Friday, July 31, 2009

Where It All Began

As Evangelical Protestants, we loved the read-the-Bible-in-a-year schedules. Only problem, when we got to Leviticus, it was almost intolerable to keep up with daily readings. So many rules. Rules upon rules. Rules for everything.

Today's Old Testament Reading is from the Book of Leviticus. One could become bogged down by the details, but I find a sense of rightness in it. One can almost see how the Old Covenant segued into the New Covenant. Certain things that we find very familiar (as Catholics) came from these passages, though they find their ultimate meaning when viewed with the backdrop of Mother Church, the sacramental life, and apostolic succession. Skim the following passage. You will see hints of the messianic era we now enjoy, the first glimmers of feast days and holy days, days of penance, opportunities for reconciliation and forgiveness, the Eucharist, the Tabernacle, burning of incense, offerings and giving God the first (and best) fruit of our labor, the Lord's Day and all that we readily equate with being Catholic. Yes, we can see the first hints of the Church we love so very much and Our Lord . . . by glancing back for just a moment in time. . .

Leviticus 23:1,4-11,15-16,27,34-37
The Lord spoke to Moses. He said:
‘These are the Lord’s solemn festivals, the sacred assemblies to which you are to summon the sons of Israel on the appointed day.
‘The fourteenth day of the first month, between the two evenings, is the Passover of the Lord; and the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of Unleavened Bread for the Lord. For seven days you shall eat bread without leaven. On the first day you are to hold a sacred assembly; you must do no heavy work. For seven days you shall offer a burnt offering to the Lord. The seventh day is to be a day of sacred assembly; you must do no work.’
The Lord spoke to Moses. He said:
‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them:
‘“When you enter the land that I give you, and gather in the harvest there, you must bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest, and he is to present it to the Lord with the gesture of offering, so that you may be acceptable. The priest shall make this offering on the day after the sabbath.
‘“From the day after the sabbath, the day on which you bring the sheaf of offering, you are to count seven full weeks. You are to count fifty days, to the day after the seventh sabbath, and then you are to offer the Lord a new oblation.
‘“The tenth day of the seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. You are to hold a sacred assembly. You must fast, and you must offer a burnt offering to the Lord.
‘“The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of Tabernacles for the Lord, lasting seven days. The first day is a day of sacred assembly; you must do no heavy work. For seven days you must offer a burnt offering to the Lord. On the eighth day you are to hold a sacred assembly, you must offer a burnt offering to the Lord. It is a day of solemn meeting; you must do no heavy work.
‘“These are the solemn festivals of the Lord to which you are to summon the children of Israel, sacred assemblies for the purpose of offering burnt offerings, holocausts, oblations, sacrifices and libations to the Lord, according to the ritual of each day.”’

While one might become bogged down by all the rules, these passages are very important - even for those of us who are blessed to live under the New Covenant. We can readily see that God was preparing humanity for Jesus Christ and the Church He founded.
Even our practice of a Saturday Vigil Mass comes out of Jewish tradition. I am referring specifically to the practice of marking a twenty-four hour day beginning with sundown on the previous evening.

And so, one final thought. It may seem a non sequitur, but it makes sense to me. I have begun a new practice in my house. We try to avoid work, especially hard labor, from sundown on Saturday evening (beginning the hour of Saturday Vigil) and lasting until sundown on Sunday evening.

It is a blessed time.

Moreover, it is a blessing to be Catholic and to know that our beloved Church was founded by Jesus Christ, established upon the rock of Peter, sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, passed on through apostolic succession, with a heritage that reaches all the way back to Abraham and his descendants.

Indeed, we are richly blessed.


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