Today’s reading from the First Book of Maccabees tells us of the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after it was desecrated by the armies of Antiochus Epiphanes. When Judas Maccabeus and his brothers had succeeded in defeating the army, they rededicated the Temple on the anniversary of its desecration.
Today that rededication is still remembered by our Jewish brothers and sisters in the annual festival of Chanukah. Chanukah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December. This year the festival begins on the evening of December 12 and extends to the evening of December 20. It is also known as the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication.
The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched menorah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The typical menorah consists of eight branches with an additional visually distinct branch from which the eight others are lit.
To purify the temple means to place God as supreme in our lives. That means that our activities in all of the various spheres of our lives are to be judged or moderated by God’s law of justice and compassion. We should bring every aspect of our daily lives into the temple – our family and community, our work and recreation – so that these can be purified, sanctified and placed under God’s protection.
We are privileged to have this beautiful chapel – our temple – in our very homes. When we enter the chapel to pray or to celebrate the Eucharist, we recall the bond that we have with God which was created in our baptism and renewed in our profession by using holy water to bless ourselves. Our prayers and our sacrifices are placed on the altar as a sacrifice of praise.
In the coming days, we will begin to ornament our home in preparation for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ much the same as the Israelites ornamented their temple at its rededication. Even in this task, we purify ourselves and our home as we sweep away the sins of the past to better celebrate the glorious feast of the Incarnation.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator