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May 18, 2013
THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The day of Pentecost had come, and they
were all together in one place. Suddenly
there came from the sky what sounded like
a strong, driving wind, a noise which filled
the whole house where they were sitting. And
there appeared to them flames like tongues of
fire distributed among them and coming to rest
on each one. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to talk in tongues.
Full readings: Acts 2:1-11; Ps. 104:1-2, 29-30, 34-35; 1Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; St. John 20:19-23.
Nothing can contain the Spirit; it blows where it wills, and fills the whole world, renewing everything in it. Nothing is exempted from the power of His coming. How clearly is this revealed in Acts. The very foundations of the prison holding Paul and Silas were shattered by an enormous earthquake while these two apostles were filled with songs of praise and thanksgiving despite their physical pain, and the gaoler and his family were baptised. Philip was directed to the Ethiopian who was resting and reading the Scriptures on his long journey home. Tabitha was raised from the dead, the slave-girl was freed from the taunting evil spirits, and Paul himself was saved from certain lynching by a Jewish mob. Indeed there is:
no chamber so secret, but it can get into; no place so remote, but it can reach; none so private. but it can find; none so strong, but it can break through; none so deep, but it can fathom; none so high, but it can scale; no place at all, but it can come into; and none so bad, but some way or other it will
The apostles as they met in prayer which had been their custom since Jesus departed from them forty days ago were suddenly bombarded with something undescribable - a mighty wind it sounded like, and in that instant their lives were completely changed. Never to be the same Peter or James or John again! They were to be the new men in Christ as He had promised they would be when He returned to them. During these great Fifty days we have been reflecting on this change, and have seen the great and wondrous works of God achieved through them. Through them the Spirit of the Lord was filling the whole civilized world at that time. (Of course John's gospel told us that the disciples received the breath of God from Jesus on the day of the Resurrection).
Pentecost means bestowing gifts. Everything we have is a gift from the Spirit - every skill, every talent, every virtue, and every good thought. Our understanding and wisdom, reason and knowledge, godly fear and true godliness, counsel and spiritual strength are His gifts too. There is nothing, but absolutely nothing that we possess that we can claim as ours. We owe everything to His generosity of filling us each day with so many good things. The extraordinary thing about the gifts of the Spirit is that the more we allow them to be expressed in us, the more gifts we shall discover we are given each day, and the more the Lord can do through us. The riches of the Spirit's giving are unfathomable; they pass all human understanding. If we but realise that we owe everything to Him, our lives would flow with gratitude, joy and above all humility. It would also take away any feeling of inadequacies or being nervous and tense about doing "my best", because we know that "my best" is what the Holy Spirit is doing through me. We are His instrument; it is He who is actually the artist! That is why one of the saddest things in life is to see how many, many souls inhibit the gifts of the Spirit. When we say that "this person has so much potential, if only!" What we are really saying is something like this, "if only the Spirit with His manifold gifts could be made manifested in that person's life."
As wonderful as all these gifts are, there is one yet more glorious than all of these together. That gift is to be able to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, so that we can indeed receive grace. "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord!' except under the influence of the Holy Spirit." (1Cor.12:3) Thus it is the Spirit within us that draws us from darkness into His most marvellous light. In this light we are given the perception to see ourselves as tarnished with so much dross, and the propensity to have our tarnished image cleaned. In other words we are given grace to acknowledge our need for a Saviour. This is what prompted the gaoler to ask Paul "what must I do to be saved?" (Acts.16:30) Once we are able to accept in our hearts that Christ is the Lord of our lives, then we welcome Love simultaneously. Possessing Christ, through the gift of the Spirit, brings also Love, Truth, Light and Life. In possessing these, there is absolutely nothing else we need. Little wonder then this is the greatest gift we can be given, to believe in Christ and His teachings. And it is no marvel that St. Paul in his writings uses the phrase "in Christ", over and over again. Next time you are reading his letters, keep this thought in mind.
Lancelot Andrewes described Pentecost as being "the feast of love", the festum charitatis, the day on which He bestows some gifts upon His people, The Spirit is "sent to be the union, love and love-knot of the natures united in Christ; even of God with man." On this feast of Love, Andrewes equated the giving of love with the work of love as expressed in the Eucharist, "the feast of Love, upon the feast day of Love".
And of His fruits the very first is love. ... Now to work love, the undoubted both sign and means of His dwelling, what better way, or how sooner wrought, than by the sacrament of love; as the feast of love, upon the feast day of love; when love descended with both His hands full of gifts, for very love to take up His dwelling within us. ....
He left us the gifts of His Body and Blood. His body broken, and full of the characters of love all over. His blood shed, every drop whereof is a great drop of love. ... His body the Spirit of strength, His Blood the Spirit of comfort; both the Spirit of love.
One last thought for our reflection upon this day of gifts. Pentecost we have always associated with the liturgical colour of red as symbolising the burning flames of fire which descended upon the gathered assemble. However in the Orthodox Churches the liturgical colour for this feast is green, the colour of creation. By Pentecost the countryside is indeed exploding in all its greenness, every kind of tree is now mantled in its fresh green dress. Thus we are reminded that it is not only we human beings who are charged through the indwelling of the Spirit, but indeed all of God's creation. It is the living Spirit who from the beginning has filled everything with His goodness and beauty. As Hopkins so rightly says:
The whole world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
The other Christian tradition which has always identified closely with God ever present in His creation is the Celtic. Indeed the Spirit within mankind and the natural world fuse. We are becoming more and more aware of this as more early and mediaeval Celtic poetry is being translated from its original tongue. In this early Celtic Poem appropriately called Benediction this is clearly illustrated.
Glorious Lord, I give You greeting!
Let the church and the chapel praise You,
Let the chapel and the church praise You.
Let the plain and the hillside praise You,
Let the world's three well-springs praise You,
Two above wind and one above land,
Let the dark and the daylight praise You.
Abraham, founder of faith, praised You:
Let the life everlasting praise You,
Let the birds and honeybees praise You,
Let the shorn stems and the shoots praise You,
Both Aaron and Moses praised You:
Let the male and female praise You,
Let the seven days and the stars praise You,
Let the air and the ether praise You,
Let the books and the letters praise You,
Let the fish in the swift streams praise You,
Let the thought and the action praise You,
Let the sand-grains and earth-clods praise You,
Let all the good that's performed praise You,
And I shall praise You, Lord of Glory:
Glorious Lord, I give You greeting!
As Celtic poetry is full of the spontaneity of life, given by the Spirit, I would also like to share with you a verse from another poem, The Skylark, with you; this one comes from the mediaeval period.
Let each good creatures praise his
Creator, pure radiant Lord.
Praising God as He bade you,
Thousands listen, do not cease.
Lyrist of love, where are you?
Lucid voice in garb of grey.
Your song is sweet and merry,
Melodious russet muse.
Chanter of heaven's chapel,
Fair is faith, great is Your skill.
All honour, harmonious song,
Broad is your cap, brown-tufted.
So it is the Spirit that renews, replenishes, revitalises every part of creation, what we call the natural world and we human beings. Both are intrinsically linked through the living Spirit. That is why Christians must always take an active role of caring for nature, and seek others to do likewise. Just as our own bodies are the temple for the Spirit so every branch, every flower, every bird, every mountain and every lake are also.
As we unite ourselves to Love today at the altar rail, let us pray fervently that the Spirit of the living God may fall afresh on us. On this day of gifts, let us also bring a gift to Him - ourselves- but let that gift of ourselves emptied of self, in order to be filled with the Spirit.
On this day of gifts, fill me O blessed Spirit with those gifts You know I need to be Yours in this world. Help me to grow in the fruits of the Spirit: humility, patience, long-suffering and love. I pray that I may simply be a vessel for you to replenish over and over again with Your gifts in order to proclaim Christ as Lord of the universe. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ.. Amen.
May 17, 2013
PAPAL MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Sunday, 12 June 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we are celebrating the great Solemnity of Pentecost. If, in a certain sense, all the liturgical solemnities of the Church are important, Pentecost is uniquely so. This is because, having reached the 50th day, it marks the fulfilment of the event of the passover, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus through the gift of the Spirit of the Risen One. In the past few days the Church has prepared us for Pentecost with her prayer, with her repeated and intense invocation to God to obtain a fresh outpouring upon us of the Holy Spirit. The Church has thus relived all that happened at her origins, when the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room of Jerusalem “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14).
They were gathered in humble and trusting expectation that the Father’s promise, announced to them by Jesus, would be fulfilled: “Before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit... you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:5,8).
In the liturgy of Pentecost Psalm 104, which we have heard, corresponds with the account in the Acts of the Apostles of the birth of the Church (cf. Acts 2:1-11): a hymn of praise of the whole creation which exalts the Creator Spirit who has made all things with wisdom: “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures…. May the glory of the Lord endure for ever, may the Lord rejoice in his works” (Ps 104:24, 31). This is what the Church wants to tell us: the Spirit Creator of all things and the Holy Spirit whom the Lord caused to come down from the Father upon the community of the disciples are one and the same. Creation and redemption belong to each other and constitute, in depth, one mystery of love and of salvation. The Holy Spirit is first and foremost a Creator Spirit, hence Pentecost is also a feast of creation. For us Christians, the world is the fruit of an act of love by God who has made all things and in which he rejoices because it is “good”, it is “very good”, as the creation narrative tells us (cf. Gen 1:1-31). Consequently God is not totally Other, unnameable and obscure. God reveals himself, he has a face. God is reason, God is will, God is love, God is beauty. Faith in the Creator Spirit and faith in the Spirit whom the Risen Christ gave to the Apostles and gives to each one of us are therefore inseparably united.
