3 October 2020

The First Day of Sukkot

I hadn't even taken my skull cap with me. 

The young boy, who looked about eight years old, nevertheless, having peered at my countenance, seemed convinced that I must be Jewish and offered me a palm branch. That's New York for you. 

 Today brings us to the First Day of the great Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot. And I am among those who are convinced that the psalm we Latin clergy use in the Latin Divine Office every Sunday morning of the year was composed in or for the first great joyful celebration of Sukkot after the completion of the Second Temple. 

 Readers of this blog are unlikely to need to be reminded that the unspeakable Name of the Jewish God, the consonants of which are YHWH (the 'Tetragrammaton'), is expressed, when someone is praying or reading aloud, by the Hebrew, or Greek, or Latin, or English and whatever, word LORD (when this is happening, bibles in the Anglican tradition print LORD in capitals to remind us that what the Hebrew actually reads is YHWH). Clergy who in their Office say, over and over again, the psalms, will have noticed how LORD, Dominus, functions quite differently from any other word for the Deity. 'God' might mean just 'God' but YHWH (LORD) means God-of-Israel. The word often occurs in close relationship with mentions of Israel, or Israel as sharply distinguished from the gentile nations, or the need of the Nations to submit to the God of Israel, or the Holy City, or the Temple in which the Name YHWH is present in power. Its every occurrence summons us from every Ba'al or Asherah or Pachamama of our idolatrous natures to the one and only God, the God of Israel.

And Sukkot is (Leviticus 23:39) the Feast of YHWH; sometimes just 'the Feast'. Josephus informed his Hellenic readers that it is the holiest and greatest of Hebrew feasts. So try looking at psalm 117 (Vulgate number; 118 in the Masoretic text). And you will find that this exuberant, repetitive text is about




YHWH and, yes,

YHWH ... all the way through. 'Open to me the gates ...' as the procession arrives at he Temple. 'Blessed be he who enters in the Name of YHWH!' 'We bless you from the house of YHWH! ''Bind the festal procession with branches up to the horn of the Altar'!. 'This is the Day which YHWH has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it!' 

The LORD'S Day! Dies Dominica ... Dimanche ... Domenica ... Diumenge ... Domingo ... Duminica ... Kyriake ... in language after language (excepting our barbarous Northern dialects) the very name of the LORD's Day reminds us that it is the great Festival of the Name of YHWH, the LORD. 

Every Sunday is our great Sukkot; and we should pray that the little New Yorker who accosted me, and all his People, may turn and recognise the Stone which the builders rejected as the Head of the corner, and may come to join us in the Temple of YHWH and offer with us the true Lamb and share the Blood of the Covenant.  'This is YHWH's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes'. Gratias agamus YHWH Deo nostro!

His steadfast love endures for ever!


Bob said...

If the math here is correct:


& everyone with at least one European ancestor is a descendant of Charlemagne, then it seems likely to me that if we step back another 2000+ years to the age of the patriarchs, then probably everyone alive now on planet earth who could read this in any major language is a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob...

Gaelach éigean said...

Dhein tú dearmad ar "Domhnach", a Athair Hunwicke ;)

Scribe said...

Dear Father, I would also mention Psalm 68 (Exurgat Deus) in the Book of Common Prayer, verse 4: 'O sing unto God, and sing praises unto his name: magnify him that rideth upon the heavens, as it were upon an horse; praise him in his name JAH, and rejoice before him.' A lifetime ago, in my Anglican days, our choir would chant this when it was appointed for Morning Prayer, and when they came to the word JAH they left it unspoken, and simply paused - a sort of semibreve rest - before continuing with the rest of the verse. It was a quite dramatic way of proclaiming the holiness of the Name of God.

stephen cooper said...

Bob - your math is incorrect.

There are very few people alive today who can claim true ancestry from the Royal House of David, although, of course, almost everybody can cite to some ancestor here or there who could, if we count numbers in a really indulgent way, say they are a descendant of the Royal House of David.

