Poland: Celebrating Advent and Hanukkah at Catholic University of Lublin
By Vatican News staff reporter
The Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin organized a joint Hanukkah and Advent celebration on 19 December for the academic community and residents of Lublin, a multicultural and multireligious city.
The first-ever "Lights in the Darkness" event brought together representatives of the Jewish community and students to participate in this symbolic gathering with a focus on light as a way to people's hearts and unite people of different faiths.
United in light
According to Bishop Mieczysław Cisło, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Lublin, said: “We Catholics discover our Jewish roots, and Jews discover the fraternity of the Christian faith.”
Bishop Cisło, who served as chairman of the Committee for Dialogue with Judaism of the Polish Bishops' Conference from 2006-2016, also highlighted the importance of light.
"The light of the Hanukkah candelabra and Advent wreath is an organic unity,” he said. “It warms and unites.”
As Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, deputy director of Heschel Center, pointed out, the Hanukkah candelabra is a sign of the Old Testament—the liberation of the Temple in Jerusalem, while the Advent wreath symbolizes the coming of Jesus as Messiah.
"Lublin is a multicultural university city, where Jeszywas Chachmej Lublin, the largest Talmudic school in the world, operated before World War II,” he said. “Today the largest Catholic university in Poland refers to and recalls the historical character of the city.”
Hear, O Israel
The celebration began on Monday with the hymn “Shema Israel”, followed by two commentaries.
The Jewish reflection was delivered by cantor Symcha Keller, and the Catholic commentary by Prof. Wojciech Kaczmarek, Director of the Department of Drama and Theater.
The meeting concluded with joint singing by Neocatechumenal and Jewish dicantors.
As Mr. Keller summarized, “Light unites us, rituals divide us, but that does not mean that our differences are negative. Man carries within himself the light that radiates from Hanukkah and the Advent wreath.”
Jewish feast of Hanukkah
Hanukkah is an annual Jewish holiday that lasts eight days, beginning on the 25th of the month of Kislev (according to the Jewish calendar).
It commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE. Hanukkah is associated with the rite of lighting lights, candles or oil lamps placed on a special candelabra—the Hanukkah.
The origin of Hanukkah is linked to the events that took place in the Temple in Jerusalem on the 25th day of the month of Kislev 165 or 164 B.C., when the ruler of Syria and Palestine, Antiochus IV of the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty, sought to force the Jews to abandon their Mosaic customs, traditions and faith and adopt Greek customs.
About the Heschel Center
The Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the Catholic University of Lublin is a scientific and educational unit that aims to deepen Catholic-Jewish relations.
Its patron is Abraham J. Heschel, a Jewish theologian, philosopher and poet. The center was inaugurated in October.
At the end of the General Audience on Wednesday, 19 October 2022, Pope Francis greeted Polish pilgrims and said, "I am pleased that on Monday the Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations was inaugurated in Lublin. I hope that it will foster the enhancement of the common heritage, not only of the two religions, but also of the two peoples.”