The following is part of a series which gives suggestions for bidding prayers at the major festivals of other religions, along with a short text of explanation for use in parish newsletters, and some background information. In acknowledging these festivals, and praying for those who celebrate them, Catholics can express their connectedness to all people of faith, as well as the respect which the Church holds for their spiritual wealth.
For use on Sunday, 23rd September
The special period of the High Holy Days begins on 16th September, the beginning of the celebrations of “Rosh HaShana”, the new year, and culminates in Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, which falls between the sunset of 25th September and the sunset of 26th September this year (the tenth day of the seventh month in the Jewish calendar).
During the period of their High Holy Days, we pray for the Jewish members of our community. As they fast, pray, and ask for forgiveness to start the New Year afresh, we also pray for the strength to forgive, and the blessing of being forgiven.
For the newsletter
Jewish-Christian relations are especially close, and special, as Christianity is deeply rooted in Judaism. For Jews, the period between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, is considered to be a holy period of repentance and seeking of forgiveness, both from God and from other people. This year, this period falls between 16th and 26th September.
There is a particular, and close, bond, between Christianity and Judaism – as Nostra Aetate, the interreligious document of the Second Vatican Council, puts it “The Church […] cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant”, and goes on to describe Christianity as a branch that has been grafted onto the “well-cultivated olive tree” of Judaism. When John Paul II visited the Great Synagogue of Rome, he referred to the Jews as “our older brothers”. In the UK, 0.5% of people identified as Jewish in the 2001 census, with a high concentration in urban centres such as London or Manchester. We share the part of the bible that most Christians call the Old Testament with our Jewish brothers and sisters, apart from some few Christian additions. The Jewish new year of Rosh Hashana is celebrated by eating sweet foods, and a special bread. Both the ritual of “casting away”, throwing some food into flowing water, and of blowing the horn in the first two days are a reminder to repent and turn away from sin – Yom Kippur, at the end of the period of the High Holy Days, is marked by a fast, and by seeking forgiveness from friends and family the preceding night. The traditional belief is that, on Rosh Hashana, God inscribes the righteous in the Book of Life, which is sealed on Yom Kippur. The period between the two offers an opportunity to be included in the Book of Life, too, before it is closed, by showing repentance and seeking forgiveness. For further information and resources on interreligious dialogue, go to http://www.cbcew.org.uk/page.aspx?pid=458 – the website is under development, so it is worth looking back at it occasionally – or have a look at the Bishops’ Conference blog at http://www.churchestogetherconnect.org/profiles/blog/list?user=3az6....
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