Dear Companions on the Journey,
Christmas, Hanukkah. Some years, the lunar months (which Jews follow) and the solar (which Christians follow) are closely aligned. In any case, Christmas and Hanukkah are usually within a week or so of one another.
From one of the books found in the Catholic (but not Protestant) Bible, the Book of Maccabees (1 Maccabees 4:36-59; 2 Maccabees 10:1-8), we read of how, after Exile, the Jewish people were “to celebrate these days every year.” What did they celebrate? The restoration of their Temple in Jerusalem. As part of that restoration, Jews were to burn the one candle each day for eight days…yet they could find pure oil to light their Menorah (eight branch candlestick) sufficient only for one day. But miraculously that small amount lasted for the required eight days. As the years went on, this special commemoration of Jewish history came to emphasize themes of light and freedom.
If you were at either of the Paulist Center Advent/Christmas concerts last week, you heard the poem “Chanukah Lights” and Peter Yarrow’s rousing song “Light One Candle.” What an extraordinary gift for our community that our wonderful singers, musicians, and leader Peter Ghiloni presented this constellation of reflections at this time of year. And how much we need hope, the theme of the celebration! And part of the genius of this ensemble of prayers, readings and music was the inclusion of Hanukkah reflections, both poetic and musical.
“As Christian communities throughout the world celebrate our Feast of Light, both Christians and Jews might join in praying for miracles of peace in the lands of the Bible and for mutual understanding to flourish everywhere so that people of our generation may become peacemakers in the service of God.”
On behalf of the Paulist Center Community, thanks to Peter and our wonderful singers, musicians, and all who contributed to allow them to prepare for the concerts (e.g., spouses, babysitters, and so on!).
(I am grateful to my old friend Fr. Larry Frizzell of Seton Hall University for some of these insights, including the last paragraph.)
What do you think?
And let us pray for/with one another.
The Paulist Center