Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Gate of the Year

Daily Readings
Proverbs 10 + Numbers 29 + Deuteronomy 22 + Romans 4

Quote of the Day
For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, ….) Romans 4:16

Daily Text: Numbers 29:1, 2a, 7, 12, 39

On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets, 2and you shall offer a burnt offering, a pleasing odor to the LORD….7On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation, and deny yourselves; you shall do no work.
12 On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. You shall celebrate a festival to the LORD seven days. 39These you shall offer to the LORD at your appointed festivals, in addition to your votive offerings and your freewill offerings, as your burnt offerings, your grain offerings, your drink offerings, and your offerings of well-being.

The Gate of the Year
The religious year of the Jewish people is recorded in chapters 28, 29 of Numbers and corresponds to the sort of religious calendar later adopted by the Church. However, while the Church is on a solar calendar with Easter being set by the vernal equinox, and the first day of the new year being the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the Jewish calendar is based on a lunar calendar and is based on the new moon and a system of months that rotate roughly according to agricultural seasons. The first day of the seventh month thus becomes the religious new year, Rosh Hashanah, at the time of the autumn harvest. In that month, Tishri, they celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the day of Atonement on the 10th, a fast day, and a week long Feast of Tabernacles beginning on the 15th. In the first ordinal month, Passover is celebrated on the 15th of Nisan which falls in the Spring.

The lunar calendar is made up of 29 and 30 day months marked by the new moon with a leap month occurring seven out of every nineteen years to make up the eleven day loss in the solar calendar. Each month the new moon was celebrated with special sacrifices as noted in Numbers 28:11. The placement of the Sabbath in each seven day week was in conflict with the ancient lunar calendar and was one of the reasons why the Jews became so marked by its observance. It must have been difficult to even establish it in the midst of cultures who knew only lunar celebrations, but establish it they did until the Sabbath became the peculiar mark of this people who are better known for the observance of their faith than their genetic origens. It might be fair to say that God was at their center; for other peoples the nation was their center and their gods bolstered the nation. That is, for example, arguably true for the United States, as well, as is experienced by any clergy person who happens to speak out politically in a manner not embraced by his or her communicants. As a result the clergy tend to remain quiet about political matters. Not so the prophets of Israel even though it sometimes cost them their livelihood or even became a threat to their lives [cf. Jeremiah].

From the Gate of the Year 1
M. Louise Haskins, contemporary English

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone east.
So, heart, be still!
What need our little life,
Our human life, to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low
God hideth His intention.

1King George VI, of Great Britain, quoted the first five lines in his Christmas Broadcast to the World at the beginning of the second world war, 1939.


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