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Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter – The reading is from the Gospel John 10:22-39.

Feast of the Dedication – John 10:22-39

The feast of the Dedication was then taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon.

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.

But you do not believe, because you are not among my sheep.

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

No one can take them out of my hand.

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.

The Father and I are one.”

The Jews again picked up rocks to stone him.

Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?”

The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.”

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’?

If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize [and understand] that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

[Then] they tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power.

  • The feast of the Dedication was then taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. (John 10:22)

The Feast of the Dedication is an eight-day festival of lights (Hebrew: Hanukkah חֲנֻכָּה‎,) held in December, three months after the feast of Tabernacles to celebrate the rededication of the altar by the Maccabees, and reconsecration of the temple in 164 B.C., after their desecration by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (c. 215 BC – 164 BC) who ruled the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC. He was a son of King Antiochus III the Great. His original name was Mithridates; he assumed the name Antiochus after he ascended the throne.

Purification and Rededication of the Temple – 1 Maccabees 4:36–59

Then Judas and his brothers said, “Now that our enemies have been crushed, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.”

So the whole army assembled, and went up to Mount Zion.

They found the sanctuary desolate, the altar desecrated, the gates burnt, weeds growing in the courts as in a thicket or on some mountain, and the priests’ chambers demolished.

Then they tore their garments and made great lamentation; they sprinkled their heads with ashes and prostrated themselves. And when the signal was given with trumpets, they cried out to Heaven.

Judas appointed men to attack those in the citadel, while he purified the sanctuary.

He chose blameless priests, devoted to the law; these purified the sanctuary and carried away the stones of the defilement to an unclean place.

They deliberated what ought to be done with the altar for burnt offerings that had been desecrated.

They decided it best to tear it down, lest it be a lasting shame to them that the Gentiles had defiled it; so they tore down the altar.

They stored the stones in a suitable place on the temple mount, until the coming of a prophet who could determine what to do with them.

Then they took uncut stones, according to the law, and built a new altar like the former one.

They also repaired the sanctuary and the interior of the temple and consecrated the courts.

They made new sacred vessels and brought the lampstand, the altar of incense, and the table into the temple.l

Then they burned incense on the altar and lighted the lamps on the lampstand, and these illuminated the temple.

They also put loaves on the table and hung up the curtains. Thus they finished all the work they had undertaken.

They rose early on the morning of the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, that is, the month of Kislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight, and offered sacrifice according to the law on the new altar for burnt offerings that they had made.

On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had desecrated it, on that very day it was rededicated with songs, harps, lyres, and cymbals.

All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven, who had given them success.

For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered burnt offerings and sacrifices of deliverance and praise.

They ornamented the facade of the temple with gold crowns and shields; they repaired the gates and the priests’ chambers and furnished them with doors.

There was great joy among the people now that the disgrace brought by the Gentiles was removed.

Then Judas and his brothers and the entire assembly of Israel decreed that every year for eight days, from the twenty-fifth day of the month Kislev, the days of the dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary.

The following from 2 Maccabees Chapter 1 and 2 give more detail about the desecration by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

2 Maccabees 1:1-2:23

Letter 1: 124 B.C.

The Jews in Jerusalem and in the land of Judea send greetings to their kindred, the Jews in Egypt, and wish them true peace!

May God do good to you and remember his covenant with his faithful servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, give to all of you a heart to worship him and to do his will wholeheartedly and with a willing spirit, open your heart to his law and commandments and grant you peace, hear your prayers, and be reconciled to you, and never forsake you in time of adversity.

Even now we are praying for you here.

In the reign of Demetrius, the one hundred and sixty-ninth year, we Jews wrote to you during the height of the distress that overtook us in those years after Jason and his followers revolted against the holy land and the kingdom, set fire to the gatehouse and shed innocent blood. But we prayed to the Lord, and our prayer was heard; we offered sacrifices and fine flour; we lighted the lamps and set out the loaves of bread.

