Well, it's sort of Fall, or Autumn if you insist -- Labor Day is the unofficial start of Fall, the official one is 1718 hours EDT on 22 September 2009. Sukkoth begins at sunset, the start of the Biblical day, on 2 October this year 2009, 15 Tishrei in the Jewish calendar. So what's my point? Here's the deal.
The background is that Past Elder, the blog, commenced operations 22 February 2007. In my posts about Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost, I mentioned that the Christian pattern of yearly worship derives from the Jewish one.
In my second year, I took to posting a few posts again, revised here and there, that relate to our cycle of observances of major parts of our faith in the church year, and also the civil calendar, calling it the "blogoral cycle" as a play on terms like "sanctoral cycle" for the saint's days in the church year.
The blogoral cycle takes particular note of how our church year comes from and fulfills the cycle of observances in the Jewish calendar. However in Fall, where the Jewish calendar is FULL of stuff, the Christian church calendar has -- NOTHING, precisely where, if it indeed comes from and fulfills the Jewish cycle, one would expect it to be full of stuff too!
What's up with that? Here's the 2009 version of my post about it.
In the religion God delivered to the Jews in the Old Testament, he commands three major festivals: 1) Pesach or Passover; 2) Shavuot or Pentecost, also called Weeks; 3) Sukkot, called Tabernacles or Booths. These three are the Shalosh Regalim, the Three Pilgrim Festivals where all Jews go to Jerusalem.
And in the Fall, in addition to Sukkot, before it there is the High Holidays, more properly the Yamim Noraim or Days of Awe, which are the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashanah, so-called Jewish New Year, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year, commanded in the Law of Moses, then Sukkoth itself, which runs seven days, then the Eighth Day, Shemini Atzeret, when normal living indoors resumes and Simchat Torah, Rejoicing in Torah, is held with the conclusion of the annual reading through of Torah and starting it right over again and dancing that often goes on for hours.
In some of the other posts, we saw Passover transformed by Christ at the Last Supper, or Last Seder, into what we call Holy Communion, the new and eternal testament of his body and blood, 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 Days of Awe, where's the transformed Yom Kippur, where's the transformed Sukkoth, where's the transformed Eighth Day and Rejoicing in Torah? Where's the dancing?
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. So these two are absent because they have served their purpose and been fulfilled.
But 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 a transformed Sukkoth in the Christian calendar ain't even happening either. 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.
As a comment to last year's version of this post, "orrologion", an Orthodox blogger, observed that "In the Orthodox Christian tradition the Transfiguration fills the place of Sukkot. Fruits are blessed and it commemorates Peter's offer to build three booths for Christ, Moses and Elijah". In the Eastern observance the "Blessing of the First Fruits" does give it a harvest connexion, but, Sukkoth is not about first but last fruits. And, in the Transfiguration we see Jesus' fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah), and the appearance of all three persons in God, as he is about to go to Jerusalem for the Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection.
Related to that, the Feast of the Transfiguration is celebrated in both the Eastern and the Western church on 6 August. The West had the feast, but only settled on this date in 1456, when the Kingdom of Hungary broke the Siege of Belgrade and forced the Islamic Ottomans back. News of the victory made it to Rome on 6 August, and in view of its importance Pope Callixtus III put the Transfiguration in the general Roman church calendar on this date.
We Lutherans do not follow this, but follow a tradition which places the Transfiguration on the last Sunday after Epiphany, placing the event where it is in the course of Jesus' life followed by the Gospel readings of the traditional church cycle. The military connexion of 6 August would be odd for a harvest feast. In our times however it has found a significance which is altogether spooky, which I have never heard anyone East or West mention.
6 August is also the anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons, Hiroshima. It puts in stark contrast the world and God: one can approach a transfiguration by God shown in this event, or one can approach a transfiguration by Man shown in Hiroshima -- salvation is of the Lord.
At my wife's funeral, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the secular Sukkoth, in 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. And also to the rejoicing and dancing, not for hours, but eternity!
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