OK what's up with this? If it's really so as Past Elder, the blog, has been saying since it started that Christian liturgy is essentially a transformed, Messianic Jewish one, then how is it that in Fall when Judaism is about to begin a whole bunch of major observances, the Christian calendar ain't got nuttin major until Christmas?
Some background. Past Elder, the blog, commenced
operations 22 February 2007. In my first 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!
So what's up with that? Here's the 2012 version of my post about it.
I. About Fall.
In the US, Labor Day is the unofficial start of
Fall, or Autumn if you insist. In 2012, the official start in the
U.S. is 1049 EDT on 22 September. That's 0949 CDT here in Omaha.
Worldwide it starts at 1449 hours GMT. Huh? OK 1449 is often called
249pm, but what's GMT? It means Greenwich Mean Time, aka, which
means also known as, UTC, which means Universal Time Co-ordinates.
To get GMT from CDT you add five hours, four for EDT; to get CDT from
GMT you subtract five hours, four for EDT. GMT never goes on "daylight"
time and is always the same as a worldwide point of common reference.
Mother England does have "daylight" time -- BST, or British Summer Time
-- as does the EU, so even in London, which is in the GMT timezone, you
gotta add an hour for local time during "daylight" summer hours.
Well, that's one of the official starts. Holy crap, what's
up with that -- two official starts and an unofficial one too? And to a season with two names!
What's up with THAT, before we even get to this post's What's Up
A. About the Two Starts.
The first thing is, there's two Falls, the
astronomical one and the meteorological one. Astronomical Fall is
determined by the relative amount of light and dark in a day. Just
like the word Man, which can mean either all human beings or just the
male ones, the word Day is used sometimes for the whole 24 hour
period or just the light part of it.
Astronomical Fall is from the day, as in 24 hour
period, with equal amounts of light and dark in it, called the
autumnal equinox ("equal night" in Latin), to the day with the least
amount of day light in it, called the winter solstice ("sun stand
still", solstitium, sol or sun and sistere or to stand still in
Latin). And some think Latin is not still with us! But we all note
these daylight changes do not align exactly with the air temperature
changes. That is because of the thermal latency of land and sea.
Judas H Priest, what is thermal latency? How many
what's up with thats can we have? Don't freak. "Thermal latency" are
simply more Latin derived words for the phenomenon that while as the
earth rotates toward and then away from the sun, thereby giving more
and then less heat, it takes both land and water a while to warm up
or cool off.
Meteorological Fall is determined by the changes in
air temperature. Huh, if it's meteorology why ain't it about
meteors? Holy crap another What's Up With That! Now ain't you glad
you read Past Elder so you can know all this stuff? Meteorology comes
from the Greek meteoros or "up in the sky" and -ology or the study
of something. Matter of fact, although weather forecasters take flak
for having the only job where you get paid to be wrong, and TV has
gone through phases where the weather segment was done by somebody
just reading stuff, a comedian if male or a stacked babe if female,
meteorology was started by Aristotle in a book by that name he wrote
in 350 BC in which, with no modern instruments whatever but just
being a keen observer and smarter than all hell, described what is now
called the hydrologic cycle.
Don't freak, more Greek derived words, here meaning
water cycle, in which water is not just distinct from land but
interacts with land in changing cycles in various forms; liquid,
otherwise known as rain, vapour, otherwise known as fog, and solid,
otherwise known as ice. Think that's just some musty ancient stuff,
who cares? Guess what? Our planet, though we call it Earth, is
mostly actually water, and a planet with a lot of water over long
periods of time loses hydrogen, which is part of water (H2O,
remember?), which in turn leads to what is called the "greenhouse
effect", which leads to more hydrogen loss, which leads to more
greenhouse effect, which natural cycle can be accelerated by what
Man's activities put in the air, and while we don't know exactly how
the two affect each other everybody is worried as hell about that now
or ought to be.
Sound musty now? Old Ari was sharp as a tack, wish
we had more like him now with modern instruments. Which doesn't
mean you can't be a comedian or a stacked babe while you're doing
that. Which is also why besides Blogoral Calendars and stuff like
that Past Elder goes on about musty ancient stuff -- because it helps
us understand where in the hell we are right now and what where we
are right now even is.
So meteorological seasons are determined by average
air temperatures, which lag behind the astronomical events of
solstices and equinoxes that determine astronomical seasons, due to
thermal water latency. Fall in this definition is from 1 September
to 30 November. Well, in the northern hemisphere that is. Our
planet being a sphere, when one side rotates toward the sun the other
rotates away, so Fall in the southern hemisphere happens when our
Spring does, and vice versa.
Now topping that all off are school boards, who as
any kid or parent knows, are God and determine when Summer ends by
when school starts, which unlike when I grew up when it was after
Labor Day, the unofficial start of Fall, and after 1 September, the
official start of meteorological Fall, now start in August sometime
when you oughta still be swimming in the damn city pool, probably
because they don't want no lawsuits so they have "snow days" in the
Winter, which unlike when I grew up simply meant you got up earlier,
shovelled the crap outta the way and went about your business,
leaving early because you drive slower, or should.
B. About the Two Names.
Oh yeah and on the two names for the same season
thing, so we can clear up all the What's Up With Thats before we get
on to the main What's Up With That. Guess what? More Latin. The
original name was the Latin autumnus, and the modern languages
derived from Latin all have similar words for it. But English isn't
totally Latin derived, the Latin and Greek stuff is an overlay onto
basically a form of German. Now in German itself autumn is Der
Herbst, which means harvest, and that is what the season was called
in English too, Harvest, and it wasn't until the 1500s, when people
were tending to live more in towns than in the country, that
"harvest" in English became more the activity of harvesting and the
season began to be called Autumn and Fall.
OK we saw the derivation of "autumn" from autumnus
but where did this fall thing come from? Because the leaves are
falling, and the amount of daylight is falling, and the year is
drawing to its close. In the 1600s English colonisation of the
Americas was in full swing, and both terms came over, but back in
Mother England by the 1700s "fall" fell to "autumn" in usage, and
that is why now Autumn is used in both places but Fall in mostly
Sukkoth is the easy part of this Fall stuff. It
begins at sunset, the start of the Biblical day, on 15 Tishrei in
the Jewish calendar. But, expressing this in the secular calendar, which actually is
religious in origin being commissioned by Pope Gregory, this is sunset
on 30 September 2012. It was sunset of 12 October in 2011, sunset of 22 September in 2010, and in
2013 it will fall on sunset of 18 September. God's pretty straight up
about what he wants. Speaking of which, let's see what the real God,
not the school board, wants regarding observances through the year.
II. Here's What God Wants For A Festival Calendar.
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, the
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 (huh, what's up with that, hang
on, we'll get to it below, or as we say, vide infra, Latin for "see
below", a term once common in the scholarly apparatus -- you know,
footnotes and stuff -- of scholarly works and which I damn straight
would use if I ever resume writing like a PhD) 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, uh, 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? And 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
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?
III. Here's The Christian Sukkoth.
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 an earlier 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
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
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
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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