Golden Legend – Seven Maccabees

Here followeth the Seven Maccabees.

There were seven Maccabees with their worshipful mother, and a priest named Eleazar which would eat no swine’s flesh because it was defended in their law. And after that it is contained in the first book of the Maccabees, they suffered great torments, and such as never were heard tofore, and it is to understand that the church of the orient maketh the solemnities of the saints of that one and of that other Testament. And the church of the occident maketh no feast of them of the Old Testament, save of the Innocents, because that the souls of the saints of that time descended into hell, but she maketh feast of the Innocents because Jesu Christ was slain in every each of them, and also of the Maccabees. And there be four reasons wherefore the church maketh solemnities of the Maccabees, howbeit that they descended into hell. The first reason is because they had prerogative of martyrdom not tofore like heard, and above that any other of the Old Testament have suffered. And therefore be they privileged that their passion be solemnised by their merit. And this reason is set in Scholastica Historia. The second reason is for the representation of the mystery, the number of seven is universal and general. And by them be understood and signified all the fathers of the Old Testament worthy to be solemnised. And howbeit that the church maketh not solemnity of them because they descended into hell, and also because that there came such a multitude of new saints, nevertheless in these seven is done reverence to them all. For as it is said by the number of seven is assigned an university. The third is because of the ensample of suffering. And there be purposed in example of good christian men for two things, that is to say the constancy; after the constancy of them they be enhardened in the love of the faith, and also for to suflfer for the law of the gospel, like as they did for the law of Moses. The fourth reason is for because of their torments. For they suffered such torments for their law that they held for to defend like as christian men do for the law of the gospel. And Master John Beleth assigneth these three last reasons in his sum of the office.