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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Nehemiah 8,13-18

On the second day, the heads of families of the whole people, and the priests and Levites, gathered round the scribe Ezra to study the words of the Law.

And written in the Law that Yahweh had prescribed through Moses they found that the Israelites were to live in shelters during the feast of the seventh month.

So they issued a proclamation and had it circulated in all their towns and in Jerusalem: 'Go into the hills and bring branches of olive, pine, myrtle, palm and other leafy trees to make shelters, as it says in the book.'

The people went out; they brought branches and made shelters for themselves, each man on his roof, in their courtyards, in the precincts of the Temple of God, in the square of the Water Gate and in the square of the Ephraim Gate.

The whole assembly, all who had returned from the captivity, put up shelters and lived in them; this the Israelites had not done from the days of Joshua son of Nun till that day, and there was very great merrymaking.

Each day, from the first day to the last one, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days; on the eighth day, as prescribed, they held a solemn assembly.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Once the Christmas season is over, so-called "Ordinary Time" begins, which will be with us until Lent. We again take up the continuous reading of the book of Nehemiah at the point where it focuses upon the hearing of the Law, not with the whole people but with a restricted group of persons: the heads of families of the whole people, priests, and Levites. The episode of the celebration of the Festival of Booths recalls the first celebration of the exiles immediately after the altar had been erected (Ezra 3:4), and constitutes a parallel with the celebration of Passover at the end of the first return from exile (Ezra 6:19-22). Passover, Pentecost (which, in reality, is the conclusion-fulfilment of Passover), and Booths, are the three pilgrimage feasts, which, from the postexilic period until today, constitute the nucleus of the Jewish liturgical calendar. Lacking is the feast of Kippur (atonement), which immediately precedes that of Booths, perhaps here substituted by the atonement ceremony of the preceding chapter. We find precise indications about these feasts in the legal rituals of the books of the Pentateuch (Ex 23:14-19; Lev 23; Num 28:16-29:38; Deut 16). The festival of Booths concluded the agricultural year, and was also called the festival of Ingathering. On the basis of Lev 23, it is prescribed that one dwell, or at least eat meals, in huts ("booths") built for the occasion, in remembrance of the Israelites’ stay in the wilderness, a sign too of God’s protection during the time of precariousness in the desert, represented precisely by the huts. The passage in Nehemiah’s adds the command to build the huts with the branches of shrubs and various trees. The feast expresses gratitude to God for the gifts of the earth, as do the other pilgrimage feasts, which arise from their connection to an agricultural society, and it also celebrates the joy of the gift of the Law. In fact, the feast concludes with the day (the eighth) of the "joy of the Torah," with which ends the reading cycle of the Pentateuch in the synagogue, preceding the commencement of the new cycle. The reading of the word of God accompanies the believers during the whole year, and allows them, in the precariousness of the days of the human condition, to rejoice in the protective presence of the Lord, to whom we give thanks for the gifts that he gives to us daily.

Memory of the Poor

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 15 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 16 October
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 17 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 18 October
Memory of the Apostles
Thursday, 19 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 20 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 21 October
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday