I’m not sure if this was discussed in Sunday school or even in my Great Religions class at the U of O. Probably not. That class was taught by a retired minister by the way which means there was a certain bias built in from the start. After all I grew up being told that Christianity in all its thousands of sects and variations of belief was the culmination of humanities relationship with the ultimate.
But, once things start bouncing around the old brain box who knows what will come out. The Sabbath was presented as an improvement over earlier religious practices because it set aside a day as holy. Well duh, turns out that the so called pagans had holy days and festivals year round. Many of them lasting up to several day. There were the Olympic Games or the Pan Athenian Games. Those were celebrated every four years.
Greek philosophy described an ultimate God/dess who had more than one face. And some of the Gods had more than one face as well. Poseidon was the God of the sea, but he was also known as Earth Shaker. Not a surprising description for a God in a part of the world that is prone the shaking not only frequently but disastrously.
There were various versions of Apollo, Athena, or Artemis and they all had festivals. Many of them lasted several days. Dionysus was not only the patron of the vine but of actors and the theater.
Many of the festivals were times when plays might be presented as part of a contest, sometimes not. And, in theory, actors were under the God’s protection so they could travel from city to city even if those cities were at war with each other. Which made them useful as messengers or diplomats. Of course you might discover, as the actor in Mask of Apollo did early in his career that you just might want to skip the next stop on the itinerary. The men were away fighting. The women and kids were barricaded at home. And you theater. The occupying troops are bivouacked in the theater using the scenery for the cook fires. Whoops, guess we don’t get paid for that trip.
There was a rich spiritual life that has been either dismissed or barely acknowledged because what became our way was the right way. Period, end of discussion.
What was accomplished by setting a specific day as holy, by breaking the links to a changeable calendar that was tied to sun and earth? It undermined the authority of the astronomer/priests. One of their responsibilities was to keep track of the coming of the full moon for certain festivals of the goddess. Also they kept track of the orbit of the sun to signal the passing of one season to the next and the solstices and equinoxes that were the midseason festivals.
By undercutting the authority of the astronomer/ priests the authority of the Mosaic priesthood was reinforced. And it isolated the followers of the Mosaic Law from their neighbors. No shared festivals. No ties of guest friendship that allowed people to travel from town to town in an era where inns were few and far between. If you were lucky you might be sure of some sort of welcome even if you didn’t have family in the town.
Under the old calendar any day could be a holy day for somebody. If one day is set aside as holy what does that make of the other six days of the week? If only one group within a society is labeled holy because they were born into that “tribe” where does that leave the rest of us? If God lives up on a “holy” mountain, is the rest of the earth not holy?
I don’t think so. I believe that holy ground is right outside my door. And I also believe that if we listen the way we should, any one of us can hear the Song.