We are now reminding you to celebrate the feast of Booths in the month of Kislev.

Dated in the one hundred and eighty-eighth year.

Letter 2: 164 B.C.

The people of Jerusalem and Judea, the senate, and Judas send greetings and good wishes to Aristobulus, teacher of King Ptolemy and member of the family of the anointed priests, and to the Jews in Egypt.

Since we have been saved by God from grave dangers, we give him great thanks as befits those who fought against the king; for it was God who drove out those who fought against the holy city.

When their leader arrived in Persia with his seemingly irresistible army, they were cut to pieces in the temple of the goddess Nanea through a deceitful stratagem employed by Nanea’s priests.

On the pretext of marrying the goddess, Antiochus with his Friends had come to the place to get its great treasures as a dowry.

When the priests of Nanea’s temple had displayed the treasures and Antiochus with a few attendants had come inside the wall of the temple precincts, the priests locked the temple as soon as he entered.

Then they opened a hidden trapdoor in the ceiling, and hurling stones at the leader and his companions, struck them down. They dismembered the bodies, cut off their heads and tossed them to the people outside.

Forever blessed be our God, who has thus punished the impious!

Since we shall be celebrating the purification of the temple on the twenty-fifth day of the month Kislev, we thought it right to inform you, that you too may celebrate the feast of Booths and of the fire that appeared when Nehemiah, the rebuilder of the temple and the altar, offered sacrifices.

For when our ancestors were being led into captivity in Persia, devout priests at the time took some of the fire from the altar and hid it secretly in the hollow of a dry cistern, making sure that the place would be unknown to anyone.

Many years later, when it so pleased God, Nehemiah, commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to look for it.

When they informed us that they could not find any fire, but only a thick liquid, he ordered them to scoop some out and bring it. After the material for the sacrifices had been prepared, Nehemiah ordered the priests to sprinkle the wood and what lay on it with the liquid.

This was done, and when at length the sun, which had been clouded over, began to shine, a great fire blazed up, so that everyone marveled.

While the sacrifice was being burned, the priests recited a prayer, and all present joined in with them. Jonathan led and the rest responded with Nehemiah.

The prayer was as follows: “Lord, Lord God, creator of all things, awesome and strong, just and merciful, the only king and benefactor, who alone are gracious, just, almighty, and eternal, Israel’s savior from all evil, who chose our ancestors and sanctified them: accept this sacrifice on behalf of all your people Israel and guard and sanctify your portion.

Gather together our scattered people, free those who are slaves among the Gentiles, look kindly on those who are despised and detested, and let the Gentiles know that you are our God.

Punish those who lord it over us and in their arrogance oppress us.

Plant your people in your holy place, as Moses said.”

Then the priests sang hymns.

After the sacrifice was consumed, Nehemiah ordered the rest of the liquid to be poured upon large stones.

As soon as this was done, a flame blazed up, but its light was lost in the brilliance coming from the altar.

When the event became known and the king of the Persians was told that, in the very place where the exiled priests had hidden the fire, a liquid was found with which Nehemiah and his people had burned the sacrifices, the king, after verifying the fact, fenced the place off and declared it sacred.

To those whom the king favored, he distributed many benefits he received.

Nehemiah and his companions called the liquid nephthar, meaning purification, but most people named it naphtha.

In the records it will be found that Jeremiah the prophet ordered the deportees to take some of the fire with them as indicated, and that the prophet, in giving them the law, directed the deportees not to forget the commandments of the Lord or be led astray in their thoughts, when seeing the gold and silver idols and their adornments.a

With other similar words he exhorted them that the law should not depart from their hearts.

The same document also tells how the prophet, in virtue of an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should accompany him, and how he went to the very mountain that Moses climbed to behold God’s inheritance.

When Jeremiah arrived there, he found a chamber in a cave in which he put the tent, the ark, and the altar of incense; then he sealed the entrance.