Today’s Second Reading and Gospel show us this connection. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes us recognize the Lord in Christ and prompts us to speak the profession of the Church’s faith: “Jesus is Lord” (cf. 1 Cor 12:3b). “Lord” is the title attributed to God in the Old Testament, a title that in the interpretation of the Bible replaced his unpronounceable name. The Creed of the Church is nothing other than the development of what we say with this simple affirmation: “Jesus is Lord”. Concerning this profession of faith St Paul tells us that it is precisely a matter of the word and work of the Spirit. If we want to be in the Spirit, we must adhere to this Creed. By making it our own, by accepting it as our word we gain access to the work of the Holy Spirit. The words “Jesus is Lord” can be interpreted in two ways. They mean: Jesus is God, and, at the same time: God is Jesus. The Holy Spirit illuminates this reciprocity: Jesus has divine dignity and God has the human face of Jesus. God shows himself in Jesus and by doing so gives us the truth about ourselves. Letting ourselves be enlightened by this word in the depths of our inmost being is the event of Pentecost. In reciting the Creed we enter into the mystery of the first Pentecost: a radical transformation results from the tumult of Babel, from those voices yelling at each other: multiplicity becomes a multi-faceted unity, understanding grows from the unifying power of the Truth. In the Creed — which unites us from all the corners of the earth and which, through the Holy Spirit, ensures that we understand each other even in the diversity of languages — the new community of God’s Church is formed through faith, hope and love.
The Gospel passage then offers us a marvellous image to clarify the connection between Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father: the Holy Spirit is portrayed as the breath of the Risen Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 20:22). Here the Evangelist John takes up an image of the creation narrative, where it says that God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). The breath of God is life. Now, the Lord breathes into our soul the new breath of life, the Holy Spirit, his most intimate essence, and in this way welcomes us into God’s family. With Baptism and Confirmation this gift was given to us specifically, and with the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance it is continuously repeated: the Lord breathes a breath of life into our soul. All the sacraments, each in its own way, communicate divine life to human beings, thanks to the Holy Spirit who works within them.
In today’s liturgy we perceive another connection. The Holy Spirit is Creator, he is at the same time the Spirit of Jesus Christ, but in such a way that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God. And in the light of the First Reading we may add: the Holy Spirit gives life to the Church. She is not born from the human will, from man’s reflection, from his ability or from his organizational capacity, if this were so she would have ceased to exist long ago, as happens with all that is human. Instead the Church is the body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. The images of wind and fire, used by St Luke to portray the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:2-3), evoke Sinai, where God revealed himself to the People of Israel and granted it his Covenant. “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke”, we read in the Book of Exodus, “because the Lord descended upon it in fire” (19:18). Indeed Israel celebrated the 50th day after the Passover, after the commemoration of the flight from Egypt, as the feast of Sinai, the feast of the Covenant. When St Luke speaks of tongues of fire to represent the Holy Spirit, this Old Covenant is called to mind, established on the basis of the Law received by Israel on Sinai. Thus the event of Pentecost is represented as a new Sinai, as the gift of a new Covenant in which the Covenant with Israel was extended to all the peoples of the earth, in which all the barriers fall from the old Law and its heart appears holier and more unchangeable; in other words as love, which the Holy Spirit himself communicates and spreads, a love that embraces all things. At the same time the Law is expanded, it is opened, even though it becomes simpler: it is the New Covenant which the Spirit “writes” in the hearts of all who believe in Christ. The extension of the Covenant to all the peoples of the earth is represented by St Luke with a list of peoples, that is considerably long for that epoch (cf. Acts 2:9-11). With this we are told something most important: that the Church was catholic from the very outset, that her universality is not the result of the successive inclusion of various communities. Indeed, from the first moment the Holy Spirit created her as the Church of all peoples; she embraces the whole world, surmounts all distinctions of race, class and nation; tears down all barriers and brings people together in the profession of the triune God. Since the beginning the Church has been one, catholic and apostolic: this is her true nature and must be recognized as such. She is not holy because of her members’ ability but because God himself, with his Spirit, never ceases to create her, purify her and sanctify her.
Lastly, today’s Gospel presents these beautiful words to us: “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (Jn 20:20). These words are profoundly human. The Friend lost is present once again and those who were formerly distraught rejoice. But it says far more. For the lost Friend did not come from just anywhere but from the night of death; and he passed through it! He is not just anyone; indeed he is the Friend and at the same time the One who is the Truth that gives life to men and women; and what he gives is not just any kind of joy but joy itself, a gift of the Holy Spirit. Yes, it is beautiful to live because I am loved and it is the Truth who loves me. The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Today, at Pentecost, these words are also addressed to us, because in faith we can see him. In faith he comes among us and to us too he shows his hands and his side and we are glad. Therefore let us pray: Lord, show yourself! Make us the gift of your presence and we shall have the most beautiful gift: your joy. Amen!
HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF PENTECOST SUNDAY YEAR C
Fr. Ron Stephens, St. Andrew’s Parish, Warrenton, VA
Do you know why Christians celebrate Eucharist on Sundays? Didn’t God rest on the last day of the week. Sunday is actually deemed to be the first day of the week, not the last; Sunday is the day that God began creation we are told in the Genesis story. The Spirit of God moved on the waters on the first day! For the Jews Spirit is a feminine gender word which also means breath or wind. Like God, Jews rested on the seventh day, Saturday, and early Christians, too, used to go to synagogues on Saturdays. With the advent of Pentecost, however, which is 50 days after Easter, itself a Sunday, the church has traditionally also celebrated not only its birth day, but the weekly Lord’s Day on a Sunday. We celebrate Eucharist on Sunday, then as a reminder of the first creation and of the second creation. The Holy Spirit that stirred the waters of creation returned to us on Pentecost making a new creation, her church, and making us new creatures because of the Resurrection. This is really what we are all about today. And every Sunday! So, happy birthday!
Although today is the reminder of starting something new, it is also an ending. Today we end the Easter season. The Easter candle which has been burning since Easter to remind us of the light that has come into the world, will be set aside and used only of there is a baptism. Next week we celebrate Trinity Sunday and then continue what is called “Ordinary Time’ which simply means that the joyous feasts have ended, and we go back to the Gospel of Luke and continue to read the story of Jesus, focusing primarily on his teachings and parables.
So what is Pentecost all about? One of the major things it is about is, of course, the Holy Spirit. We often pray that the Holy Spirit enlighten the hearts of the faithful. I like that image because I think that any light that can be shed in our lives is a good thing! I have here a camping light here that can be used to shed light in the darkness and help us to see. But it can’t work by itself. It has to have batteries. Perhaps think of the Holy Spirit as the battery behind us that gives us the ‘energy’, often called ‘grace’ that powers us, allowing us to see.
The Apostles and followers of Jesus were locked up in a room, frightened and confused, but awaiting something that had been promised them. When the Holy Spirit came, it came as tongues of fire – light and energy – which caused all of them to see in the the light and be the light in so many ways. They began to speak in such a way that people could understand them in any language. The frightened followers all were energized and were given gifts to be able to go out and preach the message of Christ. Peter, in particular, preaches a moving homily using the Jewish prophet Joel to explain what had happened to them: the Spirit was causing them to dream dreams, see visions and prophesy. The church was alive and energized!
So Pentecost then is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit energizing the church and sending its members forth to live and preach the good news of Jesus, the Christ. And like the energizer bunny, it goes on and on. Our readings and hymns today abound with attempts to explain what the Spirit is and what the Sprit means. God sends the Spirit in Jesus’ name. We are told that the Spirit can teach us all things and remind us of all that Jesus taught us. For this reason we need to have faith in the Spirit and leave ourselves open to its work.
The Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Trinity. It is God’s own presence that comes in to us and mentors us and makes Jesus alive in us. Confirmation is the sacrament we most closely associate with the coming of the Spirit. In adults baptism and confirmation are often given in the same day because confirmation is a deepening of the gifts we already receive at Baptism. In younger people we most often separate the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation because the child received Baptism before the age of reason, and was baptized by the will of the parents. Confirmation becomes an initiation rite, then, where the child confirms the baptismal choice and the depth of the gifts received at Baptism is strengthened by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the child. It is also a commissioning rite – one in which we are sent out to the world to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sin. So each Pentecost we are reminded of our mission to do this.
St. Paul often talks about gifts of the Spirit – the greatest one being caritas or love. But the Church also identifies other gifts that come from the Spirit, gifts that presumably were given to the apostles and disciples in the upper room at Pentecost and are given to each of us – gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. We see many of these gifts acted out in the Pentecost story.
Wisdom involves seeing the light – seeing things as God sees them and not as humans do. Christ often told us that God’s ways are not our ways. The Holy Spirit can help us distinguish what is God’s way, and help us make right judgments in our lives.
Understanding also involves seeing the light – it is the light bulb that goes on when we recognize the truth in something. It is the “Eureka” moment. The Apostles had such a moment at Pentecost when all the things Jesus had taught them, his Passion and Death, his Resurrection, his Ascension – all came together and made sense for the Apostles, so they had the ability to see and teach others. They understood what it was all about.
Counsel is the mentoring aspect of the Spirit. It is the compass that can guide us when we lose our way. It is the the map that we need when we don’t know which way to go. It is the friendly advice that pushes us in the right direction when we reach that path in the road that goes in two directions.
Fortitude is the gift that helps us by giving us the strength to make difficult moral decisions. Think of fortitude as a shot of moral adrenalin that overcomes the fear that we may have to choose a difficult but correct path. With fortitude the early Christians could go out and preach the Good News even in the face of persecution.
Knowledge is the gift of the Spirit that helps us to understand what is difficult to understand. It gives us the obligation to try to understand our religion, to understand the Scriptures. As thinking beings, the Spirit can help us to make sense of the spiritual realm which is often not as accessible as worldly knowledge. I have often said to you that as Christians we have been told not to think – just to accept. This gift of the Spirit says just the opposite. Use your minds to ponder the mysteries of God, and the Spirit will help you. Never be afraid to use your minds. Our Catholic theology is a direct result of great Christian thinkers of the past and present.
Piety is the gift of recognizing our gifts. It is our recognition of the wonderful things that God has done for us and the feeling of thankfulness that comes with it. It is the joy that the Apostles felt at Pentecost, the gratitude that allowed them to praise God and spread his Good News.
