A Third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem?

Source: Wikimedia Commons, by Andrew Shiva

Source: Wikimedia Commons, by Andrew Shiva

According to this, the movement to build the third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem is gaining momentum. Many people associate the rebuilding of the Temple with the End Times. Who knows? The article indicates that the Dome of the Rock is a major impediment to constructing at the ancient site, with no real explanation for how that would be resolved, other than saying that the people in charge of the project “are normative and rational people”, and they apparently realize blowing up mosques may not be a good idea. I posted this article last week regarding a prior attempt to rebuild, in the Fourth Century.

I already know what I should give up next Lent…..

Articles like this:

“[Pope Francis] implores us to see the inherent dignity in each human being. But it’s also his deeds, simple yet profound — hugging the homeless man, and washing the feet of somebody who normally ordinary folks would just pass by on the street. He reminds us that all of us, no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously, and that we all have an obligation to live humbly. Because that’s, in fact, the example that we profess to follow.” - President Obama

******

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.” - John 9:41

Belgium: ICU = Death Row

A society that despairs looks (in the wrong direction) upon ways to ameliorate despair. It sees suffering, but it is not at all redemptive, because without God, little can explain the point of it all.

Despair is the opposite of the theological virtue of Hope. When we despair, we reject the expectation and desire to receive God’s eternal love. It then appears to be a mercy (for the euthanizer, not the euthanized) to think that when our despair is combined with extreme suffering, someone will just turn the switch to “off” for us and make it go away.

Pray for those who despair.

An Update on Mark Shea…..

His mother passed away on Sunday, and just before that, last Tuesday, he became a grandfather again, to a bonny wee lass. See his post about it here, and check out his very worthwhile reflection on repaying his mother for, well, everything. Don’t miss the video. Since I started this blog, Mark’s been tremendously supportive and friendly. So please storm Heaven with prayers for his mother, who has undoubtedly done her share of penance here on earth just by having Mark for a son (I jest), and probably needs very little time in Purgatory, if any. Pray her home!

Holy Week

Caravaggio, Ecce Homo, c. 1606, Oil on canvas, 128 x 103 cm, Palazzo Rosso, Genoa

Caravaggio, Ecce Homo, c. 1606, Oil on canvas, 128 x 103 cm, Palazzo Rosso, Genoa

Our wandering in the desert comes to an end, and we are drawn to the saving power of the Light of Christ. Soon, the whole Church on earth and in Heaven will rejoice! And as we examine the successes and failures of this walk with Him over the past forty days, we do well to recall that it is a journey defined by imperfection; we are not alone in our many failures.

Like the crowd, we will wave in adoration as He enters the city,
and then later call for His crucifixion.

Like those who were indignant, we will wonder why some waste perfumed oil on Him.

Like the sons of Zebedee (and Peter), we will fall asleep when He asks us to pray with Him.

Like Judas, we will betray Him with a kiss, for a pocketful of coin.

Like most of His followers, we will scatter and abandon Him when He is arrested.

Like Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, we will pretend that we have power over Him.

Like those who bore false witness in the Temple, we will fail to witness the Truth of who He is.

Like Peter, we will deny that we even know Him.

Like Herod, our interest in Him will only extend as far as our curiosity; we will not open our hearts.

Like Pilate, we will wash our hands and fail to do Justice.

Like the Roman guards, we will mock Him for our own pleasure and dress Him up in finery and laugh and spit at Him, and trade in His treasures.

Like the Cyrene, we will object to carrying His cross, even for a little while.

Like the Centurion, we will bind His hands and feet, and drive the nails.

Like the bad thief,

we will laugh at His agony.

But let us also be

The woman who anointed,
The disciples who regretted,
Peter who wept,
Claudia who warned,
The Marys who stayed,
Veronica who ministered,
John who adopted,
The good thief who saw,
The Centurion who spoke,
The Arimathean who venerated.

 

Pope Francis — Catholic

Great news and further confirmation today from Vatican Radio:

francisstand“It is must be therefore reiterated the strongest opposition to any direct attack on life, especially innocent and defenseless life, and the unborn child in the womb is the most concrete example of innocence,” said Pope Francis. “Let us remember the words of the Second Vatican Council: From the moment of its conception, life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.” ( Gaudium et Spes, 51).

and [in a different address on the same day],

Pope Francis said “…that it is every child’s right to grow up in a family ‘with a father and a mother’ capable of creating ‘a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity’. The Pope also called for an end to what he termed as ‘educational experiments’ with children and young people, pushing a ‘dictatorship of one form of thinking’ on them in the name of a pretended ‘modernity’.”

Huzzah for His Holiness, Pope Francis!

Tee-Hee…

skynews_966288Remember that news story a while back about when the Holy Father released a pair of doves during his Wednesday general audience a few weeks ago? A mean ole’ crow came along and attacked the doves! Then, right around April 1 (Seriously? Fake stories for April Fools? Who does that?), a news story came out about how the Swiss Guards were going to have a specially-trained hawk to “protect” doves that are released in the future. Turns out that the Catholic weekly that printed the story about the hawk fell prey {giggle} to a prank.

