The Catholic Defender: Happy Hanukkah/Advent
1 Maccabees 4:56-59 says, “For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered holocausts and sacrifices of deliverance and praise. They ornamented the facade of the temple with gold crowns and shields; they repaired the gates and the priest’s chambers and furnished them with doors. There was great joy among the people now that the disgrace of the Gentiles was removed. Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days, from the twenty-fifth day of the month Chislev."
St. John refers to the “Feast of Dedication” stating, “The feast of the Dedication” was then taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter”.
This celebration would be much like modern day Thanksgiving in the United States as the Jewish people celebrates the re-dedication of the altar and reconstruction of the temple in 164 B.C.
The Gentiles (Antiochus IV Epiphanes) desecrated the temple as prophesied by Daniel 8:13-14 which says:
“I heard a holy one speaking, and another said to whichever one it was that spoke, ‘How long shall the events of this vision last concerning the daily sacrifice, the desolating sin which is placed there, the sanctuary, and the trampled host’? He answered him, ‘For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be purified”.
Antiochus IV profaned the temple in Jerusalem by placing a statue of the Greek god Zeus Olympias in the Sanctuary.
After three years of resistance, the Jews were able to finally win as Daniel predicted.
With Jerusalem finally back into the hands of the Jews, Judah Maccabees led his soldiers into the holy Temple finding the place totally decimated, things were stolen, religious objects were found broken to include a golden menorah.
Judas Maccabees appointed men to build a new altar with uncut stones in accordance of the law.
They repaired the sanctuary and purified the surrounding area in and outside the temple.
“They reconsecrated the temple with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals. All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven, who had given them success” (1 Maccabees 4:54-55).
They repaired and purified the temple, and after completing the task they decided to have a dedication ceremony and light the great lamp (1 Maccabees 4:49-50).
What is omitted from the biblical text is that the men looked everywhere for oil, but found only a small flask that contained enough oil to produce light for a day.
Miraculously, this oil lasted for eight days, giving them enough time to obtain new oil to keep the menorah lit.
This year the Jewish celebration Hanukkah or the Feast of Dedication (Josephus Flavius refereed this as the festival of lights) begins on December 12 and runs through 20 December.
Jesus is the light of the world and his light always burns for love of us. Jesus cleansed the temple of the “marketplace” it had become. The people asked Jesus, “What sign can you show us for doing this” Jesus responded: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The Jews did not understand that Jesus was referring to himself. Matthew 26:61 speaking at the trial of Jesus by the Sanhedrin says, “This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it”.
Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem stating, “You see all these things, do you not? Amen, I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down… When you see the desolating abomination spoken of through Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, a person on the housetop must not go down to get things out of his house, a person in the field must not return to get his cloak. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days. Pray that your flight not be in winter or on the Sabbath, for at that time there will be great tribulation” (Matthew 24).
Jesus accurately predicts the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. by the Roman General Titus. This was the result of the Roman/Jewish war of 67-70 A.D.
Many Jews were crucified, it would have resembled a huge forest. The Church had already left Jerusalem by this time and actually set up it’s headquarters in Rome!
Jesus is the light of the world. Revelation 1:20 Jesus says, “This is the secret meaning of the seven stars you saw in my right hand, and of the seven gold lamp stands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches”.
As our Jewish Brothers celebrate the miracle of the menorah this December, let us remember that Christ is the light and he radiates in his Church the seven lamp stands.
The seven angels of the seven churches seems to be the pastor of each church.
St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp of Smyrna were two of those angels that would give their lives for Christ and His holy Catholic Church.
Revelation 2:7 says, “Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the victor I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that is in the garden of God”.
This could be a Eucharistic promise as Jesus is the tree of life. The garden of God might be a reference to the Church. The Catholic Church is the Kingdom of God on earth.
This Advent, as we prepare for Christmas and Jesus first coming to the world through a humble virgin Mother, we look for his Second Coming when he returns to judge the living and the dead. May he find us with our flask of oil full and ready.