Lastly, we are given the misunderstood gift of “fear of the Lord”. This is probably a poor translation because the Church does not believe that God, our loving parent, should be feared. A better translation might be “respect of the Lord”. When we respect a person we often want to be like that person and makes us not want to hurt or dishonor that person. It gives us impetus for not sinning because we don’t want to hurt God. It is respect for his Creation, the environment, and for his Word.
Thus, in the Pentecost story today we can see many of the aspects of the theology that have developed over the centuries. What is most important for us to remember, I think, is that the Spirit is God’s gift to us, the Spirit is with us, the Spirit can help us grow, guide us, help us to become a better persons, help us make right decisions, give us strength when we are down or bad things happen to us, and so much more. So it is time today to celebrate those gifts, that loving God has given us, and to become more aware of the power that we have through the Spirit. In everything you do, the Spirit is with you. Listen to her!
And this is the Good News of the Spirit I bring you today!
May 16, 2013
PASSOVER FROM THE BIBLE TO THE TEMPLES
THE FOCUS IS ON THE PASCHAL OFFERING.
BY RABBI RONALD H. ISAACS
Excerpted with permission from Every Person's Guide to Passover (Jason Aronson, Inc).
Hag HaPesach: The Feast of the Paschal Lamb
Hag HaPesach (the festival of the paschal lamb)--the sacrificial rite of the paschal lamb and its consumption--was the main feature of the ancient Passover ceremony that ushered in the holiday.
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ANCIENT JEWISH HISTORY
This unique ritual included the slaughtering of the lamb on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan (Leviticus 23:5). This was an exception to the general rule that all festival offerings are to be sacrificed on the day of the festival.
Furthermore, the lambs were slaughtered by the Israelites, privately by each family, and the priests poured the blood on the base of the altar. All other offerings were generally slaughtered by the priests. When the [Second] Temple was destroyed [in 70 CE], all sacrifice eventually ceased, and only the Samaritans continued to bring the offering in their own community. To this day, they slaughter a lamb at sunset, read Exoduschapter 12, and eat the Passover meal after midnight together with unleavened bread (matzah) and bitter herbs.
The explanation for the uniqueness of the Passover sacrificial rite may be found in its commemorative aspects. The Bible repeatedly emphasized this facet of Passover, "And this day shall be for you a memorial…" (Exodus12:14); "And Moses said to the people: remember this day in which you come out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage…" (Exodus13:3); "You shall remember what Adonai your God did to Pharaoh…" (Deuteronomy7: 18); "that you may remember the day when you come out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life" (Deuteronomy16:3). These verses are a clear indication that the general function of the Passover pageantry was to serve as a constant reminder to the Israelites of their struggle against slavery and their wondrous deliverance from Egyptian bondage.
The festival of the paschal lamb was ushered in on the evening of the 14th of Nisan. On that night, the Israelites were ordered to eat the paschal lamb, and several restrictive rules were added to this feast. "And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roasted with fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it" (Exodus12:8). They were not to eat it rare or boiled in water (Exodus 12:9). They were not to leave the meat over past the conclusion of the night (Exodus 12: 10). They were not to break any of the bones of the lamb (Exodus 12:46). No alien sojourner, hired servant, or uncircumcised person may eat the meat of the paschal lamb (Exodus 12:43-45). And finally, the feast was to be held in one house, and no part of the meat was to be taken outside the house (Exodus 12:46).
A bevy of explanations has been offered for these various biblical rites attached to the paschal lamb and its sacrifice. Some scholars regarded the injunction to have the lamb roasted as a distinction from ancient pagan spring festival rites, when meat was eaten either uncooked or half-broiled. Non-Israelites and uncircumcised ones were precluded from participating in the feast of the paschal lamb because the occasion was one of reaffirming God's covenant with the Israelites. The symbolism of the eating of the paschal lamb with the matzah and bitter herbs was a reminder to the Israelites of an enslaved past.
Interestingly, the smearing of blood on the doorposts did not become a part of the Passover pageantry. Since all paschal lambs were slaughtered in Jerusalem once the Temple was built, the Israelites would have been too far from their homes to smear blood on their doorposts.
HAG HAMATZOT: THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
The feast of unleavened bread was an agricultural festival that celebrated the beginning of the grain harvest when an offering of the first fruits was made and unleavened bread eaten. This feast coincided with the feast of the paschal lamb. The principal feature of the feast of unleavened bread is stated in the Bible: "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread." The unleavened bread commemorated the speed with which the Jews had to leave Egypt and thus became symbolic of Israelite redemption.
According to Rabbi Abraham Bloch, the main distinction between the Hag HaPesach and Hag HaMatzot lies in the historical area that each seeks to reflect. The Hag HaPesach reenacts the events of the 14th of Nisan (the pre-exodus period), and the Hag HaMatzot marks the actual departure from Egypt of the Israelites, which was concluded with the crossing of the Red Sea (exodus period). Both are component parts of the same festival, the festival of Passover.
