Muslims around the world have entered into the most holy time of the year today with the start of Ramadan. This is a 30 day observance marked by fasting (sawm), prayer and intentional efforts to refrain from gossip and backbiting, greed and envy and all things that generally enslave humanity. During the daylight hours devout Muslims will not eat. This Holy time will mark three distinct 10 day periods – each period has a different focus. The first focuses on the mercy of God, the second on the forgiveness of God, and the third on the salvation of God. This is a holy time when reading the Qur’an is encouraged. During this holy season it is hoped that the follower is able to strengthen family and community bonds. We pray that all of our Islamic friends will have a Holy and sacred Ramadan.
But that is not the only Religious celebration. Early this evening I sliced an apple and dipped it in homey. Why would I do this? Well – today is Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New year. It began at Sunset yesterday and will run till nightfall tomorrow. This is Jewish Year 5768. While today for Jews is a day of rest, it is also a day of celebration and one of the traditions among some families is the practice of dipping apples in honey to symbolize a wish for a sweet new year. This holiday is focused on the Sovereignty of God. It is a Holy time of year for Jewish people and we wish them all L’shanah tovah ("for a good year").
Tomorrow is also a Holy day for Christians. September 14 is Holy Cross Day. It is a feast that marks the commemoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was dedicated on 14 September 335. This church was built on the site of what is believed to be the place of the crucifixion of Jesus. Helena found this holy sight of crucifixion and burial and had the church built there. This day is for us Christians an opportunity to celebrate the cross as a great sign of victory and triumph of death, darkness and the grave. It is an opportunity to celebrate the image in a manner that is different than what we do on Good Friday – a more solemn recognition of the cross. We celebrate the transformation of an instrument of punishment and shame to a symbol of hope for generations of Christians to come. Indeed, in celebrating the cross as more than an instrument of capital punishment we declare that we are NOT a Good Friday people – but we ARE an Easter people. We sign ourselves with the cross to remind ourselves and others whose we are. In our baptism we hear the words “I sign you with the sign of the cross and mark you as Christ’s own forever.” So I encourage all Christian to reflect tomorrow on the Cross. It is a day that we will transfer to Sunday September 16, 2007 and in celebration of that we will welcome the Diocesan Sesquicentennial Cross. This cross has been all over the diocese and has visited many parishes. So plan to join us as we mark this holy day in our year.
I get the idea today that there may be a lot of devotion to God in the next few days – a a great deal of diversity in offering that devotion. God is good!