Divine Office at the moment is going through the Book of Maccabees, telling the story of what happened to the Jews after the time of Alexander the Great. The Scripture’s aren’t too enthusiastic about Alexander, showing him as a rapacious war maker. His empire is divided on his death and the divisions lead to more war.
Then from this mess arose Antiochus Epiphanes (215 to 163 BC) , a man whose level of evil knew no bounds. He went after Jewish religious practices to begin with, chipping away at their rights to practice their faith in freedom.
Slowly he tightened the screws until he demanded all should worship him as a god-manifest (hence the name he took Epiphanes) and the Temple was desecrated, the “abomination of desolation” set up there. From the ashes of a pretty large apostacy, Judas Maccabeus and his brothers stand up for freedom of faith and trust in God.
I think anyone who has done more than five minutes studying Scriptural typology will know that Antiochus was a type of Antichrist.
The whole story of the two Scriptural books of Maccabees is a great lesson for us. It’s not just the way the Jews lived through the wholesale persecution; the apostacy of so many and the powerful strength and faith of the few. It is the story of horror and death that leads to the bright lights of Hanukkah.(8 to 16th December this year).
No one can forget the strength and courage, the enormous grace of the mother who was forced to watch her seven sons tortured to death. Not one of them gave in to their pagan torturers, but faced death, encouraged and strengthened by their mother.
Jesus referred back to this story and the prophecies of Daniel when He told us what to look out for in the end times. Of course we’ve been living in the end times since the Resurrection. We are children of the Eighth Day. Nevertheless we know the Eighth Day will come to an end. (Will a ninth day dawn? I’ve never quite got to grips with that.)
At the mini Parousia we saw the first fulfilment of Christ’s prophecy of the end of the world. In 70AD the world of the Old Testament was destroyed and there has been no Temple, no sacrifice for the Jewish people since that terrible time.
Ends come and go. The people who love God get persecuted, hounded, murdered and generally given a hard time. We have a whole load of history to go with Scripture and Tradition. I think when the time comes for the generations, countries and cities to be judged even the Canaanites and Aztecs will get an easier ride than us over whether they knew the wholesale human slaughter they were into was not advisable. Remember their cultures are long gone.
The Church has stood for over 2000 years. She will be there when Christ comes to claim His Bride.