First-Century Jews and the Paschal Sacrifice: why “Lamb of God” should mean far more to us

For those of us who lack multiple degrees in theology, ancient history, and sacred scripture, diving into exegesis isn’t much different than Aristotle recognizing a Nike “swoop” or President George Washington thinking the Apple Computer logo is just a cute drawing of the favorite fruit of the original owner of his teeth. While idioms and hidden meanings abound in any culture, it’s difficult — or nearly impossible — to extract all of the meaning that is present.

In this article, I hope to share just a bit of the missing context that would be helpful to understanding what we mean when we refer to Jesus Christ as the “Lamb of God”, and to discuss how deeply important this term is to understanding what First-Century Jews and early Christians would likely have automatically perceived regarding Jesus, secondary to living in that age.

I. Jesus Christ is the “Lamb of God”.

At every mass, following the consecration, we recite the Angus Dei:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.

Francisco de Zurbarán, Angus Dei, c. 1635-40

Francisco de Zurbarán, Agnus Dei, c. 1635-40

As Catholics, we are familiar with the imagery — or at least we think we are. The Catholic Church teaches that St. John the Baptist, the “Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner” points out Jesus as “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (CCC 523). And, the lamb figures prominently in John’s Apocalypse, for example at Revelation 21:14, where the lamb is said to have twelve apostles.

Ghent Altarpiece, by Jan van Eyck, c. 1430–32

Ghent Altarpiece, by Jan van Eyck, c. 1430–32

The Church teaches that “Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,’ and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the ‘blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (CCC 613).

Ghent Altarpiece; The central "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" panel, by Jan van Eyck, c. 1430–32

Ghent Altarpiece; The central “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” panel, by Jan van Eyck, c. 1430–32

And, inasmuch as Jesus as Lamb of God is developed as part of the New Covenant, it draws from the shared understanding of God’s chosen people (the Jews) and the Old Covenant. In other words, there is more there to Jesus as Lamb of God than what’s found in the New Testament.

II. The Paschal Sacrifice began with the Jews

Much of God’s early relationship with the Jews concerns a sacrificial offering, and the lamb is singled out by God as a preferred form of offering. In Genesis, we see that God tests Abraham’s faith by ordering him to sacrifice his son Isaac, but Abraham is righteously obedient and faithful; he tells his son that “God himself with provide the lamb for a burnt offering.”) (Gen 22:8, CCC 2572).

Passover, engraving published 1670 in "La Saincte Bible, Contenant le Vieil and la Nouveau Testament, Enrichie de plusieurs belles figures/Sacra Biblia, nouo et vetere testamento constantia eximiis que sculpturis et imaginibus illustrata, De Limprimerie de Gerard Jollain", 1670

Passover, engraving published 1670 in “La Saincte Bible, Contenant le Vieil and la Nouveau Testament, Enrichie de plusieurs belles figures/Sacra Biblia, nouo et vetere testamento constantia eximiis que sculpturis et imaginibus illustrata, De Limprimerie de Gerard Jollain”, 1670

Then, in Exodus, God seeks to free his people, and orders that a year-old unblemished male lamb be sacrificed to God in each household, whose blood is to be placed over the doorposts of the homes of the Jews in Egypt so that the angel will know to pass over those houses in carrying out God’s command to take from the Egyptian captives their first-born sons.

It is from this sacrifice to God that Passover came to be celebrated in Jesus’ own time, and Jesus as an observant Jew would have been very familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells of Passover in Jerusalem.

In How Christ Said the First Mass or The Lord’s Last Supper, Rev. James Meagher recounts how Josephus tells the story that to count the numbers of Jews present for Passover in Jerusalem, one year Herod Agrippa ordered the kidneys of the sacrificed lambs to be counted, assuming one lamb for ten people so that “…we learn that 12,000,000 persons offered the Passover sacrifice that year, which was known as the ‘large Passover.’” And based upon this, Fr. Meagher posits that “We can then imagine the vast crowds, who clamored for the death of Christ and what a multitude saw him die.” (p. 174).

III. First-Century Jews (including Jesus and his disciples) understood the Passover primarily as a Sacrifice

Passover of the Jews, Marcantonio FRANCESCHINI

Passover of the Jews, Marcantonio FRANCESCHINI

According to Brant Pitre’s book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, it would be difficult for the modern person (“who probably has never witnessed a single animal sacrifice”) to imagine “just how much blood would have been poured out by the priests at Passover.” But Pitre states that for the first-century Jews, including Jesus and his disciples, the fact of Passover as a sacrifice — with several thousand lambs slaughtered in one day — would have been impossible to forget.

