Just as we have major feast days in the Catholic Church, there are major feasts in the Old Testament that were celebrated by the Israelites. And interestingly enough, the feasts of the Old Testament directly foreshadow the ones in the New Testament.
Cale Clarke spent a segment of The Faith Explained taking a look back at the feasts of the Israelites, how they match up with ours, and what their spiritual significance is.
“Three times a year you shall celebrate a pilgrim feast to me.
You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread. As I have commanded you, you must eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for it was then that you came out of Egypt. No one shall appear before me empty-handed.
You shall also keep the feast of the grain harvest with the first fruits of the crop that you sow in the field; and finally, the feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you collect your produce from the fields.
Three times a year shall all your men appear before the LORD God.” (Exodus 23:14)
Cale began with a passage from Exodus, where God is giving the Hebrew Law to Moses, following the Ten Commandments. As God explains the law regarding religious laws, He mentions three feasts here: The Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering.
“Now the Unleavened Bread Feast we’ve talked about before in conjunction with the Passover, but the other two, you might be scratching your head a little bit,” said Cale. “‘What’s the Feast of Harvest’ or ‘What’s the Feast of Ingathering?’ You probably know them by other names.”
The Feast of Ingathering is better known by its other name, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Feast of Harvest is the same as the Feast of Pentecost. Before the Descent of the Holy Spirit, which didn’t take place until after Jesus’s Ascension, Pentecost to the Hebrews simply marked the fiftieth day after the celebration of Passover. This feast was also known as “Shavuot” and it was a celebration of the new grain that would yield wheat in the fall. The Feast of Tabernacles, also known as “Sukkot”, was the fall festival that commemorated the gathering of the harvested crops.
It’s significant that the Israelites have several feasts throughout the year to commemorate harvest and crops, especially considering how many times the disciples of Jesus are compared to good wheat, bearers of good fruit, and the like.
“His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12)
“Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:17-20)
The Feast of the Unleavened Bread, otherwise known as Passover, is celebrated on the fourteenth day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. And, of course, Passover is the commemoration of the Angel of Death passing over the Hebrew households marked with the blood of the Lamb. Similarly, we Christians celebrate Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus, on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring.
Just as the price of the Hebrew firstborn was paid for with the blood of the sacred lamb, the price for our sins was paid for by the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. And as the Hebrews did not add yeast to their bread as they prepared to escape Egypt, we also use unleavened bread in the celebration of the Mass, the same sacrifice that was made on Calvary 2,000 years ago.
Cale then moved on to the Feast of the Harvest (Shavuot) and explained the similarities between the Hebrew Pentecost and the Christian Pentecost. In Hebrew tradition, it was commanded by Moses that during this feast, every family was required to offer in sacrifice two loaves of bread to show gratitude to God.
Just as blessings are poured out on the Hebrew people, the Holy Spirit outpoured His gifts on the apostles on Pentecost Sunday. Both Pentecosts celebrate a harvest: for the Hebrews, the literal, imminent harvest, and for Christians, the harvesting (or gathering) of souls for God. That is why, Cale says, so many people choose to be baptized into the Church on Pentecost.
To be continued.
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