Come Queen Sabbath, Come Lord Jesus
When the mistress of the house sees three stars together in the sky, the sign that the Sabbath is over, she recites the ’t’chinoh’, a meditative prayer to our merciful God to feed and protect.
“God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob,
Guard Thy people Israel in Thine arbor;
The beloved Sabbath is departing….”
It seems a small issue, the nibbling disciples rubbing the grain and eating it on the Sabbath. Our Lord offers a Scriptural exception to perhaps put judgement on hold. But the argument is far from satisfied. The Sabbath had developed many laws over the years, and their defenders are speaking from devotion and tradition.
The Sabbath arises among the Jewish people as a day of rest, a day of kindness to the tired animals, the working men, and an opportunity to extend charity to strangers and travelers. Before the kingdoms unite and Israel will go into exile, the day of rest is joined by assembling in the temple. We hear that because it is a Sabbath day the temple will be filled. And so that day is the best time for the coup d’erat against the evil queen Ataliah and the ascendancy of the young prince Jehu (Amos 8:5).
During the Exile in Babylon the Sabbath grew to importance equal to circumcision, the hallmark of the covenant with God. There was no temple or altar on which to offer sacrifice, but observance of the Sabbath could be observed. With the return to Jerusalem after the exile two lines of development are seen in understanding the Sabbath: many laws of observance were introduced, but also a “special parallel observance of delight, not a burden” was present. At this time grew also the synagogues which complimented the Sabbath day with study and prayer.
It was said of the Sabbath that it was a wonderful gift from the God of Israel; the pleasures of the Sabbath were one-sixteenth of the depth of the world to come; and, on the eve of Sabbath God gives man a special soul, and with the ending of Sabbath it is taken away from Him.’
In 3rd century Palestine the Talmud attests to wearing Sabbath cloths on Friday evening and saying , “Come, let us go out and meet the Sabbath Queen,” or “Come, bride; come, bride!” With the introduction of this ceremony the poetry of the Sabbath reaches its peak: a procession forms, cantor and congregation turn about at the last stanza of the song and face the door of the synagogue, as if they expected the royal bride, the Princess Sabbath, to come in to her beloved groom, Israel.
With Israel we who follow Jesus are also a people who wait and hope. Arguments happen, human things change and develop, but for God who rests times and seasons obey. Queen Sabbath and the Bride groom meet. But Queen Sabbath departs, so it seems. Let us celebrate their mystery and love as we wait.
Come Queen Sabbath, Come Lord Jesus. Your love and mystery we ponder.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Jamaica, New York.