Both readings raise a question of purity: the purity of our worship, the purity of our worship spaces, the purity of our prayer.
Judas and his brothers set out to purify the sanctuary of Jerusalem from the defilement of their enemies. They make their sacrifices, re-dedicate their altars, offer their communion; they adore, they adorn, they sing, they feast.
But they take their whole army with them. Jerusalem is a contested space—always has been—but all sacred spaces are. Every place of worship is a battleground. Every Church a theatre of war. Because purity is always an issue. What keeps a space sacred and what defiles it?
And there always seems an element of violence about the purifying, whether it’s the armies of the Maccabees, or the anti-capitalist zeal of Jesus.
The Church is waging its own liturgy wars right now—a civil war I guess—over translations and texts, sanctuaries and servers, over sacrifice and communion, over mystery and what moves us. And as always the tussle for purity seems to bring out the violence in all sides, all greys sharpened against each other to blacks and whites.
But the violence should be a sign to us. The purifying, driven zeal of Jesus got him nowhere, got him killed. He couldn’t reform the Temple. All he could do was let it be destroyed in his own body in the hope it might be rebuilt, on the third day, from the roots up.