Nocturn I: I Maccabees 1:1-16
Reading 1: Now it came to pass, after that Alexander the son of Philip the Macedonian, who first reigned in Greece, coming out of the land of Cethim, had overthrown Darius king of the Persians and Medes: He fought many battles, and took the strong holds of all, and slew the kings of the earth: And he went through even to the ends of the earth, and took the spoils of many nations: and the earth was quiet before him.
R. The Lord open your hearts in His law and commandments, and send peace in your days.* May He grant you salvation and redeem you out of all evil.
V. The Lord hear your prayers, and be at one with you, and never forsake you in the time of trouble.
R. May He grant you salvation and redeem you out of all evil.
Reading 2: And he gathered a power, and a very strong army: and his heart was exalted and lifted up.
And he subdued countries of nations, and princes: and they became tributaries to him. And after these things, he fell down upon his bed, and knew that he should die. And he called his servants the nobles that were brought up with him from his youth: and he divided his kingdom among them, while he was yet alive.
R. The Lord hear your prayers, and be at one with you, and never forsake you in the time of trouble
* Even He, the Lord our God.
V. Give you all an heart to serve Him, and to do His will.
R. Even He, the Lord our God.
Reading 3: And Alexander reigned twelve years, and he died. And his servants made themselves kings every one in his place: And they all put crowns upon themselves after his death, and their sons after them many years, and evils were multiplied in the earth. And there came out of them a wicked root, Antiochus the Illustrious, the son of king Antiochus, who had been a hostage at Rome: and he reigned in the hundred and thirty-seventh year of the kingdom of the Greeks.
R. Our enemies are gathered together, and make their boast of their own strength. O Lord, break their power, and scatter them* That they may know that there is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou, O our God!
V. Scatter them in thy strength, and destroy them, O Lord our Shield
R. That they may know that there is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou, O our God
Reading 4: In those days there went out of Israel wicked men, and they persuaded many, saying: Let us go, and make a covenant with the heathens that are round about us: for since we departed from them, many evils have befallen us.And the word seemed good in their eyes. And some of the people determined to do this, and went to the king: and he gave them license to do after the ordinances of the heathens. And they built a place of exercise in Jerusalem, according to the laws of the nations: And they made themselves prepuces, and departed from the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathens, and were sold to do evil.
R. Judas said unto Simon his brother: Choose thee out men, and go, and deliver thy brethren that are in Galilee and I, and Jonathan thy brother, will go into the country of Galaad.* As the Will is in heaven, so let it be.
V. Arm yourselves, ye valiant men, and be in readiness for it is better for us to die in battle, than to behold the calamities of our people, and our sanctuary.
R. As the Will is in heaven, so let it be.
Nocturn II: St Ambrose (Book of Duties I: 40)
Reading 5: There may perchance be some who are so blinded by the glory of war as to think there is no valour but warlike valour, and that the reason why I have taken up other subjects is that among us there is no warlike valour whereof to speak. But what was the valour of Josue the son of Nun, when in one battle he laid low five nations, and took prisoners their kings when he was fighting against the Gibeonites, and feared lest the closing in of night should cut short his victory, he cried aloud in the greatness of his mind and of his faith, And he said, in the sight of Israel Sun stand thou still over against Gibeon, and thou Moon over against the valley of Ajalon and the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Gideon, with three hundred men, won the victory over the vast people, and the savage enemy. The lad Jonathan waxed valiant in fight.
R. Be ye not afraid of the assault of the enemy remember how our fathers were delivered.* Now, therefore, let us cry unto heaven, and our God will have mercy upon us.
V.Remember His marvellous works that He hath done unto Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea.
R. Now, therefore, let us cry unto heaven, and our God will have mercy upon us.
Reading 6: Shall I speak of the Maccabees But before I speak of them, I will speak of their fathers, even of them who, when they were ready to fight for the Temple of God and for their own rights, were assailed by a trick of their enemies upon the Sabbath day, and were willing rather to offer their bodies naked to the sword than to strike back again and break the Sabbath, and so they gave themselves up gladly to death but when the Maccabees bethought them that the whole nation might thus perish, avenged the innocent blood of their brethren even upon the Sabbath day when they were provoked to battle, and afterward, when King Antiochus had been stirred up to make war on them by his generals, even Lysias and Nicanor and Gorgias, he and his Eastern and Assyrian forces were so crushed that forty and eight thousand were laid low on the field by three thousand.
R. The heathen are assembled together to fight against us, and we know not what we should do.
* Our eyes look unto thee, O Lord our God, that we should not perish.
V. What things they imagine against us, Thou knowest. How shall we be able to stand against them, except Thou be our help
R. Our eyes look unto thee, O Lord our God, that we should not perish.
Reading 7: What was the valour of Judas the Maccabean leader we may judge by the type of one of his men. When Eleazar saw an elephant bigger than the rest, and adorned with the King's harness, he thought that the King was riding thereon, and he threw himself into the midst of the enemy, and cast away his shield and slew on either hand until he was come to the beast, and ran underneath it, and killed it with his sword, and so the beast fell upon Eleazar and crushed him, and he died.
R. Thine, O Lord, is the power, thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted above all the heathen.* Give peace in our time, O Lord.
V. O Lord God, Creator of all things, Who art fearful and strong, righteous and merciful.
R. Give peace in our time, O Lord.
Reading 8: What valour was here To begin with, he feared not to die, and when the enemy surrounded him he cast himself into the midst of their ranks, pierced their column, and becoming all the fiercer through his mockery of death, he threw away his shield and upheld with both hands the huge bulk of the wounded monster beneath which he had gone the better to spite it, so that when he died with it he might well have been said not so much to be crushed as to be swallowed up in victory.
R. They decked the fore-front of the Temple with crowns of gold, and dedicated the Altar unto the Lord.* And there was very great gladness among the people.
V. They praised the Lord with Psalms and thanksgiving.
R. And there was very great gladness among the people.