31 July 2020


An advantage in the the current Roman legislation regarding the "Extraordinary Form": it is currently legal, on August 1 to say Mass of the Maccabees.

This is very important. This celebration was the only relic on the Roman Calendar of the old principle that the History of God's People, "Old Testament" and "New Testament", is a continuum. There is no break. Abraham, as the Canon of the Mass insists on 363 days of the year, is our Patriarch; our great forefather.

There is no theological reason against having "Old Testament" figures on a Catholic Calendar. The local Calendar of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has them ... because, there, they are local Saints. One of the joys of helping out at Lanherne is that the old Carmelite Calendar provides "Old Testament" figures in large numbers. Then, of course, there are the Eastern Christian Calendars.

So why the dearth of "Old Testament" names in the Calendar of the Church of Rome? Because, in the earlier centuries, Church dedications so often related to relics (a reason why there are so few churches dedicated to our Lady from before the Council of Ephesus). And the relics of the Maccabees are, indeed, in Rome.

"But the Maccabees were not martyrs for Christ". But they were. They were martyrs for the Torah, and the Man from Nazareth was, is, the Wisdom and Word of God, which means, the Torah. "Christ now stands on the Mountain, he now takes the place of the Torah", as Rabbi Neusner interprets S Matthew. "Jesus understands himself as the Torah -- as the word of God in person ... [he claims to be the] Temple and Torah in person", comments Joseph Ratzinger. (I have emphasised before the importance of the middle volume of his Jesus of Nazareth, pages 103sqq, Ratzinger dialoguing at length with his friend Rabbi Jacob Neusner).

Witnessing to the Torah in those days before the Torah stood among us Incarnate, they are His martyrs. Secondarily, of course, they are the perfect paradigms of the numberless martyrs of the early Christian centuries ... and of our own.

The confectors of the Novus Ordo frankly admitted that the Feast of the Maccabees is of extreme antiquity, and, indeed, universality. But they wanted to put S Alfonso on August 1, and they bound themselves by their own silly fetich not to have "Commemorations". So they left the Maccabees "to local calendars".

You might think, therefore that in the Novus Ordo local calendar "Pro clero almae urbis eiusque districtus, typis polyglottis Vaticanis MCMLXXIV" might have the Maccabees. Er ...

You'd never guess whose name appears at the bottom of the Decree authorising this supplement. It begins with B.

I think it's time somebody raised a great cry: "The Novus Ordo is anti-semitic".

Our own Sir Keir Starmer should lead an international campaign to get it banned.


Dom Bede Rowe said...

Concerning the Masses for the Patriarchs: Pre Vat II "The Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies of the USA, at Seton Hall, proposed a more systematic treatment of Judaism at the Council.They wrote to Cardinal Bea on 24th June 1960, suggesting that in considering the
nature of the Church, the Council look to her Old Testament roots, thus strengthening the identification with ‘Israel’ as a current historic reality. They proposed an extension of votive Masses celebrated in Jerusalem, adding the feasts of Ss Abraham, David and Jeremias, to the universal calendar..." This was repeated in the run up to the creation of the 'Decretum de Iudaeis' in November 1961 through the “Sub-Commission for Jewish Questions” consisting of Baum, Abbot Leo Rudloff and Oesterreicher.
The reason against the inclusion of the feasts was that Abraham was mentioned every time Mass was offered. (I cannot find my reference for that but it was referenced in the Council docs).
I find it ironic that as soon as the new EPs were written, Abraham disappeared, and the chance for the inclusion of the Patriarchal feasts had passed. So thank goodness there is still the Maccabbees - though we will be keeping St Peter in Chains, with them as a commemoration!

frjustin said...

In a Syriac breviary of the first years of the fifth century, the mother of the Maccabees is given the name of Shmooni. A synaxarion of the Maronite rite states:
"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 [as Fr Hunwicke indicates, to] Rome where they rest in the Church of St Peter ad Vincula".

St Leo the Great, preaching on August 1, probably in that church, mentions the double celebration of the dedication of the building and the passion of the seven brothers. Not that that bothered the confectors of the Novus Ordo.

In the Byzantine rite, however, there is a "Kontakion of the Martyrs" on August 1: "O Maccabees perfect in wisdom, you are like the Seven Pillars of God's wisdom, the Seven Candelabra of heaven. O great ones, first of the martyrs, together with all martyrs intercede with God that He may save those who honour you".

Note the phrase "first of the martyrs". As if to demonstrate the continuity of salvation history, August 2 in the Byzantine rite commemorates the Transfer of the Remains of the Holy Protomartyr the Archdeacon (!) Stephen, "the very first to have shed your blood for Christ".

Finally, in the Extraordinary Form, the Collect for the Holy Maccabees refers to "our Faith". In the translation of the Roman Breviary by John, Marquess of Bute, K.T.: "Lord, we pray Thee, that the crown of the Brethren Thy Martyrs, may be a joy unto us, nerving the valour of our Faith, and strengthening us by sevenfold intercession". 

The Alleluia verse at Mass goes even farther: "This is the true brotherhood which overcame the wickedness of the world; it followed Christ, attaining the noble kingdom of heaven", ending, of course, with the Hebrew words Hallelu Y-H! The Maccabees were indeed martyrs for Christ.

As for a Mattins reading, the older Roman breviary provided a short passage from the 20th(!) sermon on the Maccabees by St Gregory Nazianzen.

PM said...

Not by coincidence, I suspect, the Books of the Maccabees provide the clearest statement in the Old Testament of belief in the Resurrection.