(i) Brotherly bonds and a mother’s love.
Martyrdom of EleazarOriginal Source for this heading – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=4%20Maccabees+6&version=NRSV:
1 AND when this one also died a blessed death, being cast into the cauldron, the seventh son, the youngest of them all, came forward.
2 But the tyrant, although fiercely exasperated by his brethren, felt pity for the boy, and seeing him there already bound he had him brought near, and sought to persuade him, saying: ‘Thou seest the end of the folly of thy brethren; for through their disobedience they have been racked to death. Thou, too, if thou dost not obey, wilt thyself also be miserably tortured and put to death before thy time; but if thou dost obey thou shalt be my friend, and thou shalt be advanced to high office in the business of the kingdom.’
4 And while thus appealing to him he sent for the boy’s mother, in order that in her sorrow for the loss of so many sons she might urge the survivor to obey and be saved.
5 But the mother, speaking in the Hebrew tongue, as I shall tell later on, encouraged the boy, and he said to the guards, ‘Loose me, that I may speak to the king and to all his friends with him.’
6 And they, rejoicing at the boy’s request, made haste to loose him.
7 And running up to the red-hot brazier, ‘O impious tyrant,’ he cried, ‘and most ungodly of all sinners, art thou not ashamed to take thy blessings and thy kingship at the hands of God, and to slay his servants and torture the followers of righteousness?
8 For which things the divine justice delivers thee unto a more rapid and an eternal fire and torments which shall not leave hold on thee to all eternity.
9 Art thou not ashamed, being a man, O wretch with the heart of a wild beast, to take men of like feelings with thyself, made from the same elements, and tear out their tongues, and scourge and torture them in this manner?
10 But while they have fulfilled their righteousness towards God in their noble deaths, thou shalt miserably cry “Woe is met” for thy unjust slaying of the champions of virtue.’
11 And then standing on the brink of death he said, ‘I am no renegade to the witness borne by my brethren.
12 And I call upon the God of my fathers to be merciful unto my nation.
13 And thee will he Punish both in this present life and after that thou art dead.’
14 And with this prayer he cast himself into the red-hot brazier, and so gave up the ghost.
15 If therefore the seven brethren despised the tortures even to the death, it is universally proved that the Inspired Reason is supreme lord over the passions.
16 For if they had yielded to their passions or sufferings and eaten unclean meat we should have said that they had been conquered thereby.
17 But in this cam it was not so; on the contrary by their Reason, which was commended in the sight of God, they rose superior to their passions.
18 And it is impossible to deny the supremacy of the mind; for they won the victory over their passions and their pains. p. 192
19 How can we do otherwise than admit right Reason’s mastery over passion with these men who shrank not before the agonies of burning?
20 For even as towers on harbour-moles repulse the assaults of the waves and offer a calm entrance to those entering the haven, so the seven-towered right Reason of the youths defended the haven of righteousness and repulsed the tempestuousness of the passions.
21 They formed a holy choir of righteousness as they cheered one another on, saying:
22 ‘Let us die like brothers, O brethren, for the Law.
23 Let us imitate the Three Children at the Assyrian court who despised this same ordeal of the furnace.
24 Let us not turn cravens before the proof of righteousness.’
25 And one said, ‘Brother, be of good cheer,’ and another, ‘Bear it out nobly’; and another recalling the past, ‘Remember of what stock ye are, and at whose fatherly hand Isaac for righteousness’ sake yielded himself to be a sacrifice.’
26 And each and all of them together, looking at each other brightly and very boldly, said, ‘With a whole heart will we consecrate ourselves unto God who gave us our souls, and let us lend our bodies to the keeping of the Law.
27 Let us not fear him who thinketh he kills; for a great struggle and peril of the soul awaits in eternal torment those who transgress the ordinance of God.
28 Let us then arm ourselves with divine Reason’s mastery of the passions.
29 After this our passion, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob shall receive us, and all our forefathers shall praise us.’
30 And to each separate one of the brothers, as they were dragged off, those whose turn was yet to come said, ‘Do not disgrace us, brother, nor be false to our brethren already dead.’
31 You are not ignorant of the love of brethren, whereof the divine and all-wise Providence has given an inheritance to those who are begotten though their fathers, implanting it in them even through the mother’s womb; wherein brethren do dwell the like period, and take their form during the same time, and are nourished from the same blood, and are quickened with the same soul, and are brought into the world after the same space, and they draw milk from the same founts, whereby their fraternal souls are nursed together in arms at the breast; and they are knit yet closer through a common nurture and daily companionship and other education, and through our discipline under the Law of God.
32 The feeling of brotherly love being thus naturally strong, the seven brethren had their mutual concord made yet stronger. For trained in the same Law, and disciplined in the same virtues, and brought up together in the upright life, they loved one another the more abundantly. Their common zeal for moral beauty and goodness heightened their mutual concord, for in conjunction with their piety it rendered their brotherly love more fervent.
33 But though nature, companionship, and their virtuous disposition increased the ardour of their brotherly love, nevertheless the surviving sons through their religion supported the sight of their brethren, who were on the rack, being tortured to death; nay more, they even encouraged them to face the agony, so as not only to despise their own tortures, but also to conquer their passion of brotherly affection for their brethren. p. 193
34 O Reasoning minds, more kingly than kings, than freemen more free, of the harmony of the seven brethren, holy and well attuned to the keynote of piety!
35 None of the seven youths turned coward, none shrunk in the face of death, but all hastened to the death by torture as if running the road to immortality.
36 For as hands and feet move in harmony with the promptings of the soul, so those holy youths, as if prompted by the immortal soul of religion, went in harmony to death for its sake.
37 O all-holy sevenfold companionship of brethren in harmony!
38 For as the seven days of the creation of the world do enring religion, so did the youths choir-like enring their sevenfold companionship, and made the terror of the tortures of no account.
39 We now shudder when we hear of the suffering of those youths; but they, not only seeing it with their eyes, nor merely hearing the spoken, imminent threat, but actually feeling the pang, endured it through; and that in the torture by fire, than which what greater agony can be found?
40 For sharp and stringent is the power of fire, and swiftly did it bring their bodies to dissolution.
41 And think it not wonderful if with those men Reason triumphed over the tortures, when even a woman’s soul despised a yet greater diversity of pains; for the mother of the seven youths endured the torments inflicted on each several one of her children.
42 But consider how manifold are the yearnings of a mother’s heart, so that her feeling for her offspring becomes the centre of her whole world; and indeed,
here, even the irrational animals have for their young an affection and love similar to men’s.
43 For example, among the birds, the tame ones sheltering under our roofs defend their nestlings; and those that nest upon the mountain tops, and in the rock clefts, and in the holes of trees, and in the branches, and hatch their young there, do also drive away the intruder.
44 And then, if they be unable to drive him away, they flutter around the nestlings in a passion of love, calling to them in their own speech, and they give succour to their young ones in whatever fashion they can.
45 And what need have we of examples of the love of offspring among irrational animals, when even the bees, about the season of the making of the comb, fend off intruders, and stab with their sting, as with a sword, those who approach their brood, and do battle against them even to the death?
46 But she, the mother of those young men, with a soul like Abraham, was not moved from her purpose by her affection for her children.
Original Source: The Fourth Book of Maccabees.Original Source: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/fbe/index.htm#section_006 | sacred-texts.com
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