Our Gospels this week and next are St. John’s story of what happened with Jesus during the first week of December the winter before his death. For the Jews that week was like no other, because they all had to abandon their houses to live out in the streets in huts they constructed from palm fronds. Our old English word for huts made not of cloth but of branches was tabernacles.
St. John gives all of Chapter Seven and Eight to the events of that week-long Feast of Tabernacles. It will help us in following if we know what the week commemorated, and if we have a picture of what events Jerusalem scheduled for the week.
But before getting to all of that, we should let today’s first reading draw us into Our Lord’s heart that was burdened with all the hatred aimed at him. It was burdened as well with thoughts of the scourging and worse.
But, as to what this week was commemorating, obviously they were trying to re-live the forty years their ancestors lived in palm-frond tents in the desert when they were following Moses. As for the events scheduled for the week, They would be gathering in the streets, then, singing, they would make their way up to the great court of the Gentiles where temple choirs would lead them re-enacting events from the Exodus years.
Especially dear to them that week was the huge torch, recalling the pillar of fire that led them through the desert nights. It was lit with great ceremony the first night of the week, then, at the end of the week, not to be seen for another year, it was extinguished with sighs of sorrow.