A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths

Shavuot (Shavuos, שָׁבוּעוֹת‎, Weeks). The Jewish Feast of Weeks starts at sunset on the eve of the 6th day of the Hebrew month of Sivan and lasts until nightfall on 18 May. In the Bible, Shavuot marked wheat harvesting in the Land of Israel and it also celebrates the anniversary of G-d’s revelation of the Five Books of the Torah to Moses and the Israelites on Mount Sinai, 49 days after the Exodus from Egypt. The Ten Commandments given to Moses for all Jewish people to follow were a main source of wisdom. The Written Torah was recorded during the following 40 years. Although Shavuot occurs 50 days after the 1st day of Passover (Feast of Unleavened Bread), it is not the same as the Christian Pentecost (Πεντηκοστή), which means 50 in Greek. Shavuot is the Feast of Weeks as it is the culmination of the 7-week Counting of the Omer (sheaf) grain harvest period that began on the 28 March 2nd day of Passover for a time of spiritual cleansing and preparation for receiving the Torah on Shavuot. On Passover, the people of Israel were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh and on Shavuot they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving G-d. This year on the Lag B’Omer minor holiday on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, a massive stampede in Meron crushed 45 people to death and hurt over 150. Shavuot is traditionally celebrated for 1 day in Israel and for 2 in the Diaspora and is one of the 3 biblically-ordained Pilgrim Festivals, with Passover (Pesaḥ) and Tabernacles (Sukkoth). There is more awareness of Shavuot among secular Jews in Israel but it is widely ignored by non-practising Jews. Celebrations normally include festive meals, all-night Torah study, the recital of the Akdamut liturgical poem in Ashkenazic synagogues, the reading of the Book of Ruth, the eating of dairy products and the decoration with greenery of homes and synagogues. With Palestine and Lebanon firing rockets towards Israel this year and Israel responding, the USA Secretary of State said that Muslims feasting for Eid-ul-Fitr and Jews marking Shavuot deserve to celebrate without fear of violence. Greeting is Happy Shavu’ot. Image: chabad.org.

St Brandan (Naomh Bréanainn, Brénainn moccu Alti, Heilagur Brandanus, Blandano, Brendanus, Brendan of the Fosterling Folk, the Navigator, the Voyager, the Anchorite, the Bold) (c484-c577). Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Christian Feast Day for Irish Catholic Altraige tribe priest and Abbot, an early Irish monastic saint and one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland tutored by Finnian of Clonard. At 26, Brendan was ordained a priest and in 512-30 founded monastic cells at Ardfert and Shanakeel (Seana Cill, the Old Church) at the foot of Mount Brandon in Kerry. Brendan’s 1st voyage took him to Wales, Brittany, Aran, Hinba (Argyll) and Iona, where he met Columcille (Columba). Then he embarked from Kerry in a currach (boat) of wattle covered with hides tanned in oak bark and softened with butter, set with a mast and a sail, and with 16 monks started his legendary 7-year quest for the Garden of Eden, on which he baptised Saint Malo and found the Isle of the Blessed (Saint Brendan’s Island) in La Mer Verte (Green Sea). After a 3-year mission to Britain, Brendan returned to Ireland to evangelise and establish churches in Mayo and Galway c557. He died whilst visiting his sister in Annaghdown, Galway, having previously arranged to have his body secretly returned to the monastery he had founded 60 miles away in Clonfert. When the monastery was dissolved in 1641, his remains were translated to the 11th-Century Cathedral of St Brendan on the same site. There is no reliable evidence to indicate that Brendan reached Greenland or the Americas but the Saint Brendan Society celebrates the belief that he was the 1st European to reach North America. Maps of Christopher Columbus’ time included an island denominated Saint Brendan’s Isle in the Atlantic Ocean and Columbus learned from the 9th-Century Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis (Voyage of Saint Brendan), an immram (Irish navigational narrative) describing the journey to the Isle of the Blessed, that the currents and winds favoured westbound travel by a southerly route from La Mer Verte West of the Canary Islands, and eastbound on the return trip by a more northerly route, routes he followed on his voyages. In the Sicilian town of Bronte, the 1574 Chiesa di San Blandano (Church of Saint Brendan) replaced a 13th-Century Norman chapel and in 1799 Brontë was in the British Duchy of Horatio Nelson. St Brendan’s is the state funded 6th-Form college in Brislington where North Somerset students may study. Venerated in Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion. The old Irish calendars assigned a feast for the egressio familiae Sancti Brendani (travels of the family of the Holy Brendan). Major shrine Clonfert, Galway. Patron of Diocese of Clonfert, Diocese of Kerry, boatmen, divers, mariners, sailors, travellers, elderly adventurers, whales, portaging canoes. Image: world-in-words.com.

Alexander Neville (c1340-92). Feast Day commemorating the death of the noble English Archbishop of York, a member of one of the most powerful families in the North of England. Neville was a canon of York Minster, holding the prebendary of Bole, a Nottinghamshire manor that had a community of monks and belonged to the York Minster Anglo-Saxon teaching church. Neville became a claimant to the Archdeaconry of Cornwall and, when it was set aside, he became Archdeacon of Durham. He was appointed Archbishop of York after being elected by the chapter of York and receiving royal assent. 12 years later, the Lords Appellant rose against King Richard II and Neville was accused of treason and imprisoned for life in Rochester Castle. However, Neville fled and the Pope in Rome translated him to the Scottish see of St Andrews, although he never took possession as the Scots only acknowledged the Avignon papacy. For the remainder of Neville’s life he served as a parish priest in Leuven, where he died and was buried in the Church of the Carmelites. Image: prabook.com.