Friday, November 22, 2013

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, martyr

(I Maccabees 4:36-37.52-59; Luke 19:45-48)

Today’s first reading from I Maccabees gives the biblical reference for the contemporary Jewish celebration of Hanukkah.   The passage tells of how the Jews burnt offerings and sang hymns of praise for eight days to celebrate the rededication of the Temple 165 years or so before Jesus’ birth.  According to one tradition after plans for the festivity were decreed, the people discovered that there was only enough consecrated oil left to burn for one day.  Undeterred, they went ahead with the celebration as planned and to their amazement found the oil burning for the full eight days.  For this reason Hanukkah is sometimes called the “Feast of Lights.”  As a testimony to the miracle of the oil, Jews today will eat fried foods throughout the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah.

Jesus not only celebrated the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple, as Hanukkah is more traditionally named, he had a great sensibility for the Temple as the meeting place of God and humanity.  For this reason he chases the money changers from its confines as today’s gospel relates.  His followers later noted how Jesus himself is the prime referent for the human encounter with God and in this sense has replaced the Temple.  Nevertheless, Christians still need places to pray so they construct temples, which in English at least are usually called churches.  But at the dedication of Catholic churches it is always Jesus who is glorified.