November 5, 2010

Onias and Jeremias: Saints Alive! Pray for us

The Dominican Breviary gives as its Matins lessons for to-day, Friday in the fifth week of October (so-called because, according to the '62 rubrics, the first week of November doesn't begin until the first Sunday thereof), a significant extract from II Machabees chapter xv, verses 12-14, 15-17 and 20-21.

(The Roman Breviary, which has longer Matins lessons, appoints more or less the same passage for to-morrow, divided into two lessons only, since the third will always be for a saint or for Our Lady on Saturday: II Machabees xv, 7-11 and 12-19.)

It is significant because it represents "a dream worthy of belief" (verse 11) that Judas Machabeus had, featuring both the saintly Onias, a former High Priest who had died, lifting up his hands in prayer for Israel, and also the great prophet Jeremias playing a mediatorial role: and what is this, but direct testimony to the intercession of the saints?  No wonder Luther had to seek a reason to reject the Scriptural authority of this book, which in chapter xii had already testified to prayer and sacrifice for the dead!

Herewith, the three lessons (the second and third being read together to-day, making room for the third hagiographical lesson in honour of St Martin de Porres):

First Lesson (II Mach. xv, 12-14)

From the second book of the Machabees.

Now the vision was in this manner: Onias who had been high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in his looks, gentle in his manners, and graceful in his speech, and who from a child was exercised in virtues, holding up his hands, prayed for all the people of the Jews.  After this there appeared also another man, admirable for age, and glory, and environed with great beauty and majesty: then Onias answering, said: This is a lover of his brethren, and of the people of Israel: this is he that prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city, Jeremias the prophet of God. — But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.  R/.  Thanks be to God.

Second Lesson (II Mach. xv, 15-17)

Whereupon Jeremias stretched forth his right hand, and gave to Judas a sword of gold, saying: Take this holy sword a gift from God, wherewith thou shalt overthrow the adversaries of my people Israel.  Thus being exhorted with the words of Judas, which were very good, and proper to stir up the courage, and strengthen the hearts of the young men, they resolved to fight, and to set upon them manfully: that valour might decide the matter, because the holy city and the temple were in danger. — But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.  R/.  Thanks be to God.

Third Lesson (II Mach. xv, 20-21)

And now when all expected what judgment would be given, and the enemies were at hand, and the army was set in array, the beasts and the horsemen ranged in convenient places, Machabeus considering the coming of the multitude, and the divers preparations of armour, and the fierceness of the beasts, stretching out his hands to heaven, called upon the Lord, that worketh wonders, who giveth victory to them that are worthy, not according to the power of their arms, but according as it seemeth good to him. — But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.  R/.  Thanks be to God.

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