1 August 2022


I reprint, this morning, together with some of its original thread, an old blog post. It has even more force, I think, than when I originally posted it, because the CDF liturgical legislation of 2020 in effect encouraged this celebration among those who, so wisely, worship according to the immemorial Usus Authenticus of the Roman Rite.

Its crude elimination from the Novus Ordo emphasises the de facto anti-semitism of the mangled liturgical mess which PF has had the temerity to describe as the unicus Usus of the Roman Rite.

Well, this morning I put on red vestments and said the Mass of the Holy Maccabees: the seven pre-Christian Jewish brothers whose martyrdom, described in II Maccabees 7, reads so much like a preview of the acta of the Christian martyrs under the Roman Empire.

There is no strictly theological reason why we should not celebrate the saints of the Old Covenant liturgically; as Catholics we know that we are in organic continuity with the Jewish faithful remnant who did accept their God and Messiah. The practical reason why we do not have more 'Old Testament' saints in our Latin calendar lies in the the origin of our Sanctorale in the local cult of the martyrs: they were celebrated liturgically where their bodies were venerated. The relics of the Maccabees, of course, are indeed preserved in Rome. [I preserve, on the thread, a valuable comment appended by a Byzantine writer to an earlier piece of mine upon the Maccabees.]

But this admirable Feast did not make the cut in the post-Conciliar 'reforms'! Interestingly, the post-conciliar revisers of the Calendar have left us an account of their thinking. I translate [my italics]: "The memoria of the Holy Maccabees, although it is extremely ancient and almost universal, is left to particular calendars: until 1960 only their commemoration happened on the feast of S Peter ad Vincula; now indeed August 1 is the memoria of S Alfonso and, according to the rubrics, another memoria cannot be kept on the same day". The revisers know that this commemoration is of immemorial antiquity and amazing universality; they feel embarrassed and sheepish about abolishing it; they can't think of any defence to make for their actions, except to appeal to their own novel man-made liturgical dogma (which is out of continuity with the traditions of both East and West) that you mustn't combine celebrations. The fact that today's commemoration is unique in the Calendar of the Roman Rite had no power whatsoever to influence them. 

The totalitarian inflexibility of innovators! The triumph of blind self-imposed dogma over every indication of history, doctrine, and common sense!

There is a tiny but telling detail I can add here: the 'reformers' left the Maccabees "to particular calendars" ... this what they may have said ... but when they authorised, in 1973, Propers for the Liturgy of the Hours for the Clergy of Rome herself, the city where the relics of the Maccabees rest, they omitted these Holy Martyrs even from that Calendar (Prot. n. 928/72).

Today's Mass makes clear that the Maccabees are truly our martyrs who pray for us. It calls them the true brotherhood which followed Christ; who were proved by the testimony of Faith and found in Christ Jesu our Lord; who confessed the Son of God, whose Faith we hope to follow. Yet they died before the Incarnation! Because they followed the Torah! But Christ is the Wisdom, Word, and Torah of the Father, to whom they, in the only way possible before His Incarnation, did bear witness. (You might like to read, in Ratzinger's Jesus of Nazareth, the brilliant dialogue between Ratzinger and Rabbi Jacob Neusner, about the Sermon on the Mount.) 

Their liturgical commemoration by us does not imply the novel error that Jews now, after the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, are left outside his gracious call to share the redemption and the new covenant which he, the Incarnate Torah, brings to all mankind without racial distinction. It would not now be possible for a Jew to be deemed one of our martyrs because of an exclusive act of obedient witness to what the Incarnation rendered old and "fulfilled" (although S Edith Stein, killed propter odium Iudaeorum is a Patron of Europe). 

But this highly important commemoration reminds us of our continuity with the the Old Testament (just as the Canon of the Mass does in its daily reference to Abraham as our Patriarch), warning us against Marcionism. That beastly heresy was revived by the Nazified 'German Christians' of the 1930s.

How enthusiastic some German Christians seem to be, as age follows age, about clinging to the monstrous errors of the Zeitgeist

Today's celebration also witnesses against any sort of hint, however tiny, of racial prejudice against people of Jewish origin.

In the true descent which, as S Paul insistently teaches, is rooted in Faith, we are The Jews, true children of Abraham; and the Maccabees are among our most glorious martyrs.

