(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday morning, 12 December 2017)
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God . . .
Growing up going to a Catholic school, with a Protestant mother, and a Jewish father, religion was always questionable. As Hanukkah approaches, beginning this evening, I began to think about what I know Hanukkah to be. Before I really understood what religion was, I just thought I was lucky because I got more presents than my friends did during the holidays because I celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. Thinking back, I remember the days when my brothers and I would gather around our menorah, arguing over who got to light the candles, playing dreidel, eating latkes, listening to our dad recite the prayers, and waiting until we were old enough to say them ourselves.
I now know that Hanukkah, which means dedication, and is also called the Festival of Lights, is not just “extra presents,” but a commemoration of the rededication of the Holy Temple. After being forced out of the Holy Land by Syrian-Greeks, Judah the Maccabee led a band of Jews to drive the Greeks from Israel and reclaim their Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Upon defeating one of the world’s mightiest armies, the Jews went on to light the Menorah in the temple. When they arrived however, they found only one cruse of oil that would last one day. Miraculously, this oil burned for 8 days, long enough until new oil could be purified. Because of this miracle, Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 nights by lighting the candles of a menorah and reciting prayers. Each night, an additional candle is lit using the shamash, or the candle used to light the other candles. Three prayers are recited while the candles are being lighted, the first being: Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah. This translates to “Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us, to light the lights of Hanukkah.”
Understanding the story of why we celebrate Hanukkah, among other stories, helped me to clarify some of my confusion about religion. Because of the understanding which I now have, I am able to see presents not as presents, but spiritual gifts that I have received from God as a result of the actions of my ancestors before me.
Let us pray . . .
Lord, please help us to see past materialistic objects and understand the true meaning of giving and receiving this holiday season. During this holiday season, may we grow in our awareness of other faiths, remembering that You are the Father of all and that we are your children.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts…Forever.
Jacob Eberson–Class of 2021