Holy Feast Days of the Fall and Christmas Season
November 18, 2017
Novus Veteris Lodge No. 864
Novus Veteris: Holy Feast Days of the Autumn and Christmas Season
To continue the theme that I began when I was asked to become the Historian, as an appointed officer of the newly organized and lately constituted Novus Veteris Lodge #864, I thought it appropriate to introduce some of the other celebrations and feasts that may or may not be familiar to the brethren.
Many have important ties to early Celtic and Anglo-Saxon peoples and predate the modern church and masonry. However, it is important to the theme that these celebrations be discussed because of their obvious importance to our shared heritage among our shared religious and cultural beliefs and the foundations of craft masonry.
Harvest Festival: August 1st
In England, prior to Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church the “Harvest Festival” was celebrated at the beginning of the harvest season on August 1st and was called “Lammas”, meaning “Loaf Mass”. Local farmers would make loafs of bread from the wheat crop and give them to their local church. At the beginning of the harvest, the locals would appoint a strong and respected man from the community or village and would be their “Lord of the Harvest”. The end of the harvest would be celebrated with a large meal called a “Harvest Meal”. Even though the celebration was basically abandoned after Henry VIII many communities still retained the practice into the 19th century. Some communities still enjoy the practice.
The Feast of Tishri:
The Feast of Tishri (Tishrei), although not celebrated specifically by Blue Lodge Masons, is celebrated in the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite and is closely related to the 14th Degree of the Perfect Elu. For those of you unfamiliar with the Scottish Rite I will be careful not to divulge particulars of the degree, but I will explain the religious and historical significance of the feast.
Before the Babylonian captivity of the Hebrew people the month which has become known as “Tishri” was known as “Ethanim”. The word “Tishrei” is of Babylonian origin and comes from the Babylonian month called “Tisritum”, which has an Akkadian root, “tasritu” meaning “Beginning” from the word “surru”, which means to “begin”.
In the Gregorian calendar it is the month of autumn, from mid-September through mid-October. The ancient Kingdom of Judah used the month of “Tishrei” as the beginning of the civil calendar for the year, whereas the ancient Kingdom of Israel used the ecclesiastical calendar that started in the month of “Nisan”, which, in the Gregorian calendar would be equivalent to the mid-March through mid-April. Interestingly the Jewish people measure their “Epochs” using “Tishrei” for their calculations. For example the “1 Tishrei” is circa “3760 bc”, and is the year Adam and Eve were created, according to the Talmud.
The historical background of the feast of Tishri is found in the book of Leviticus, when God commanded Moses to gather the “fruit of the land” on the 15th day of the civil calendar so that the people could keep a feast unto the Lord or the “Feast of the Tabernacles”. Leviticus 23:34
In the Torah in Leviticus 23:39 it states: Mark, on the 15th day of the 7 month, when you have gathered in the yield of your land, you shall observe the festival of the Lord [to last] 7 days: a complete rest on the 1st day , and a complete rest on the 8th day… Leviticus 23:42 it continues: you shall live in booths 7 days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, 43: in order that the future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the Lord your God.
In the Lamsa Bible, which is translated from the Aramaic texts, the translation shows the word “booth” to be translated as “huts”.
After the exodus and as the People of Israel were led through the wilderness it was decreed by God to Moses, that a 7 day feast be celebrated, and it was to be held during the Festival of Succoth (sukkahs/shelters), when the people would “shelter” themselves in remembrance and celebration that they had been rescued by God from Egypt and “sheltered” under His Protection. The People were instructed to celebrate this feast in perpetuity in the month of Tishri in commemoration and celebration of this gift from God.
The Feast of Tishri is celebrated either during September or October. For the Scottish Rite the celebration is in remembrance of the completion the Temple by King Solomon. It is primarily a celebration of the gifts of the harvest given to us by God, and of fraternity and peaceful concord among all men, which was the epitome of King Solomon’s teachings and reign, and which illustrates the essence of all masonic teaching and practices.
The harvest is a time of celebration and thanksgiving and it is a time to prepare for the barren and difficult time ahead. Communities would gather to share the bounty and resources of their harvests, pray and worship together in thanksgiving and prepare themselves for the depravations that winter can bring.
