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Holy Year of Jubilee
Holy Year of Jubilee
The ultimate derivation of the word jubilee is disputed, but it is most probable that the Hebrew word jobel, to which it is traced, meant "a ram\'s horn", and that from this instrument, used in proclaiming the celebration, a certain idea of rejoicing was derived. Further, passing through the Greek iobelaios, or iobelos, the word became confused with the Latin jubilo, which means "to shout", and has given us the forms jubilatio and jubilaeum, now adopted in most European languages.
For the Israelites, the year of Jubilee was in any case preeminently a time of joy, the year of remission or universal pardon. "Thou shalt sanctify the fiftieth year," we read in Leviticus 25:10, "and shalt proclaim remission to all the inhabitants of thy land: for it is the year of jubilee." Every seventh year, like every seventh day, was always accounted holy and set aside for rest, but the year which followed seven complete cycles was to be kept as a sabbatical year of special solemnity. The Talmudists and others afterwards disputed whether the Jubilee Year was the forty-ninth or the fiftieth year, the difficulty being that in the latter case two sabbatical years must have been observed in succession. Further, there are historical data which seem to show that in the age of the Machabees the Jubilee of the fiftieth year could not have been kept, for 164-163 B.C. and 38-37 B.C. were both certainly sabbatical years, which they could not have been if two sabbatical years had been intercalated in the interval. However, the text of Leviticus (25:8-55) leaves no room for ambiguity that the fiftieth year was intended, and the institution evidently bore a close analogy with the feast of Pentecost, which was the closing day after seven weeks of harvest. In any case it is certain that the Jubilee period, as it was generally understood and adopted afterwards in the Christian Church, meant fifty and not forty-nine years; but at the same time the number fifty was not originally arrived at because it represented half a century, but because it was the number that followed seven cycles of seven.
It was, then, part of the legislation of the Old Law, whether practically adhered to or not, that each fiftieth year was to be celebrated as a jubilee year, and that at this season every household should recover its absent members, the land return to its former owners, the Hebrew slaves be set free, and debts be remitted.
The same conception, spiritualized, forms the fundamental idea of the Christian Jubilee, though it is difficult to judge how far any sort of continuity can have existed between the two. It is commonly stated that Pope Boniface VIII instituted the first Christian Jubilee in the year 1300, and it is certain that this is the first celebration of which we have any precise record, but it is also certain that the idea of solemnizing a fiftieth anniversary was familiar to medieval writers, no doubt through their knowledge of the Bible, long before that date. The jubilee of a monk\'s religious profession was often kept, and probably some vague memory survived of those Roman ludi saeculares which are commemorated in the "Carmen Saeculare" of Horace, even though this last was commonly associated with a period of a hundred years rather than any lesser interval. But, what is most noteworthy, the number fifty was specially associated in the early thirteenth century with the idea of remission. The translation of St. Thomas of Canterbury took place in the year 1220, fifty years after his martyrdom. The sermon on that occasion was preached by Stephen Cardinal Lantron, who told his hearers that this accident was meant by Providence to recall "the mystical virtue of the number fifty, which, as every reader of the sacred page is aware, is the number of remission" (P.L., CXC, 421). We might be tempted to regard this discourse as a fabrication of later date, were it not for the fact that a Latin hymn directed against the Albigenses, and certainly belonging to the early thirteenth century, speaks in exactly similar terms. The first stanza runs thus:
Levi patet expositum. Anni favor jubilaei
Poenarum laxat debitum,
Post peccatorum vomitum
Et cessandi propositum.
Currant passim omnes
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Hebrew calendar, Christianity, Confession, Jubilee, Religion, Catholic liturgy, Jewish culture, Indulgence, Sacrament of Penance, Pope Boniface VIII, Absolution, Book of Leviticus
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