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The Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) was celebrated to commemorate God leading the Jews through their journeying in the desert and eventually into the promised land where they found rest and were blessed with bountiful harvests.   Leviticus 23: 34, 42-43   "Say to the people of Israel, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the feast of booths to the Lord… 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days; all that are native in Israel shall dwell in booths,  that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."     RSV

This feast is also mentioned in  Deuteronomy 26: 1-11  " (8) ... and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror, with signs and wonders;  and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey."  RSV

For the Feast of Booths the Jews had a solemn rest (a Sabbath) on the first and eighth day on which they held a sacred assembly to worship God.
Leviticus 23: 34 -36, 39  "…LORD’S feast of Booths, which shall continue for seven days.  On the first day there shall be a sacred assembly, and you shall do no sort of work.   For seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD, and on the eighth day you shall again hold a sacred assembly and offer an oblation to the LORD. On that solemn closing you shall do no sort of work… 39… you shall celebrate a pilgrim feast of the LORD for a whole week. The first and the eighth day shall be days of complete rest."  NAB

We see a close connection between the first and eight day.  The Jews held a solemn (Sabbath) rest and worshipped God on the first and the eighth day to celebrate His leading them into the promised land.  God had blessed them with the rest from their wondering in the desert by giving them the promised land.  Saint Paul alludes to this journey through the desert in 2 Corinthians 5 when he speaks of our present journey in this life and he refers to our bodies as "tents" or "tabernacles."   With the coming of the New Covenant Jesus reveals a better rest, the chance to be united with God in Heaven.  And He offers not just physical food, but spiritual food.  Matthew 11:28  "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

This Feast of Booths prefigures our new day of rest in the New Covenant as we journey  toward that ultimate rest that we will have in our Heavenly home with God.  Moses led the Jews out of the bondage of slavery to the Egyptians, and through the desert to find rest in the promised land.  Similarly, Jesus leads us out of the bondage of slavery to sin, and through the deserts of this life- the dying to ourselves (Luke 9:23f) - to that promised land in the Heavenly Jerusalem where we find our ultimate rest in God.  As will be shown later, we are a new creation in Christ and so we have a new and better seventh day, which is the first day or the eight day of the week.

This new day of rest prefigures that ultimate rest that we will only find with God in heaven.    "…you (God) have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."  St. Augustine, Confessions 1, 1, 1.   Since Jesus is the only way to heaven, the day that He especially hallowed, that is set part, with His miracles has become our new seventh day.  "In Christ's Passover, Sunday surpasses the spiritual truth of the Jewish Sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God.  For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ,"   CCC  2175

Another foreshadowing is when God gave the requirements for Passover in Exodus 12.   Exodus 12:1-8  "…. they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household… Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening.  Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts … They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it."   Interestingly, God began these instructions with the announcement of a new way of measuring time.  Exodus 12:1   "The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you…’ "

Israel’s new year had been Yom Kippur in the autumn, but Passover is in the Spring.  There was a natural calendar, which began with Yom Kippur.  It coincided with the harvesting of the crops.  But, now God establishes a second calendar, or a sacred calendar.  The early Fathers of the Church saw in these events a foreshadowing or a type of what would take place in the New Testament Passover.  When Christ up came out of the tomb, up out of Egypt in a sense,  He inaugurated  a new measurement of time and of days.  Whereas, the natural calendar centered on the harvesting of crops, the fruits of the natural creation, the new sacred calendar centered on the spiritual benefits of the new creation - Redemption.  Mankind’s focus is now centered on the greater work and gifts of God- our Salvation.   As children of God under the New Covenant we live not for the naturally created goods, worldly things, but instead for the supernatural gifts and promises of Jesus Christ and our heavenly home.



The Holy Bible has both human authors and a Divine Author.  Scripture scholar Scott Hahn, Ph.D., writes:

So when we read the Bible, we need to read it on two levels at once.   We read the Bible in a literal sense .. .. . But we read it also in a spiritual sense, searching out what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us through the words  (see Catechism, nos. 115 -19).

We do this in imitation of Jesus, because this is the way He read the scriptures.  He referred to Jonah (Mt 12:39), Solomon (Mt 12:42), the temple (Jn 2:19), and the brazen serpent (Jn 3:14) as  "signs"  that prefigured Him.  We see in Luke's gospel, as our Lord comforted the disciples on the road to Emmaus, that  "beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures" (Lk 24:27).  After this spiritual reading of the Old Testament, we are told, the disciples' hearts burned within them.