OTHER CELEBRATIONS OF PASSOVER IN THE BIBLE
The observance of the first Passover in Palestine is mentioned in the Book of Joshua(5:10-11). Here it is said that the Israelites, led by Joshua, successor to Moses, kept the feast at Gilgal. This reference to Passover stresses the classical message of the festival--the humble origin of the Jewish people, the covenant with Abraham, God's intervention in Egypt, the fulfillment of God's promises, and the reaffirmation of faith.
For about three centuries after the death of Joshua, anarchical conditions loomed as a result of lack of leadership and constant harassment by hostile neighbors. During this time, Passover played little or no role in the national life of the people.
The appearance of Samuel in the 11th century BCE at the end of the period of the Judges brought about a religious revival. Passover again assumed its prime function as a religious festival.
About 400 years after Samuel, during the religious revival in the reign of King Josiah (637-607 BCE), reference was made to a Passover celebration with this statement:
The king commanded all the people saying, "Keep the Passover unto the Lord your God, as it is written in this book of the covenant." For there was not kept such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah; but in the eighteenth year of King Josiah was this Passover kept to the Lord in Jerusalem [II Kings 23:21-23].
The religious revival that began with Samuel continued through the reign of King David and reached its zenith under King Solomon with the construction of the [First] Temple in Jerusalem [ca. 960 BCE].
PASSOVER IN TEMPLE TIMES
The construction of the magnificent Temple in Jerusalemlent new significance to the festival of Passover. A Talmudic passage (dating from the period of the Second Temple [515 BCE - 70 CE]) describes the Temple ritual on the 14th of Nisan. The description reflects the procedure in the time of the First Temple:
The paschal lamb was slaughtered in three groups… when the first group entered and the Temple court was filled, the gates of the Temple were closed. A tekiah, teruah, and again a tekiah were then blown on the shofar. The priests stood in rows, and in their hands were basins of silver and basins of gold. … An Israelite slaughtered his offering and the priests caught the blood. The priest passed the basin to his fellow priest, and he to his fellow, each receiving a full basin and giving back an empty one. The priest nearest to the altar tossed the blood against the base of the altar. While this ritual was performed the Levites sang the Hallel [Talmud Pesachim 64a].
There are several biblical references indicating that this procedure was also followed in Solomon's Temple.
Following the rededication of the Temple by King Hezekiah, the priests are described as tossing the blood of the paschal lamb upon the altar (II Chronicles 30:16). The Levites and priests are also described as having "praised God day by day [Hallel], singing with loud instruments to God" (11 Chronicles 30:21).
In the year 932 BCE, Jeroboam, the first king of Israel, reintroduced idolatry. Paganism spread throughout Israel and Judea and reduced the number of Jews who made the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In the year 720 BCE, King Hezekiah set out to restore the ancient covenant. In his address to the priests and Levites he said, "Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the God of Israel…" (II Chronicles 29:10). The renewal of the covenant was to be formalized by a national celebration of Passover, with the paschal lamb ritual as the highlight of the celebration. King Josiah, in 637 BCE, next spearheaded a Jewish spiritual revival with the accidental discovery of a Torah scroll in the course of repair work to the Jerusalem Temple. A public celebration of Passover with the slaughtering of paschal lambs was the climax of the festivities.
When the Second Temple was completed in 515 BCE, the entire biblical ritual of Passover was restored. Priests and Levites slaughtered the paschal offerings for the returning Jews of the Babylonian captivity. The new community "kept the festival of Matzot seven days with joy, for God had made them joyful…" (Ezra 6:22). The historian Josephus records contemporary Passover celebrations in which he estimates that the participants who gathered in Jerusalem to perform the sacrifice in the year 65 CE were "not less than three million" (Josephus, Wars, 2:280). The Talmud (Pesachim 64b) similarly records:
King Agrippa once wished to take a census of the hosts of Israel. He said to the high priest, "Cast your eyes on the Passover offerings." He took a kidney from each, and 600,000 pairs of kidneys were found there, twice as many as those who departed from Egypt, excluding those who were unclean and those who were on a distant journey, and there was not a single paschal lamb for which more than ten people had not registered; and they called it: "The Passover of the dense throngs."
With the destruction of the Temple, the offering of the paschal came to an end.
Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He has served as the publications committee chairperson of the Rabbinical Assembly.
ON THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Vatican City, May 15, 2013 (Zenit.org) | 949 hits
Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s weekly General Audience address in St. Peter’s Square where he continued the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the Year of Faith.
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Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning! Today I would like to dwell on the action that the Holy Spirit performs in guiding the Church and each of us to the Truth. Jesus himself says to his disciples: the Holy Spirit "will guide you into all the truth" (Jn 16:13), being He himself "the Spirit of Truth (cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).