Some of those who followed him came up intending to mark the path, but they could not find it.

When Jeremiah heard of this, he reproved them: “The place is to remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy. Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will be seen, just as they appeared in the time of Moses and of Solomon when he prayed that the place* might be greatly sanctified.”

It is also related how Solomon in his wisdom offered a sacrifice for the dedication and the completion of the temple.

Just as Moses prayed to the Lord and fire descended from the sky and consumed the sacrifices, so also Solomon prayed and fire came down and consumed the burnt offerings.

Moses had said, “Because it had not been eaten, the purification offering was consumed.”

Solomon also celebrated the feast in the same way for eight days.

These same things are also told in the records and in Nehemiah’s memoirs, as well as how he founded a library and collected the books about the kings and the prophets, the books of David, and the royal letters about votive offerings.

In like manner Judas also collected for us all the books that had been scattered because of the war, and we now have them in our possession. If you need them, send messengers to get them for you.

As we are about to celebrate the purification, we are writing: you should celebrate the feast days.

It is God who has saved all his people and has restored to all of them their inheritance, the kingdom, the priesthood, and the sacred rites, as he promised through the law.

For we hope in God, that he will soon have mercy on us and gather us together from everywhere under the heavens to his holy place, for he has rescued us from great perils and has purified the place.

This is the story of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, of the purification of the great temple, the dedication of the altar, the campaigns against Antiochus Epiphanes and his son Eupator, and of the heavenly manifestations accorded to the heroes who fought bravely for the Jewish people. Few as they were, they plundered the whole land, put to flight the barbarian hordes, regained possession of the temple renowned throughout the world, and liberated the city. They re-established the laws that were in danger of being abolished, while the Lord favored them with every kindness.

All this, detailed by Jason of Cyrene in five volumes, we will try to condense into a single book.

The following, also from 1 Maccabees Chapter 10 is very interesting history.

Jonathan Becomes High Priest – 1 Maccabees 10:1-21

In the one hundred and sixtieth year, Alexander Epiphanes, son of Antiochus, came up and took Ptolemais. They accepted him as king and he began to reign there.

When King Demetrius heard of it, he mustered a very large army and marched out to engage him in battle.

Demetrius sent a letter to Jonathan written in peaceful terms, to exalt him; for he said: “Let us be the first to make peace with him, before he makes peace with Alexander against us, since he will remember all the wrongs we have done to him, his brothers, and his nation.”

So Demetrius authorized him to gather an army and procure arms as his ally; and he ordered that the hostages in the citadel be released to him.

Accordingly Jonathan went to Jerusalem and read the letter to all the people and to those who were in the citadel.

They were struck with fear when they heard that the king had given him authority to gather an army.

Those in the citadel released the hostages to Jonathan, and he gave them back to their parents.

Thereafter Jonathan dwelt in Jerusalem, and began to build and restore the city.

He ordered those doing the work to build the walls and to encircle Mount Zion with square stones for its fortification, and they did so.

The foreigners in the strongholds that Bacchides had built took flight; all of them left their places and returned to their own lands.

Only in Beth-zur did some remain of those who had abandoned the law and the commandments, for it was a place of refuge.

King Alexander heard of the promises that Demetrius had made to Jonathan; he was also told of the battles and brave deeds of Jonathan and his brothers and of the troubles that they had endured.

He said, “Shall we ever find another man like him? Let us now make him our friend and ally.”

So he sent Jonathan a letter written in these terms:

“King Alexander sends greetings to his brother Jonathan. We have heard of you, that you are a mighty warrior and worthy to be our friend.

We have therefore appointed you today to be high priest of your nation; you are to be called the King’s Friend, and you are to look after our interests and preserve friendship with us.”

He also sent him a purple robe and a crown of gold.

Jonathan put on the sacred vestments in the seventh month of the one hundred and sixtieth year at the feast of Booths, and he gathered an army and procured many weapons.

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