We share the same challenges and hopes of our brothers and fellows in the fraternity. The autumn of the year is the time of working together to gather the bounty and to celebrate and share our part of the harvest with others and to thank God for his gifts and our sustenance.
The Feast of Saint Andrew: November 30th
Often celebrated on November 30th, it is considered the end of the Church Year and marks the beginning of Advent. It usually begins on the Sunday closest to November 30th, and is often remembered by the saying:
“St. Andrew the King, Three weeks and three days before Christmas begins”
Saint Andrew was a native of Bethsaida in Galilee and was a fisherman and a disciple of Saint John the Baptist and the brother of Peter. He exclaimed to Peter, “We have found the Messiah!” He and his brother Peter (The Rock) were the first disciples to follow Jesus, although he was not consider as part of Jesus inner circle he nonetheless was deeply devoted to Christ and had great love of the Cross.
The story of his martyrdom is collected from the apocryphal Acts which lack a historical foundation. After the Pentecost he is thought to have taken up the apostolate in faraway lands, and is claimed that he was crucified on the saltire cross and hung upside down on the southern Greek isle of Patras after he was ordered to sacrifice to the pagan gods and refused. This cross has hence been named Saint Andrews Cross.
When Andrew was led to the place of martyrdom, on beholding the cross from a distance he cried out: “O good Cross, so long desired and now set up for my longing soul I confident and rejoicing come to you; exultingly receive me, a disciple of Him who hung on you.” Forthwith he was nailed to the cross. For two days he hung there alive, unceasingly proclaiming the doctrine of Christ until he passed on to Him whose likeness in death he had so vehemently desired. –The legendary account of our saint’s martyrdom has this value: it presents to us the mysticism of the Cross of later times.
Excerpted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Pius Parsch / Catholic Culture.org
In the Orthodox Church weddings were not allowed during Advent and Christmas and St. Andrew is known as the patron of unmarried maidens and spinsters and there are many marriage relate superstitions connected to the saint. In the Ukraine, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Poland and Russia there is a superstitious belief that the day is suitable for magic that will reveal a young women’s future husband or that binds a future husband to her.
This Saint’s day is not prominent in the most jurisdictions in the United States, but here are many lessons to be learned by his faith in Christ and his sacrifice to his beliefs. In the Scottish Rite we exemplify the 29th Degree, the Knights of Saint Andrew which teaches toleration of others, even when you do not share their beliefs.
Now, the lessons to be gleaned from this degree and their relation to the Holy Saint Andrew may appear obscure. But, let us look carefully at this most humble servant and follower of Christ to find the lessons.
Although he was not considered by church historians to be part of Christ’s inner circle, he was one of Christ’s first adherents and faithful to the end. In the apocryphal account of his martyrdom he calmed the crowds who could have rioted to set him free. He begged them to let him suffer his fate and he continued to preach the Gospel of Christ until he passed.
The celebrations and feasts of our forefathers were used to weave the community into a cohesive and useful fabric that nurtured and supported one another. Building upon each other’s efforts they were able to thrive and grow into the modern world we have inherited. They shared the bounty of their knowledge, experience and work, and in so doing, they shared the understanding that they could better support their communities by being useful parts of each other’s lives.
The common beliefs and values that these early communities shared are the very foundation upon which masonry has built its communal edifice. The masonic values and principals we espouse are the fruit of the harvest of these ancient people’s beliefs and practices.
It has been my endeavor throughout this year to present the some faucets of the ancient truths and precepts that form the foundation of our shared masonic journey. The world is in dire need of the principals, precepts and practices we hold dear in the craft.
We have a duty and are obligated to use our intelligence, wisdom, experience and wealth to change the world and make it a better place to live for all mankind. Our forefathers and the adepts and wise men and women from our past sacrificed everything to gift us this time and place in history.
We are obligated on our knees, hands on the Great Lights, and sworn to the Most High to defend and protect, not only our brothers in the craft but the entire world and mankind. Let every man here take the lessons learned in the sacred space of Solomon’s temple, and practice them every moment of their lives with all of mankind. With toleration and compassion and steadfastness in our hearts we will continue to build the world in a manner that will be blessed by God.