Liturgical Time: Jewish Yearly Feasts

In modernity’s attempt to annihilate liturgical life and the liturgical worldview, it has along the way discarded with the ways which humanity has traditionally, going back to ancient and even pre-historic cultures and civilizations, marked and observed time. Milbank and Pickstock and Cavanaugh describe this phenomenon well, as I have blogged about before.

In trying to recapture and embody (corporately and individually) this premodern (and postmodern) way of life, a good place to start, for Christians at least, is with the feasts which the Jewish people, the Old Covenant people of God, celebrated and observed before (and after) the advent of Jesus.

In his magisterial _Commentary on the American Prayer Book_, Marion Hatchett correctly observes that, like Christians, the basic unit of time for Jews was (and is) the week, marked and adorned by the festivities connected to Sabbath practice.

However, the year also has a prominent role, just as it does in Christianity. There are three main feasts which were observed under the Old Covenant. I quote Hatchett (pp 36-37):

Basic to the Jewish year were three pilgrimage feasts, the origins of which may have been agricultural: Passover (probably associated with the arrival of the new flock), Pentecost (the wheat harvest), and Tabernacles (the new wine). The Passover commemorated the slaying of the first born, the exodus from Egypt, and the entry into the Promised Land. High points of the celebration were the slaying of the Passover lamb, the use of unleavened bread, and the special Passover cup. The offering of barley after the Passover inaugurated the seven weeks of harvest culminating in the feast of Pentecost, which commemorated the giving of the law and the covenant with Israel. The feast of Tabernacles celebrated the giving of new wine, the time of dwelling in huts or booths in the wilderness, the choice of the House of David, the choice of Jerusalem as God’s dwelling place, and the dedication of the Temple. Dancing and carrying the palm branches and torches were parts of the celebration.”

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