Sunday, October 4, 2015

Interfaith Days: St. Francis Day, Hoshana Rabbah, World Communion Sunday

In Catholic Christianity, today is the Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi. He died the evening before, in 1226, two years after he received the stigmata. A feast day in honor of Francis' stigmata is celebrated on September 17, although some liturgical calendars omit that day as being close in observance and meaning to St. Francis Day. Francis was, of course, an Italian preacher and friar who founded the Franciscans and the Franciscan Clarist Order. Because of his association with nature and creation, many churches, including Protestant congregations, have "blessing of the animals" components during Sunday services on or near October 4.

Today is also Hoshanah Rabbah in Judaism. It is the seventh day of the Sukkot festival and is considered the last of the Days of Judgment that began on Rosh Hashana. The judgment for the new year is sealed on Yom Kippur but not delivered until Hoshana Rabbah.  This site and this site provide more information.

In many Christian denominations, this is World Communion Sunday. Happening on the first Sunday of  each October, the day originated in the Presbyterian denomination in the 1930s and was endorsed and promoted by the Federal Council of Churches (now the National Council of Churches) in 1940. The day promotes ecumenical cooperation and Christian unity.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Interfaith Days: Michaelmas

Michaelmas, or the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, is a Western Christian festival on September 29, near the fall equinox. In the Eastern church, the archangels are honored on November 8. Michael was the Archangel who defeated Lucifer and is one of the greatest angelic protectors. Michael figures in both testaments, the Apocrypha, and the Qur’an as well. In Christian tradition he is the angel who guards Christ's earthly kingdom and ensures safe passage for souls passing into Heaven. Since he is the angelic leader, all angels are honored on this day.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Interfaith Days: Sukkot

The Jewish holiday Sukkot, "Feast of Booths," begins this evening. The day is mentioned in Exodus 34:22 as the end of of harvest time. It is also mentioned in Leviticus 23:42-43, where the day commemorates the Exodus and the dependance of the People of Israel upon God, and in Deuteronomy 16:13-17. A "sukkah" or booth (or "tabernacle") is a temporary structure made of palm leaves or some other plant. I remember visiting a rabbi friend in Phoenix; when I walked into the synagogue courtyard, I was greeted by numerous grass huts, constructed for the holiday. Another year, I attended an interfaith event at a synagogue, and we had the evening meeting outside in a large sukkah. The temporary dwellings call attention to the Israelites 40 years of living in the wilderness.  The festival lasts seven days in Israel and eight in the diaspora. The festival ends with the holidays Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah).

This site and this site provides more information. In that latter site, "Judaism 101,"the author writes, "The Festival of Sukkot begins… the fifth day after Yom Kippur… a drastic transition, from one of the most solemn holidays in our year to one of the most joyous. Sukkot is so unreservedly joyful that it is commonly referred to in Jewish prayer and literature as Z'man Simchateinu… the Season of our Rejoicing."

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Interfaith Days: Eid al-Adha

Today is Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice in Islam, honoring the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son, in submission to God's command. The day falls at the end of the annual Hajj. As this site indicates, "At dawn on the day of Eid, Muslims recite the traditional declaration of faith, the Takbir, followed by the pre-sunrise communal prayer, Salat al-Eid, which is also said on Eid al-Fitr. Worshipers then greet friends with the traditional Arabic salutation of Eid Mubarak (“Have a blessed Eid”) and exchange gifts. In a symbolic act, Muslims who can afford it slaughter a cow, goat, sheep or camel, keeping a portion to feed themselves and distributing the rest to friends, family and the needy. Those who can't afford it buy meat from a Halal butcher to distribute. Giving out this meat, in addition to the morning prayers, is considered an essential component of Eid al-Adha." See also this site.

This year's Hajj has been marked by tragedy:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Interfaith Days: Yom Kippur, Mabon

Ending at sundown today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year in Judaism. The day has been observed with an approximately 25-hour time of fasting, prayer, and synagogue services. The day concludes the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora'im ("Days of Awe") that began with Rosh Hashanah. During this period, Jews seek to amend his/her behavior, seek forgiveness for wrongs committed against God and other people. This site and this site provides more information.

Today is also Mabon, the Wiccan/Pagan observance of the autumn equinox. As this site indicates, the day is a time of thanksgiving, balance, and fellowship with friends and neighbors. A "Pagan Pride Day" may be held, and food drives organized to help the needy.

(From the 2015 Interfaith Calendar of the Diversity Awareness Partnership of St. Louis---see for more information---and various online sources.)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Interfaith Days: Ganesh Chaturthi, Paryushana Parva

Yesterday was Ganesh Chaturthi, the Hindu festival that honors the elephant-headed god Ganesh. It begins a ten-day festival, Vinayaka Chaturthi, and includes installing images of the god in temperer public shines as well as in homes.

Today is Paryushana Parva, the Jain festival that signifies the emergence of a new world of spirit and morality. This day, too, begins a period of observance, in this case a time of intense meditation aimed at renewal.

(From the 2015 Interfaith Calendar of the Diversity Awareness Partnership of St. Louis---see for more information---and various online sources.)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Interfaith Days: Elevation of the Holy Cross

In the Orthodox Church, today is one of the Great Feasts, The Elevation of the Holy Cross. Like the feast of the Beheading of John, it is held as a strict fast. According to church teachings, the mother of Emperor Constantine, St. Helen, discovered Christ's Cross buried near Golgotha. The day was September 14, 325.

This site provides more information, and this site provides other icons of the feast day.

(From the 2015 Interfaith Calendar of the Diversity Awareness Partnership of St. Louis---see for more information---and various online sources.)