A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
Hanukkah (Chanukah, Festival of Lights, the miracle of the oil). Last day of eight-day Jewish festival from 28 November, the longest Jewish holiday, commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a group of Jewish warriors led by Judah Maccabee (Y’hudhah HaMakabi, the Hammer) defeated the occupying Greek-Syrian armies during the 167-160 BCE Maccabean Revolt. The festival is marked by the lighting of eight candles, one on the first night, two on the second et cetera, from right to left in a menorah (chanukiah, nine-branched candelabrum) that has a ninth candle (shamash, the servant or attendant candle) from which the other candles are lit. The miracle of the cruse (jug) of oil (נֵס פַּךְ הַשֶּׁמֶן, Miracle of Hanukkah) depicted in the Babylonian Talmud is one of the reasons for Hanukkah. After the liberation of the Temple, there was only a jug of pure oil sufficient to light the Temple lamp for one day after the rededication, but it lasted for eight days. The customary Hanukkah foods that commemorate that miracle include sufganiyot (round deep-fried jam or custard-filled doughnuts) of a yeast dough pastry mentioned in the Talmud and latkes (potato pancakes), apple fritters and other non-dairy foods also being popular. Hanukkah traditions include a children’s competitive game involving the spinning of dreidels, which are four-sided tops with a Hebrew letter on each side forming the acronym of Nes gadol hayah sham (A great miracle happened there). Like many Jewish festivals, Hanukkah is a time for celebrating freedom and independence, lighted candles in the window normally being an expression of liberty. The rôle of the family in planning a future they might not have had is marked by daily presents for the children. Although not a major Jewish holiday, the popularity of Hanukkah has increased in recent years, especially amongst American Jews. Work is permitted except during Shabbat, the Jewish Day of Rest from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. The UK is estimated to have the fifth-largest Jewish population in the world, with just under three hundred thousand people practising the Jewish faith, mostly in London followed by Manchester and Leeds. Jewish settlement in England goes back to 1066 and the Jewish community outnumbered the Spanish and Portuguese communities in England by the Eighteenth Century. Many Jewish families in Eastern Europe moved to England to escape persecution and hardship between 1881 and 1914, about one hundred and fifty thousand coming to settle with large numbers staying at London’s East End. Jewish immigrants escaping persecution around the time of World War II included about eighty thousand who were accepted by Britain. Image: latestly.com.
Prayer The right hand of the Lord is exalted, the right hand of the Lord deals valiantly. He delivers the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few and the wicked into the hands of the righteous. Lord, open now for us the gates of righteousness to enter them and to thank G-d. Amen
Sv Mikuláš (San Nicola, St Nicholas of Myra or Bari, Nicholas the Wonderworker, Krampusnacht) (270-343). St Nicholas’s Feast Day on the 5 December St Nicholas Day is superseded in Western Christianity by the Second Sunday of Advent. Nicholas was a wealthy Roman Empire early-Christian Bishop of Greek descent who was born in Patara (Πάταρα, Arsinoe, Ἀρσινόη) in present-day Turkey, a Defender of Orthodoxy and Holy Hierarch. His reputation evolved among the faithful for his legendary habit of the secret gift-giving that gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus (St Nicolas, Dutch Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle). In one of the earliest attested incidents of his life, he rescued three girls from being forced into prostitution by dropping a sack of gold coins through the window of their house each night for three nights, so that their father could pay a dowry for each of them. Other early stories tell of him calming a storm at sea, saving three innocent soldiers from wrongful execution, resurrecting three murdered children pickled in brine by a butcher, and chopping down a tree possessed by a demon. The English Anglican priest, scholar and hymnwriter John Mason Neale’s 1853 Good King Wenceslas has him as a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen, the Boxing Day 26 December second of the Twelve Days of Christmas. His lyric was set to the melody of Thirteenth-Century spring carol Tempus adest floridum (Eastertime has come), first published in the 1582 Finnish song collection Piae Cantiones. In his youth, Nicholas is said to have made a pilgrimage to Egypt and Palestine, before becoming the Bishop of Myra (Μύρα, modern-day Demre, Turkey). He was an attendee at the 325 First Council of Nicaea but was temporarily defrocked and imprisoned during the Council for slapping the heretic Arius. Nicholas died in Myra on 6 December 343 and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic of a liquid substance said to have healing powers and called manna formed in his grave and fostered the growth of devotion to him. His major shrine is the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy, a group of merchants from Bari in 1087 having removed the major bones of Nicholas’s skeleton from his sarcophagus and taken them to Bari where they are regarded as possessing supernatural powers. Other bone fragments from the sarcophagus were removed to Venice by Venetian sailors in 1099, during the First Crusade. Venerated in all Christian denominations that venerate saints. Feast Day 19 December in Eastern Christianity, with 22 May for the translation of relics. In many countries, children receive gifts on 6 December, St Nicholas Day. In Central and Eastern Alpine folklore, St Nicholas has a devilish companion named Krampus who during the Christmas season frightens children who have misbehaved, particularly on the night of 5 December. St Nicholas is patron of children, brewers, coopers, sailors, fishermen, merchants, broadcasters, the falsely accused, repentant thieves, pharmacists, archers, pawnbrokers, prostitutes, unmarried people, Aberdeen, Galway, Russia, Greece, Hellenic Navy, Liverpool, Bari, Amsterdam, Lorraine, Royal School of Church Music, Duchy of Lorraine, students in various cities and countries around Europe. Image: sk.wikipedia.org.
St Abraham of Kratia (Krateia) (c474-c558). Feast Day commemorating the death of the Christian monk from Emesa (present-day Homs) in Byzantine Syria. His monastic community there was dispersed by nomadic raiders and Abraham fled to Constantinople. At 26, he was made Abbot of the monastery at Krateia (Κρατεία) in ancient Bithynia on the Black Sea coast of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). Some ten years later, he secretly left for Palestine to seek a quieter life but was made to return to his monastery to become the local bishop of Kratia. He served as bishop for thirteen years before he resigned c525, left for Palestine and remained there for the rest of his life as a hermit in solitary religious contemplation and prayer. The renowned Sixth-Century Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Saba (ܕܝܪܐ ܕܡܪܝ ܣܒܐ, دير مار سابا, מנזר מר סבא, Ἱερὰ Λαύρα τοῦ Ὁσίου Σάββα τοῦ Ἡγιασμένου), overlooking the Kidron Valley halfway between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, within the present Bethlehem Governorate of the West Bank, now has ten monks spending their time in mediation and work in its one hundred and ten rooms, rather than the five thousand who were once there. Opposite the monastery stands a two-storey tower with an oratory dedicated to Simon the Stylite. Since its foundation, women have never been allowed to enter the monastery and this Tower of Eudoxia, known as the women’s tower, is where Abraham died on 6 December c558. Venerated in Christian Churches. Image: catholic.net.