Revelations from the Word

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Jesus and Chanukkah

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"The Feast of the Dedication was being celebrated. It was winter. And Jesus was walking in the temple, under Solomon's Porch" (John 10:22-23).

The Feast of the Dedication commemorates the reconsecration of the Temple at Jerusalem by Judas Maccabeus in 164 BC. Channukah is the Hebrew name of this festival in which Jesus was taking part. In his final attempt to hellenise the Jews, the king of Syria Antiochus IV had ruthlessly massacred the Jerusalem Jews, invaded the Temple, carried off the altar, as well as the menorah, and the golden utensils and finally sacrificed a pig to Zeus. The Temple at Jerusalem was therefore defiled, and Judas Maccabeus had to purify the Temple by rededicating it to God. At the time he had only one phial of oil prepared for the menorah for only one day, but it burned miraculously for 8 days – the time needed to prepare consecrated oil.

The Jews celebrate this divine miracle on the 25th day of the month Kisley (between the 27th November and 27th December). Channukah, "also called the Festival of Lights", is therefore celebrated by using a Channukiah Menorah, which has 9 branches. First of all the 'servant' [shamash] is lit, which is then used to light a lamp the first night, two lamps on the second night and so on until the eighth night when the eight lamps and the 'servant' burnt with a great light. The Channukiah is placed each evening near the window to show the 'Light' of God is in this house.

It is a victory over the attempt to hellenise the people of God and is celebrated as the victory of Light over darkness. For us the image is of great meaning; Jesus, "the Light of the world" (John 8:12), came as a Servant (Mark 10:45) to give light to each one (John 1:4-5), so that we can be lights to others (Matthew 5:14-16). Like the Channukiah inside the house, Christ our Light is within us to be seen from the outside.

The hellenisation of the Church, like that of the Jewish people, occurred periodically. It is the battle of false light against the Light of Jesus as was the case, for example, of 'the light of Reason' issuing out of the century of Enlightenment, in the 18th century. That is why Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth (in the Church)?" (Luke 18:8). As he did at time of Jesus, the devil always waits for an opportune moment to seduce or attack the true Church of Jesus-Christ (Luke 4:13).