Intercedant pro nobis.


Fr Herman said...

Father, though you certainly already know this, your readers might find it interesting to note the plurality of Old Testament saints included on the calendar of the Byzantine Rite for the primary commemoration throughout the year (to make no mention of other Old Testament saints on the calendar, but without a service in the Menaion):

3 Jan: Prophet Malachi
6 May: Job the Long-suffering
9 May: Prophet Isaiah (a double commemoration with St. Christopher)
14 June: Prophet Elisha
20 July: Prophet Elijah (a vigil-rank feast)
21 Jul: Prophet Ezekiel
1 Aug: Seven Macabees
14 Aug: Prophet Micah
4 Sep: Prophet and God-seer Moses
19 Nov: Prophet Obodiah
1 Dec: Prophet Nahum
2 Dec: Prophet Habbakuk
3 Dec: Prophet Zepheniah
16 Dec: Prophet Habbakuk
17 Dec: Daniel and the Three Youths
Second Sunday before Christmas: Sunday of the Righteous of the Old Testament
Sunday before Christmas: Sunday of the Ancestors of Christ according to the Flesh

You'll notice the concentration of such commemorations in the lead-up to Christmas.

Also the first Sunday in Lent, before it became the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy in commemoration of the end of Iconoclasm, was the Sunday of the Holy Prophets. There are still vestiges of this older commemoration in the Triodion.

John said...

The Ancient Observance Carmelite calendar keeps the prophet Elias on July 20 as a solemnity and the Discalced keep it as a feast. And the O.Carms also keep the prophet Eliseus on June 14.

Matthew Roth said...

I’m curious to know how the feast of the prophet Elias was in the O.Carm rite and in the usage of the OCD according to the Roman Rite.

John said...

Matthew: The medieval Carmelites considered the prophet Elias quite literally as the founder of the Order. In St Peter's the various orders were invited to install a statue of their founder. The Carmelites provided a statue of Elias. He's still there. The Institutione Primorum Monachorum goes into detail of the early days. Fr Copsey,O.Carm. has made an English translation.

The Bollandists and the Carmelites got into quite an interesting battle over Elias as founder. The pope of the day finally told them both to leave the topic alone.

The different rankings of the liturgical day in the two orders has to do with the Bugninian dictat that orders shall have only one (1) founder. The O.Carms chose Elias. Ss Berthold and Brocard, who if they did not found the Order, at least obtained the rule for it and gave it its beginnings as a western, Latin rite religious order, vanished from the calendar. The Discalced didn't want to give up St Teresa for Elias so St Teresa got the solemnity and Elias the feast. Or so it was told to me. (I have no idea how the Servites got around that one-only founder requirement.)

Figulus said...

Matthew Roth:

I do not know. However, the Carmelites have since their inception considered Our Father Elias to be the founder of the order. His holy sacrifice on Mt Carmel is (I presume) the origin of our name.

The OCD does indeed follow the Roman Rite. However, we are allowed our particular calendar, just as are, viz., all the local dioceses of the Roman Rite, as well as other religious orders, e.g., the Franciscans, which have chosen to follow the Roman Rite. I do not know why this is so, but I do know that it is so.

Gerry Davila said...

Is Dec. 16 supposed to be Haggai?

Gerry Davila said...

Isaiah, Elisha, Elijah, Moses, Obadiah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai all occupy those same dates in the 2004/2005 Roman Martyrology.

Gerry Davila said...

And Eleazar and the Holy Bothers, of course.

Banshee said...

I love 2nd Maccabees for many reasons, but especially for its beautiful and sacred words about the editing of books.

But yes, that martyr narrative is amazing.

Manny said...


When would one celebrate the OT prophet Nathan? Id need not be liturgical, I am thinking of an appropriate date for an onomastico of a family member. Thanks

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"There is no strictly theological reason why we should not celebrate the saints of the Old Covenant liturgically"

I was going to mention St Moses 4th of Sept. I am born 6th of Sept., between St Moses and the Blessed Virgin's Nativity.

My own birthday is ALSO an OT Saint's memory:

6 Septembris Octavo Idus Septembris. Luna ...
vij. A

In Palaestina sancti Zachariae Prophetae, qui, de Chaldaea senex in patriam reversus, ibique defunctus, juxta Aggaeum Prophetam conditus jacet.

frjustin said...

