Memorial of Saint Cecilia, martyr
(I Maccabees 4:36-37.52-59; Luke 19:45-48)
Today’s first reading relates the story of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah. The passage tells how Jews 165 year before Christ celebrated the re-consecration of the Temple altar. They burnt offerings and sang hymns of praise for eight days. According to one tradition, there was a glitch in the preparations for the celebration. After the plans were announced, only enough consecrated oil for one day of burning was found. Undeterred, the people went ahead with their plans. To their amazement the oil lasted the full eight days. For this reason Hanukkah is sometimes called the “Feast of Lights.” As testimony to the miracle, Jews traditionally eat fried foods throughout the celebration.
Jesus celebrated the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple as Hanukkah is sometimes called. He also revered the Temple as God’ meeting place with humans. For this reason he chases the money changers from its confines as today’s gospel relates. Jesus himself has become the prime place of encounter with God. In this sense he has replaced the Temple.
This year Hanukkah corresponds with Christmas. The eight days begins on December 22 and concludes on December 30. It should be a time of peace and joy for everyone in these two great religions. We should be praying for our Jewish friends and might ask them to pray for us as well.