Hanukkah and Ecumenism: A Lesson for Today

As you may know, Jews all over the world are celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. 

It’s an ancient holiday, one which commemorates the reconquest of Judea by patriots led by Judah Maccabee in 164 BC.  This revolt was precipitated by a series of events that culminated in the conquest of Judea by the Greco-Syrians in 167, under the leadership of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king of the Seleucid Empire (1Macc 1:1-64). 

The climax of the Jewish revolt was the recapture of the Second Temple and its subsequent rededication to Yahweh.  Judah Maccabee (“the Hammer”) was the leader of the revolt (as well as being a priest himself) and had barricaded himself in the Temple with several of his warriors, where according to the Septuagint, they had only enough oil to light the lamps for a few days.  Instead, the lights lasted for eight days, hence the festival of Hanukkah, “the Festival of Lights” (1Macc 4:36-61).

The icon which you see here to the left is not about Judah and his brothers (who later founded the Hasmonean dynasty) but of the Seven Maccabean Martyrs and their mother, Salome (2Macc 7:1-42). 

It’s a poignant story about patriotism.  And martyrdom.  Salome paid a huge price for her fidelity to Judaism, watching each of her seven sons being taken out and killed before her very eyes.  Still, she exhorted them to be faithful to the end and assured them of the coming resurrection.

I received this icon from Fr James Bernstein, a long-time friend of this blog.  Ironies abound regarding the historical incidents that led up to the Maccabean revolt –after all, history is complicated–but the story about Salome and her sons resonates especially today, when we Christians are being made to conform to the dictates of the world.  She paid a horrible price as did the other patriots, who refused to abide with Antiochus’ ecumenical dictates. 

Below, I decided to add my own, brief thoughts about Hannakah, what this holiday meant to the Jews throughout history and what I think it should mean to Christians of today.*

*Oops!  I made an error at minute 2.22 where I said that “the Jews of Alexandria had forgotten Hebrew and Aramaic and spoke only Hebrew”.  That’s wrong:  they spoke only Greek.  Hence the need for a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.




  1. “. . . defiant in the face of ecumenism . . .”

    Bravo, George! Love how you tied it all together with a nice fat bow on top. Maccabees and the old Israel resistant and defiant of apostasy under persecution and the new Israel facing enemies without and within as a result of a sinister political, quasi-religious ideology run rampant – a study in ecumenism.

    It is vitally important that Christians engage in such crystal-clear thinking and analysis in the present age. At the least, this is a dress rehearsal for us for the delusion of the Antichrist in the eschaton. And, as you imply, we should use it to take spiritual inventory: where are we solid as the Church and where are we deficient and how do we improve?

    We are indeed blessed to have you and this site.

  2. George, just a comment about the lights lasting 8 days hence the creation of the feast of Hannakah which you cited in 1 Macc 4:36-61. The text is only about the rededication of the Temple. The story about the lights lasting 8 days comes from the oral tradition of the Talmud i believe. But I’m open to correction if I’m wrong. Thanks.

  3. Thank you for discussing one of my favorite stories of the Bible. As I was learning about Orthodoxy many years ago, I bought an NRSV with the “Apocrypha”, which were books I was unfamiliar with owing to my Protestant background. That edition had all four Maccabee books, though I know that 4 Maccabees isn’t considered a canonical book by most Orthodox jurisdictions. That being said, the entire thing is an exposition on the story of Eleazar, Salome, and her seven sons, going into some detail about the proper place for reason and emotion in life. (Spoiler alert: both have their place, but reason must rule over emotion.) In any case, 4 Maccabees 1:11 is a verse that has stuck with me for all these years, and here it is: All people, even their torturers, marveled at their courage and endurance, and they became the cause of the downfall of tyranny over their nation. By their endurance they conquered the tyrant, and thus their native land was purified through them.

    Things were different 20 years ago when I first read this, but actually not all that much different. However, this certainly gives us an example of what sacrifice is called for.

  4. George, as always your videos are the best. Thank you.

    This is my 2nd favorite video about Hanukkah: https://youtu.be/r8hiixVLF-8

    Talk about wisdom from our secular leaders. We are a fortunate people to be led by the likes of these (/massive sarc)

  5. Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

    Thank you, George, for that unexpected article about Hanukkah.

    As it happens, last Sunday my homily at St. Herman of Alaska Russian Orthodox Church in Stafford, VA, was titled, “The ‘True Meaning’ of Hanukkah.”

    Here is the video on youtube:


  6. This one’s a real heartwarmer. The pope makes a visit to Greece, and an elderly priest starts screaming, “You are a heretic!” until he is arrested.


    You see all these stories about Greek bishops refusing to give the laity communion and getting weepy, and you just assume that the Hellenic race has lost its fire like the Mongolians. But then you see a video like this, and you know that eventually the Myrmidons will rise up and prevail.

    And of course the media is making it about ecumenism, as though reunion is inevitable and this is just a cranky old fundamentalist who hates love. Just some “lingering distrust”. In fairness, that’s all the messaging coming out of the GOA for the last three years and there EP for the last hundred, so it would be easy for an outsider to not understand these dynamics.

    Notice that the Hispanic pederast was not visiting the Catholic cathedral in Athens. He was paying a visit to the Orthodox headquarters. The messaging is clear, and the COG synod is as complicit as the media the and papacy and the Rockefeller Foundation. This one elderly priest decided to do something, even if it accomplished nothing, just to let the world know that the Hellenic race has had this forced upon them by foreigners and traitorous national-religious leaders, like so many things in centuries before.

    When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith upon the earth? Yes, as long as the Greeks are still around.

    • R. Joseph DuBois says

      …..maybe the Greeks in Greece, but I wonder about the GOARCH variety….

    • Wayne Matthew Syvinski says

      > The pope makes a visit to Greece, and an elderly priest starts screaming, “You are a heretic!” until he is arrested.

      Pope Frank the Worst got arrested? O_o XD

      If only!

  7. Angea Sinzianu says

    My husband and I enjoyed your video and are very inspired by the Maccabees. Comparing the battle, however, of the Maccabees to pagan and masonic led examples like the Spartans and the Alamo comes nowhere near the God-inspired struggle of the Maccabees. On another note which compares to the martyrdom of the 7 brothers and their mother is the life of St. Brancoveanu and his sons. Look them up. I’ve often thought it would be a great name for an Orthodox boys group…as an example of courage and faith for the boys to live up to.

  8. nicholas sandoukas says

    Did you guys take down the Covid part 2 video on YouTube?

  9. As the lights go out all over Europe,
    German Police arrest Santa for not wearing a mask…


    [Video – 01:31]