We live in an age in which people are rather sceptical towards the truth. Benedict XVI has spoken many times of relativism, of the tendency, that is, to believe that there is nothing definitive and to think that the truth comes from consent or from what we want. The question arises: does "the" truth really exist? What is "the" truth? Can we know it? Can we find it? Here I am reminded of the question of the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate when Jesus reveals to him the profound meaning of his mission: "What is truth?" (Jn 18:37.38). Pilate fails to understand that "the" Truth is in front of him, he fails to see in Jesus the face of truth, which is the face of God. Yet, Jesus is just that: the Truth that, in the fullness of time, "became flesh" (Jn 1:1.14), that came among us so that we might we know it. The truth cannot be grasped like an object, the truth has to be encountered. It is not a possession; it is an encounter with a Person.
But who will allow us to recognize that Jesus is "the" Word of truth, the only begotten Son of God the Father? St. Paul teaches that "no one can say: 'Jesus is Lord!' except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen Christ, who makes us recognize the Truth. Jesus calls him the "Paraclete", i.e., "he who comes to help," who is on our side to support us on this journey of knowledge; and, during the Last Supper, Jesus assures his disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things, reminding them of his words (cf. Jn 14:26).
What is then the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church to lead us to the truth? First of all, he reminds believers and imprints in their hearts the words that Jesus said, and, precisely through these words, God's law – as the prophets of the Old Testament had announced – is inscribed in our hearts and becomes in us a principle for evaluating our choices and a guide in daily actions, it becomes the principle of life. The great prophecy of Ezekiel is fulfilled: "I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols, I will give you a new heart, I will put within you a new spirit ... I will put my spirit within you and I will make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances"(36:25-27). In fact, it is from the depths of ourselves that our actions are born: it is the heart that must convert to God, and the Holy Spirit transforms it if we open ourselves to Him.
The Holy Spirit, then, as Jesus promised, guides us "into all the truth" (Jn 16:13); he helps us not only to encounter Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but also guides us "into" the Truth, makes us enter into an ever more profound communion with Jesus himself, giving us understanding of the things of God. And we cannot achieve this by our own strength. If God does not enlighten us inwardly, our being Christians will be superficial. The Tradition of the Church states that the Spirit of truth acts in our hearts by arousing that "sense of the faith (sensus fidei) through which, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres indefectibly to the faith transmitted, deepens it with right judgment and applies it more fully in life (cf. Const. Dogm. Lumen Gentium, 12). Let us ask ourselves: am I open to the action of the Holy Spirit, do I pray for it to give me light, to make me more sensitive to the things of God? This is a prayer we must make every day: “Holy Spirit, make my heart be open to the Word of God, that my heart be open to good, that my heart be open to the beauty of God everyday”. I would like to ask you a question: how many of you pray to the Holy Spirit every day? Probably few, but we must satisfy this desire of Jesus and pray every day to the Holy Spirit, so that he opens our heart towards Jesus.
Let us think of Mary, who "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart "(Lk 2:19.51). The welcoming of the words and truths of faith in order that they may become life, happens and grows under the action of the Holy Spirit. In this sense we must learn from Mary, reliving her "Yes," her total willingness to receive the Son of God in her life, which from that moment onwards is transformed. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to dwell in us: we live in God and of God. But is our life truly inspired by God? How many things do I put before God?
Dear brothers and sisters,
We need to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the light of the Holy Spirit, so that he may bring us into the Truth of God, who is the only Lord of our lives. In this Year of Faith let us ask ourselves if we have taken any concrete steps to know more about Christ and the truth of the faith, by reading and meditating on the Scripture, studying the Catechism, approaching the Sacraments with constancy. But let us ask ourselves at the same time, what steps are we taking so that faith may guide all our existence. One isn't a Christian "part time", at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in some choices. One cannot be a Christian like this. One is a Christian at all times! Totally! The truth of Christ, which the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives us, forever and totally affects our daily lives. Let us invoke him more often so that he may guide us on the road of the disciples of Christ. Let us invoke him every day. I make this proposal to you: let us invoke the Holy Spirit every day, thus Holy Spirit will draw us close to Jesus Christ. Thank you!
[Translation by Peter Waymel]
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Dear Brothers and Sisters:
In our catechesis on the Creed, we have been considering the person and work of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls "the Spirit of Truth" (cf. Jn 16:13). In an age skeptical of truth, we believe not only that truth exists, but that it is found through faith in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. The Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus; he guides the whole Church into the fullness of truth. As the "Paraclete", the Helper sent by the Risen Lord, he reminds us of Christ’s words and convinces us of their saving truth. As the source of our new life in Christ, he awakens in our hearts that supernatural "sense of the faith" by which we hold fast to God’s word, come to a deeper understanding of its meaning, and apply it in our daily lives. Let us ask ourselves: am I truly open, like the Virgin Mary, to the power of the Holy Spirit? Even now, with the Father and the Son, the Spirit dwells in our hearts. Let us ask him to guide us into all truth and to help us grow in friendship with Christ through daily prayer, reading of the Scriptures and the celebration of the sacraments.
Holy Father (in Italian):
I am pleased to greet the many English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, Sweden, Australia, India, Vietnam, Canada and the United States. As the Church prepares to celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, I pray that his gifts of wisdom, joy and peace will accompany you and your families along the path of authentic Christian discipleship. God bless you all!
