Liturgical Colour : White
2 Maccabees 6 : 18-31
Eleazar, one of the prominent teachers of the Law, already old and of noble appearance, was forced to open his mouth to eat the flesh of a pig. But he preferred to die honourably than to live in disgrace, and voluntarily came to the place where they beat him to death. He spit out bravely the piece of meat, as should be done by those who do not want to do things prohibited by the Law, even to save their life.
Those in charge of this impious banquet took him aside, since they had known him for a long time, and tried to convince him to pretend to be eating the meat, but in reality, to eat something allowed by the Law and prepared by himself. In this way, he could escape death, and be treated with humanity for the sake of their long-time friendship.
But he preferred to make a noble decision worthy of his age, of his noble years, of his shining white hair, and of the irreproachable life he had led from childhood. Above all, showing respect for the holy laws established by God, he answered that he would rather be sent to the place of the dead.
And he added, “It would be unworthy to pretend at our age, and to lead many young people to suppose that I, at ninety years, have gone over to the pagan customs. If I lead them astray for the sake of this short life I would bring disgrace to my old age. Even if I could now be saved from mortals, I cannot – whether living or dead – escape from the hands of the Almighty.”
“I prefer to bravely sacrifice my life now, as befits my old age. So I shall leave an excellent example to the young, dying voluntarily and valiantly for the sacred and holy laws.” Having said this, he gave himself over to death. Those who escorted him considered his words foolishness, so their previous gentleness turned into harshness.
When he was almost at the point of death, he said groaning, “The Holy Lord, Who sees all, knows that though I could have saved myself from death, I now endure terrible sufferings in my body. But in my soul, I suffer gladly because of the respect I have for Him.”
In his death, he left a noble example and a memorial of virtue and strength, not only to the young but to the whole nation.