But truth is truth, and there is no such thing as indulgent truth.

Simply put, very few people can bestow ancestral blessings on their children. "Do the math." Unless I am wrong, and it is a simple thing (it isn't) to bestow ancestral blessings, there are probably very very few descendants of any of the patriarchs among us.

Maybe none. I have not met any lately, and I notice this sort of thing.

There are many people who can claim to be descended from fat over-praised Charlemagne, but why should anyone care? He was a fat selfish man, with hatred in his heart. Maybe he was on the side of good people, maybe he wasn't ---- in our degenerate times, there are few historians who can answer that question.

One of the great humiliations Jesus suffered was to be a descendant of the murderer David, of the lecherous unrepentant reprobate Solomon, and most (not all, but most) of the rest of that crew of blood thirsty selfish little lecherous creeps who we think of as the Kings of Judah and Israel and their concubines or spouses .... and... moving forward in time .... ... mark my words, there is a reason there is not a single word of praise in Holy Scripture for a single one of the great-grandparents of our Lord and Savior.

Do you understand how shameful it would be to be, say, a grandparent of Mary the Mother of God, or a great-grandparent of Jesus Himself, and to not have a single word of commendation for you in the entire Scriptures? Your name is there, but just your name ... not a hint of praise for anything you did .....
I mean, it is not like you are not really the great-grandparent of the King of Kings .... but your name is there, and next to your name, not a single word of praise or commendation.

The Bible has been around for a long long time and not many people have mentioned what I just mentioned.

Do you know why it is important to know these things? I know why.

Because it is important to know that lots and lots of people, even people who were given the great gift to be a relative of our Lord and Savior, simply did not care about other people in any significant way. Whatever their virtues they had, they were not true descendants of the royal house of David.

Did I mention that David was a murderer, and the father to a reprobate lecher? The royal house was not his.

Look, Bob, God loves us all, and as God is my witness, I think you might be a better man than David or Solomon, and I do not care who you are descended from. But your math is incorrect.
Let's none of us ever again be tempted to idolize anyone who is not a good person.

And yes, I am not in a good mood tonight (just kidding, I am always in a good mood) because the gross sin of papolatry, that close friend of "noble pride in one's ancestry", is harming so many people, people who should know better, tonight as I write. Well, people are committing lots of other sins, but when we are at our most prideful, as Catholics, the sin of papolatry is the most prominent sin, as far as I can tell. Or maybe I am wrong, and there is something else that is an endemic sin for my beloved fellow Catholics that is the most prominent sin. God help us all .... Look, I am praying but I am not a saint, if I were, I would be praying better. God loves us all. I don't like bullies, no matter who they are descended from. And out of trillions of comments on the internet, this might be the first one where you are asked:

Pray for the parents of the grandparents of Jesus. We have no reason to think they do not need our prayers.

stephen cooper said...

There is an error in the last paragraph: I meant great-grandparents, not grand parents. At least two of the grandparents of Jesus are saints for whose intercession I regularly pray!

I am easily tired these days, and it is difficult to say what you mean.

And I apologize for what might have seemed touches of arrogance
(beginning, in paragraph 5, with " I notice this sort of thing..." - that was meant humorously.) Of course I am not capable of noticing any such thing. Unfortunately, I grew up and live in a world where it is impossible to signal if your bragging is, on the one hand, a humorous way to show your humility or is, on the other hand, just plain bragging. Oh well, nobody will hold it against me, if they know me, and if they don't know me and hold it against me, well, God loves us all anyway.

Kevin said...

I used to find psalm 117 rather long on a rushed Sunday morning, but I've grown quite used to it. I've been astonished at the way psalm 118 has also shrunk in size in my mind...

Basil Stag Hare said...

Fr. Hunwicke,
Do you think Jesus sang this psalm on the morning he rose from the tomb?