By Lynn Smith-Henry
This year during the Lenten season, I am doing something different for my Lenten Meditations – seeking the Jewish roots of our Christian faith. In this season of meditation and preparation for Holy Week, my thoughts have been consumed with Liturgy and the theology which stands behind it. Christianity is not a Western religion but an Eastern one. In seeking our Eastern Jewish roots, I have come to realize a profound truth about our Christian faith – we are not on the appointed calendar of the Bible but the adopted calendar of the Roman tradition. It occurs to me that this was a profound step away from our Jewish roots and while we have been able to function liturgically in our worship, I began to wonder if we had lost some of the underlying theology of our Jewish connections. The more I searched, the more it appeared that we have indeed lost something truly meaningful.
All meaningful liturgy has theology as its underpinning. Like Jewish liturgy, we construct our liturgy around the concept of the “feast.” The word “feast” in the Hebrew is “moed” and it actually means the “appointed time” for something to happen. But it also has another meaning – “dress rehearsal.” The Liturgy of both the Tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem were predicated on this very concept of rehearsal as demonstrated in Leviticus and other passages of Scripture. Aaron the first High Priest received very specific instructions on how to approach the most Holy Place, what vestments to wear and exactly what to do when conducting the Liturgy in the presence of God’s name. Looking at our Liturgy today, we can see the same sequence of events although represented by different elements.
As we experience Lent with anticipation of Holy Week and the gravitas of its events, we should prepare ourselves for its Liturgy in the same manner – as a “dress rehearsal” of the real event which we will share with Christ in the future to come. By doing so, we connect once again with our Jewish roots and fulfill the real purpose of the Liturgy. The Liturgy has not only the power to reconnect us to our past spiritual heritage in Abraham but also to unify us in worship, and heal the deficiencies of our human state by taking us into the presence of God – an awesome and inspiring thought as we meditate during this season of Lent on our relationship with our Lord Yeshua Meshiach – Jesus the Christ.