Past Elder, the blog, commenced operations 22 February 2007. In my second year, I have taken to posting a few posts again, with revisions here and there, that relate to our cycle of observances of major parts of our faith in the church year, especially as they relate to the fulfillment of the cycle of observances in the Jewish calendar. Fall is unique -- where the Jewish calendar is full of stuff in Fall, the Christian church calendar has nothing! What's up with that? Here's the 2008 version of my post about it.
In my posts about Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost, I mentioned that the Christian pattern of yearly worship derives from the Jewish one. And, that this is precisely what one would expect if the Messiah had come and fulfilled the Law.
In the religion God delivered to the Jews in the Old Testament, he commands three major festivals: Pesach or Passover; Shavuot or Pentecost, also called Weeks; Sukkot, called Tabernacles or Booths. In addition to Sukkot in the Fall there is also Rosh Ha-Shana or New Years (actually one of several new years, there being a new year for trees and a new year for kings which begins the year in terms of the festivals) and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year.
We saw Passover transformed by Christ at the Last Supper into what we call Holy Communion, and ratified by his Death and Resurrection which we celebrate as an event in time on Good Friday and Easter. Then we saw God himself count the commanded Omer and transform the celebration of the giving of the Law at Sinai at Pentecost by the giving of the promised Holy Spirit to the Apostles, which we celebrate as an event in time on the day also called Pentecost. Then, what -- the whole thing seems to fall apart!! Where's the transformed Rosh Ha-Shanah, where's the transformed Yom Kippur, where's the transformed Sukkoth, which begins 15 Tishrei in the Jewish calendar, falling this year (2008) at sunset, the start of the Jewish day, 13 October?
Nowhere, it seems. The Christian calendar is entirely absent of such things. Fall, full of observances in Judaism, comes and goes with nothing until the secular Thanksgiving and then Advent which is a time of preparation for Christmas. So does the parallel fall apart here, or perhaps show itself to be irrelevant anyway if it exists at all? Just give me Jesus, man.
No. Consider how Jesus gives himself. Christ has himself become our atonement, that to which the Day of Atonement led. The "Day of Atonement" is the historical Good Friday, once for all. Rosh Ha-Shanah too, the day on which creation was completed and God judges each person for the coming year, has been fulfilled in God's having re-created lost Man by making justification possible because of the merit of Christ's sacrifice. That is how we are now inscribed, not just for the coming year but for eternity. They are absent because they have served their purpose and been fulfilled.
And what of Sukkot? At Sukkot, one lives, or at least takes one's meals, in a temporary structure called a sukkah in Hebrew -- a booth, a tabernacle, not in one's actual home. This is to remember the passage of the people after the Passover and Pentecost to the Promised Land. Zechariah (14:16-19) predicts that in the time of the Messiah the feast will be observed not just by Jews but by all humanity coming to Jerusalem for its observance. That would be a pretty big event. It ain't happening. And there isn't even some sort of transformed Sukkoth in the Christian calendar. So what is the deal here?
Consider. Christ is our Passover in whose blood we are washed and made clean, and the Holy Spirit has empowered the spread of this Good News beginning on that Pentecost recorded in Acts. But the end of the story, unlike the arrival in the Promised Land, has not happened. The real Promised Land is not a piece of geography but heaven itself, the ultimate Jerusalem. So, there cannot be a Christian Sukkoth because we are still in our booths, as it were, not in our permanent homes, still on our pilgimage to the Promised Land, and what Zechariah saw is happening as "the nations", all people, join in this journey given first to the Jews and then to all Man, the Gentiles. Our Sukkot is our life right now, in our "booths" or temporary homes on our way to heaven. So this feast awaits its transformation, and that is why it is absent. The first two of the "pilgrimage festivals", the Shalosh Regalim, have been transformed, into the basis of not just our calendar but our life and faith itself, but the third will be heaven itself, toward which we journey as we live in our booths here on the way.
While we do not, therefore, have a certain observance of a transformed Sukkot in our calendar, being in our booths presently, we do have something of it as we go. Our nation, and others too, have a secular, national day of Thanksgivng at the end of harvest time, preserving that aspect of thankfulness for our earthly ingathering of the fruits of our labour. And in the final weeks of the Sundays after Trinity, we focus on the End Times in our readings, the great ingathering that will be for all nations when our Sukkoth here is ended, not just at death personally but finally at the Last Day.
At my wife's funeral, the Saturday after Thanksgiving 1997, the pastor concluded the sermon by saying: A few days ago most of us celebrated a thanksgiving that lasted one day, but Nancy began one that lasts an eternity.
So is the promise to us all. And that's what happened to Sukkot.
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