Theologian's Almanac for Week of October 13, 2019


Welcome to SALT’s “Theologian’s Almanac,” a weekly selection of important birthdays, holidays, and other upcoming milestones worth marking - specially created for a) writing sermons and prayers, b) creating content for social media channels, and c) enriching your devotional life.

For the week of Sunday, October 13:

October 13 is the beginning of Sukkot, the Jewish holiday commemorating two things: first, the harvest festival marking the end of the agricultural year in Israel, and second, the Israelites’ 40 years of journeying through the wilderness after the exodus from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:42-43).  “Sukkot” (pronounced, “soo-COAT,” and typically translated as “booths” or “tabernacles”) is the plural form of “sukkah,” a temporary, walled structure covered with branches or other plant material.  It’s thought that such structures were used both by ancient farmers living out in the fields during harvesting and, according to Leviticus, by the Israelites as they wandered the wilderness after the Exodus.

Many Christian holidays are inspired by Jewish ones (Eastertide is a variation on Passover, Pentecost a variation on Shavuot, and so on), but so far, Sukkot has no official Christian counterpart.  Some churches have experimented with a “Season of Creation” in the fall, which would resonate with Sukkot’s connection to the wilderness. St. Francis, whose feast day is in early October, would approve!

October 15 is the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila, the widely influential Spanish monastic, author, mystic, and founder of a new Carmelite order in 1562.  Her spiritual autobiography, The Way of Perfection, is a classic, as is her meditation on the contemplative life, The Interior Castle.  In 1970 she was the first woman to be honored as a Doctor of the Church.

Here’s a taste of her imagination: She describes the stages of prayer in terms of bringing water into a garden of the soul, so the garden might grow.  The first stage, she says, is like pulling a bucket of water directly up out of a well by strenuous effort; the second stage goes more easily, with God’s help, as if drawing the bucket up by means of a pulley; the third stage is virtually effortless, as if God is irrigating the garden; and the fourth stage, the stage of ecstasy, she describes as rain falling on the garden from above.

She wrote: “Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.”

And again: “I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him.”

October 16 is the birthday of the Irish novelist and playwright Oscar Wilde, born in Dublin in 1854.  Though he was an adamant agnostic throughout his life, he nevertheless was a thoughtful admirer of Jesus: “He is just like a work of art,” Wilde wrote.  “He does not really teach one anything, but by being brought into his presence one becomes something.”

October 18 is the feast day of Luke the Evangelist, author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts.  Likely a highly-educated Gentile convert, Luke is considered the best Greek stylist among the four gospel writers, and because his descriptions of Jesus’ healings include correct medical terminology of his day, he is traditionally thought to have been a physician.  Later traditions developed that he was also a painter, and several works, in Rome and elsewhere, are attributed to him. In any case, he’s remembered as an artist, both of language and of pigment, and he’s the patron saint of both physicians and painters.