In the post-conciliar Calendar of Feasts in the Syro-Malankara rite, the Lectionary lists OT saints which are mentioned at the Qurbono (Mass). The Church year begins on the Sunday nearest to the last day of October.

9 Oct: Abraham our Father in the Faith, Hebron, 1850 BC
16 Oct: Hosea the Prophet, Samaria, Palestine, 740 BC
20 Oct: Joel the Prophet, Palestine, 350 BC
10 Nov: Samuel, Seer, Prophet, Judge, Palestine, 1040 BC
19 Nov: Zephaniah, Prophet, Jerusalem, 600 BC
1 Dec: Nahum of Elkosh, Prophet, Nineveh, 612 BC
2 Dec: Habakkuk, Prophet, Judaea, Palestine, about 600 BC
16 Dec: Haggai the Prophet, Palestine, 520 BC
23 Dec: Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, Babylonia, 560 BC
29 Dec: David, King, Prophet, Priest, Jerusalem, 970 BC
21 Mar: Daniel the Prophet, Palestine, 5th cent. BC
31 Mar: Ezekiel the Prophet, Babylon, 550 BC
2 Apr: Malachi, Prophet, Jerusalem, 450 BC
4 May: Jeremiah the Prophet, 580 BC
6 May: Job the Severely Tried, Land of Uz, Arabia, 500 BC
10 May: Isaiah the Glorious Prophet, Jerusalem, 685 BC
13 Jun: Elisha the Prophet, Palestine, 790 BC
15 Jun: Amos the Prophet, Palestine, 750 BC
20 Jun: Joshua, Prophet, Palestine, about 1200 BC
20 Jul: Elijah the Tishbite, Prophet, Palestine, 875 BC
1 Aug: Shamouni and her seven sons, the Maccabees, and
their Teacher Eleazar, Martyrs, Jerusalem, 150 BC
5 Aug: Moses the Prophet, Mount Nebo, Transjordan, 1250 BC
1 Sep: Gideon the Judge, Palestine, about 1100 BC
25 Sep: Zechariah the Prophet, Jerusalem, 520 BC

John Vasc said...

"now indeed August 1 is the memoria of S Alfonso and, according to the rubrics, another memoria cannot be kept on the same day".
St Alphonsus's feast was fixed on 2nd August from when he was canonized in 1839. Was it perhaps moved by Bugnini's wrecking crew to 1st August with the deliberate intention of making a memorial of the Maccabees impossible?
Their deviousness in shifting everything around so as to destroy collective memory had a positively Orwellian 'Ingsoc' genius.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

The story of the Martyrdom and their later commemoration tells of its own earlier zeitgeist and cultural awareness, of course. Their holy mother died with them at the hand of Antiochus, last after the youngest son, as recorded in the final verses of chapter 7. So there were eight Maccabees Martyrs. Seven sons and a mother.

frjustin said...

In the Maronite rite, August 1st celebrates "Shmooni and her Seven Sons". This is the Synaxarion for the feast which is read at Ramsho (Vespers) on July 31:

"Today's feast commemorates the eight martyrs of the Jewish people: Shmooni and her seven sons. Their martyrdom took place around the year 170 before the birth of Christ, under the reign of the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes. This king attempted to impose the pagan cult of Jupiter upon the Jewish people and even desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem. Under the threat of persecution and even death, many Jews abandoned their religion.

"According to an ancient tradition, it is said that the death of Shmooni and her sons took place in Antioch, and from there the relics of these martyrs were brought to Constantinople and finally Rome where they rest in the Church of Saint Peter in Chains.

"Although her name is not mentioned, tradition gives the mother the name of Shmooni or Salome. The account of the death of the mother and sons is found in chapter 7 of the Second Book of Maccabees. The story of their martyrdom teaches us of their fidelity to the Jewish traditions, the great mercy of God for his people, their hope in the resurrection of the body, of God's reward to those who are faithful to him and of his judgement on those who turn away. Shmooni's example of faith as she saw her sons slowly put to death should be a sign to us when our faith is tested. May the prayers of Shmooni and her seven sons be with us. Amen."