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I extend a cordial welcome to the many Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet with affection the parish communities with their priests, associations, groups and individuals. In particular, i greet the faithful of the Diocese of Arezzo-Cortona-San Sepolcro, Chieti-Vasto, Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello, accompanied by their pastors and I urge them to be eloquent signs of God's love and peace in every environment, even the most difficult ones. A special thought goes out to the bishops, priests and faithful from Sardinia; Dear friends, thank you for your presence and I commend you and your communities to the maternal intercession of the Holy Virgin who is venerated with the title of "Our Lady of Bonaria". In this regard, I would like to announce to you that I wish visit the Sanctuary in Cagliari - almost certainly in September – because between the city of Buenos Aires and Cagliari there is brotherhood because of an old story. At the very moment of the Foundation of the city of Buenos Aires, its founder wanted to name it "City of the Holy Trinity, but the sailors who had brought him down there were Sardegnians and they wanted to call it "City of Our Lady of Bonaria". There was a dispute between them and eventually they found a compromise, as a result of which the name of the city became a long one: "City of the Holy Trinity and Port of Our Lady of Bonaria". But being so long, what remained are the last two words: Bonaria, Buenos Aires, in remembrance of your icon of our Lady of Bonaria.
I greet with affection all the students, especially those of numerous Catholic schools. The Catholic school constitutes a precious reality for the entire society, especially on account of the educational service it carries out, in cooperation with families, and it is good for this role to be recognized appropriately.
Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and newlyweds. During this month of May, dear young people, strive to imitate the young girl of Nazareth, Mary. She will help you to be simple, pure in heart and bring a ray of happiness where there is sadness and loneliness. For you, dear sick ones, I wish for you to live out, with the help of Mary, your situation with confident abandonment to the Lord, God of all consolation. And you, dear newlyweds, may you always find joy and support in your mutual fidelity.
[Translation by Peter Waymel]
May 15, 2013
PRAYER AT DAYBREAK - ARCHIMANDRITE SOPHRONIOS
O Lord Eternal and Creator of all things,
Who of Thy inscrutable goodness called me to this life;
Who bestowed on me the grace of Baptism
and the Seal of the Holy Spirit;
Who imbued me with the desire to seek Thee,
the one true God: hear my prayer.
I have no life, no light, no joy or wisdom;
no strength except in Thee, O God.
Because of my unrighteousness I dare not raise my eyes to Thee.
But Thou said to Thy disciples,
'Whatsoever you shall ask in prayer believing, you shall receive.'
and 'Whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do.'
Wherefore I dare to invoke Thee.
Purify me from all taint of flesh and spirit.
Teach me to pray aright.
Bless this day which Thee give unto me, Thy unworthy servant.
By the power of Thy blessing enable me at all times to speak
and act to Thy glory with a pure spirit, with humility, patience,
love, gentleness, peace, courage and wisdom:
aware always of Thy presence.
Of Thy immense goodness, O Lord God, show me the path of Thy will,
and grant me to walk in Thy sight without sin.
O Lord, unto Whom all hearts be open,
Thee know what things I have need of.
Thee are acquainted with my blindness and my ignorance,
Thee know my infirmity and my soul's corruption;
but neither are my pain and anguish hid from Thee.
Wherefore I beseech Thee, hear my prayer and by Thy Holy Spirit
teach me the way wherein I should walk;
and when my perverted will would lead me down other paths
spare me not O Lord, but force me back to Thee.
By the power of Thy love, grant me to hold fast to that which is good.
Preserve me from every word or deed that corrupts the soul;
from every impulse unpleasing in Thy sight and hurtful to my brother-man.
Teach me what I should say and how I should speak.
If it be Thy will that I make no answer,
inspire me to keep silent in a spirit of peace
that causes neither sorrow nor hurt to my fellow man.
Establish me in the path of Thy commandments
and to my last breath let me not stray from the light of Thy ordinances,
that Thy commandments may become the sole law
of my being on this earth and all eternity.
Yea, Lord, I pray to Thee, have pity on me.
Spare me in my affliction and my misery
and hide not the way of salvation from me.
In my foolishness, O God, I plead with Thee for many and great things.
Yet am I ever mindful of my wickedness, my baseness, my vileness.
Have mercy upon me.
Cast me not away from your presence because of my presumption.
Do Thee rather increase in me this presumption,
and grant unto me, the worst of men,
to love Thee as Thee have commanded, with all my heart, and with all my soul,
and with all my mind, and with all my strength:
with my whole being.
Yea, O Lord, by Thy Holy Spirit, teach me good judgment and knowledge.
Grant me to know Thy truth before I go down into the grave.
Maintain my life in this world until I may offer unto Thee worthy repentance.
Take me not away in the midst of my days, nor while my mind is still blind.
When Thee shall be pleased to bring my life to an end,
forewarn me that I may prepare my soul to come before Thee.
Be with me, O Lord, at that dread hour and grant me the joy of salvation.
Cleanse me from secret faults, from all iniquity that is hidden in me;
and give me a right answer before Thy judgment-seat.
Yea, Lord, of Thy great mercy and immeasurable love for mankind.