1. The Seven Holy Convocations
Just before and during the Exodus from Egypt, the Lord established seven holy convocations centered upon the temple. Most of the symbolism found in the celebration of these holy days and festivals is found in the oral law (or commentaries) and not in the Old Testament. The holy convocation most thoroughly outlined in the Old Testament is the Passover.
The festivals are related to sowing and harvest and the seasons of the year, but have at their center, imagery of the coming Messiah — His nature, His ministry, and His birth, atonement, and resurrection. In the Jewish festivals can be found an outline of the entire religious history of the earth, from the creation to the second coming of Christ and ushering in of his millennial reign.
The typifications of the Savior’s role during His earthly ministry were meant to help the Israelites to recognize Him when He would come. Christ actually staged events to jog the memory of the Jews, and many did make the connection. This helped them to convert and follow the Savior. World events have also been staged to fulfill the imagery in the holidays, as will be shown in following articles. God has chosen to schedule events that fulfill the festival symbols on the very days the festivals are celebrated. It’s certain that will continue, helping us to foresee future events happening in certain seasons of the year.
Gospel principles, such as repentance and the nature of the atonement, also show up in the festival symbols. So they are rich with messages for all of us. The Lord, when ordaining each and every holiday, commanded that they be celebrated “forever.” Perhaps all the imagery will come together for people of all faiths, once all the patterns and fulfillments have been completed, and these wonderful holidays will be celebrated by all in recognition of God’s great plan for us.
In the Meridian of Time
And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth; and he cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the day of the Lord come? When shall the blood of the Righteous be shed, that all they that mourn may be sanctified and have eternal life? And the Lord said: It shall be in the meridian of time, in the days of wickedness and vengeance (Moses 7:45, 46).
Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge, who shall come in the meridian of time (Moses 6:57).
The festivals of the Lord divide the year exactly in two. There are three festivals clustered very closely together in the spring, with all the imagery relating to the first coming of Christ — His earthly ministry. Then, in a mirror image to the spring holidays, there is a close cluster of three holidays in the fall, all symbolizing the coming of Messiah, final judgment, and the ushering in of the millennium. In between there is one holiday that anchors us in our wilderness walk, symbolizing the gifts of the spirit, revelation, and the scriptures to help us along.
The spring and fall holidays coincide with the first and last harvests (as did the first resurrection and the resurrection that will occur when Christ returns. They also have something to say about rain, which often symbolizes God’s approval of Israel. The spring holidays occur just as the rain ends and we are launched into our wilderness of testing. The fall holidays occur just before the seasonal rains begin, and supplications for rain are part of the holiday rituals. Then, it is hoped, blessings of knowledge and prosperity will also pour from the heavens.
The spring holidays and their foundational symbolism are as follows:
In Hebrew, “Pesach,” — Christ as the lamb of God; His birth and His death
Feast of Unleavened Bread:
Christ as the Bread of Life; His purity, His death, His resurrection, the sacramental emblems
Christ as the firstfruits of the resurrection
The intervening holiday is Shavuot, also called The Feast of Weeks or Pentacost. It symbolizes the gifts Christ gives us to help us connect to Him during the struggles of our earthly sojourn — the Holy Spirit and the scriptures.
The fall holidays are as follows:
…or head of the year, or The Feast of Trumpets, is the call to awake, arise and gather. This is the time of separation of the righteous from the wicked.
The Day of Atonement that represents blood atonement for our sins. A day of bitter-sweet reprentance in preparation for the final judgment.
The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. The time for repentance is over and we await the arrival of the Lord. Final harvest. Our names are written in the Lord’s Book of Life.
*Adapted from the book, Days of Awe: Jewish Holy Days, Symbols & Prophecies for Latter-day Saints, by Gale T. Boyd.