COMEMORATION OF IDENTITIES
This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” (Ex. 12:14)The Exodus narrative is fundamentally a story of liberation. The narrative is focused on the gathering of a diverse people the “Hebrew” people and weaving interconnections among them. The Old Testament Scholar Norman K. Gottwald in his seminal work “The Tribes of Yahweh” provides a sociological and historical analysis of how “identity” was formed by this group of people. The Hebrew people constituted not only a core group of the descendants of Jacob but a group of people that faced marginalization and slavery in the commercial and political leviathan called Egypt. The function of this particular historical recollection is the commemoration of “pesah” of the passing of the messenger of God over consecrated houses. The narrative has specific implications for us.
The commemoration of events are important in creating the boundaries of a community: The Passover narrative distinguishes the Hebrews from the Egyptians. In other words, the narrative provides a boundary in identity formation between those who faced systemic oppression (Hebrews) and those in power (Egyptian.) This distinction highlights another theological dimension - The God of the Bible sides with those who face systemic oppression and works with humans to counter hegemony. The “passing over of the angel” signifies this profound theological dimension - The God of the Hebrews is the God of the poor, the victimized, and those on the outskirts of society. The passover event makes this distinction quite clear in the context of the preparation for the exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt.
The remembrance and transmission of events shape future generations: The imperative to remember the event and celebrate it annually serves as a reminder of the identity of the Hebrew people as well as a glimpse into the historical action of a God who is beyond finite understanding. In other words, by commemorating the passover, the Hebrew people transmit core values to succeeding generations about their identity and about how they have understood God through the particular historical event of the Exodus.
The diaspora community has a distinct role in celebrating its identity. While this identity is by no means monolithic, the Syrian Christian diaspora has certain identity markers that need to be commemorated. These celebrations may revolve around St. Thomas’ arrival (July 3), the commemoration of the Feast of St. Thomas (December 21), or other important identity markers that set apart the Syrian Christian community. Although we live in a global world and don many different functions and identities, it is important to commemorate our identities by remembering the importance of Syrian Christianity’s contextual approach to Christianity that imbibes the best of local cultural elements with a core emphasis on a Christian witness in various contexts.
Prayer: “God of our mothers and fathers, we pray that we constantly remember and commemorate the various ways that you reveal glimpses of y
Rev. Manoj Zachariah, New Jersey