What ignited this fire in their hearts ?   Through the scriptures, Jesus had initiated His disciples into a world that reached beyond their senses.  A good teacher, God introduced the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar.  Indeed, He had created the familiar with this end in mind, fashioning the persons and institutions that would best prepare us for the coming of Christ and the glories of His kingdom.

Learning to Type

The first Christians followed their Master in reading the Bible this way.  In the letter to the Hebrews, the Old Testament tabernacle and its rituals are described as  "types and shadows of heavenly realities"  (8:5), and the law as a  "shadow of the good things to come" (10:1).  Saint Peter, in turn, noted that Noah and his family  "were saved through water,"  and that  "this prefigured baptism, which saves you now"  (1 Pt 3:20-21).  Peter's word translated as  "prefigured"  is actually the Greed word for  "typify,"  or  "make a type."   The apostle Paul, for his part, described Adam as a  "type"  of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:14).

So what is a type ?   A type is a real person, place, thing, or event in the Old Testament that foreshadows something greater in the New Testament.  From  "type"  we get the word  "typology,"  the study of Christ's foreshadowing in the Old Testament (see Catechism, 128-130). [Hail, Holy Queen, pages 22-23.]

We are told in the New Testament that the Sabbath was just a shadow, or type, of a greater reality revealed in Christ.  Colossians 2:16-17  "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath.  These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ."  The Sabbath was not permanent.  It prefigured a more glorious rest that we can find in Christ and with Him in Heaven.  Because of sin we cannot be reconciled with God and get to Heaven unless we are Redeemed, and Justified before God.  Christ was "raised for our justification"  (Romans 4:25)   on  the first day of the week.  The glory of the Sabbath prefigured the greater glory of this new day, on which, we were enabled to enter that perfect rest in Christ.



The Sabbath had two aspects, one ritual and one spiritual.  The ritual aspect of not working on the seventh day signified a deeper spiritual aspect.  It signified the consecration of the Jews to God and all that He had revealed and their acceptance and their living out of that Covenant that he had established with them.  Cf. Exod. 31: 13.  The Pharisees criticized Jesus because they got so caught up with the ritual aspect that they missed the more important spiritual one.

In the New Covenant the ritual aspect has been changed from the seventh day of the week to the first day, and every seven days after that.  This change in the ritual signifies an even deeper change in the spiritual aspect.  Greater spiritual benefits are available to those who live under the New Covenant.  With the coming of Christ and all that He has accomplished we now have a new and better Covenant.

    With the fuller revelation that He has given to mankind we can know God in a deeper way.  Matthew 13:17   "Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."    John 14:9  "…He who has seen me has seen the Father…"   Because of the grace that was won for us by Jesus Christ we can live out a deeper and more intimate relationship with God than was ever made possible under the Old Covenant.   Romans 8:16-17  "…we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."   When we receive the Eucharist, Communion, we renew the New Covenant that Christ established at the Last Supper.



The book of Exodus tells us that the Sabbath is a sign of  the covenant that God had made with the people of Israel.  Exodus 31:13  "Say to the people of Israel, ‘You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.’ "  RSV  Circumcision was also a sign of the Old Covenant because it was the way to enter into it.  Genesis 17:11   "You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you."  RSV

The Sabbath was the sign of the Old Covenant, but the Old Testament prophets foretold a New Covenant.  The Old Covenant would cease to be, and it would be replaced by a New and more perfect Covenant. Jeremiah 31:31-32  "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,  not like the covenant which I made with their fathers…"     Jesus established the New Covenant during the Last Supper.

Matthew 26:26-28  "…Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’  Then he took a cup… ‘…for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’ "   NAB    The Seventh Day was a sign of the Covenant that the Jews had when God had written in stone with His own finger.  However, we now have a  New Covenant, not written  with a finger, but with Christ’s own Blood on the cross.     He gave His Apostles the chalice to drink and declared in  Luke 22:20   "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." RSV

In Hebrews we read;  Hebrews 8:6-7, 13
“Now he has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second one. … When he speaks of a ‘new’ covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. And what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing.”


     Development and change. Hebrews 13:8  "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever."  RSV   The passing away of the Old Covenant and the giving way to the New Covenant should not be viewed as a reversal in God’s plan.  Rather, it is like the second part of an overall plan, but even more it is the culmination of God’s plan.  For example, a father may teach his young son obedience and forbid him to cross the street.  When he is older the father may require him to get a job across the street.  His overall plan is to raise him up to maturity.  The Old Covenant foreshadowed the New, but now it has given way to the New and more glorious Covenant.  Honoring God as our Creator on the seventh day of the week has given way to that which it foreshadowed, that is honoring Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer on the first day of the week.
Hebrews 7:18   "On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness…"   Hebrews 9:15  "Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant."


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