Description:Full-page miniature, upper register: the slaughter and the preparation of the Passover lamb, smearing the posts of the doorway with blood (Ex. 12:22), lower register: two couples by spread Seder tables raising cups of wine.  Origin:Spain, N. E. (Catalonia)

Description: Full-page miniature, upper register: the slaughter and the preparation of the Passover lamb, smearing the posts of the doorway with blood (Ex. 12:22), lower register: two couples by spread Seder tables raising cups of wine.
Origin: Spain, N. E. (Catalonia)

According to Pitre, “No one living at the time of the Temple could have ever had any misconception about the fact that the first-century Passover was first a sacrifice and then a meal,” which is the reverse of the way that it is viewed by moderns today, due to the fact that the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., and ended ritual sacrifice under the Mosaic Law. (p. 61-2).

In terms of sacrifice, according to the Mishna, the paschal lamb would be roasted, on “a spit, made of wood of the pomegranate tree,” which “should be taken, put in at the mouth and brought out at the vent thereof. The paschal sacrifice must not be roasted on an iron roasting spit or on a gridiron.” (Pesahim 7:1).

This description is somewhat difficult to visualize, but Pitre explains (citing to the research of Israeli scholar Joseph Tabory) that after the lamb was sacrificed in the Temple, the Jews would insert “thin smooth staves” of pomegranate wood through the shoulders of the lamb and in addition to this, they would also “thrust” a skewer through the Passover lamb’s mouth “and brought out at the vent thereof,” i.e., the buttocks. (Pesahim 5:9, 7:1). Thus, “Tabory concludes, ‘An examination of the rabbinic evidence… seems to show that in Jerusalem the Jewish paschal lamb was offered in a manner which resembled a crucifixion.’”

IV. To First-Century Jews, Jesus would not be the only Lamb they had seen Crucified

Description:Decorated initial-word panel at the beginning of the Haggadah. Within the panel, beneath the initial words, a family is seated at a spread Seder table, while a servant is flaying and roasting the Passover lamb. The text is surrounded by an ornamental frame inhabited by animals and hybrids.  Origin:Spain, N. E. (Catalonia)

Description: Decorated initial-word panel at the beginning of the Haggadah. Within the panel, beneath the initial words, a family is seated at a spread Seder table, while a servant is flaying and roasting the Passover lamb. The text is surrounded by an ornamental frame inhabited by animals and hybrids.
Origin: Spain, N. E. (Catalonia)

According to Meagher, “The pomegranate, ‘grained apple,’ called in Hebrew rimmon, was extensively grown in the Jordan valley and around Jerusalem at the time of Christ. The stick was extended so that its lower end passed through the tendons of the hind feet, and the cross-piece of the same kind of wood passed through the tendons of the fore feet. The operation was called ‘crucifying the lamb.’” (p. 175).

John the Baptist identified Jesus as the “Lamb of God”, and the way that he was put to death by the Romans was visually consonant with the practice of paschal sacrifice in the Temple!

Meagher points out that “The lamb rested entirely on and was roasted on its cross, and foretold the dead Christ hanging from his cross. Seeing this crucified paschal lamb, a striking image of the Crucified, the Rabbis of the Talmud left out the details of the sticks passing through the tendons of the feet.” (p. 175). We can set aside for the moment why the rabbis might have done this, but the point remains that even without a more detailed description, First-Century Jews and early Christians would have recognized the connection between the lambs crucified in the Temple, and Jesus crucified at Golgotha.

V. In comparison to Today, the First-Century Jews and Early Christians recognized another dimension to “Lamb of God”, as shown by the Paschal Sacrifices in the Temple

Description:Full-page miniature of two Israelites roasting the paschal lamb.  Origin:Spain, Central (Castile)

Description: Full-page miniature of two Israelites roasting the paschal lamb.
Origin: Spain, Central (Castile)

Despite Meagher’s assertion that the Rabbis of the Talmud left out some of the details of visualization of the lamb as crucified, “…other writers (Justin Martyr and the early Fathers) describe the lamb thus roasted on his own cross, emblem of the crucifixion coming down from the days of the Hebrew kings.” (p. 175). Pitre also agrees and cites St. Justin:

For the lamb, which is roasted, is roasted and dressed up in the form of a cross. For one spit is transfixed right through from the lower parts up to the head, and one across the back, to which are attached the legs of the lamb. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 40). (Pitre, p. 63-4).

For the first-century Jews and early Christians like St. Justin, Jesus as Lamb of God was not mere metaphor, but was visually confirmed to them by their having witnessed the Passover sacrifices in the Temple.

And, while the lamb remains a powerful symbol for Jews celebrating Passover in these times, the only actual sacrifice that takes place today occurs upon the altars of the Church, where Christ is continually represented in an unbloody sacrifice to God, in unity with that day nearly 2,000 years ago, when Our Lord — among thousands or even millions of other sacrificial victims that were positioned in cruciform just as He was — offered Himself once and for all for our salvation.

Description:Full-page miniature, upper right: the Dance of Miriam (Ex. 15:20), upper left: the master of the house distributing the matzot (unleavened bread) and the haroset (sweetmeat), lower right: cleaning of the house, lower left: slaughtering the Passover lamb and cleansing dishes (hagalat kelim).  Origin:Spain, N. E., Catalonia (Barcelona?)

Description: Full-page miniature, upper right: the Dance of Miriam (Ex. 15:20), upper left: the master of the house distributing the matzot (unleavened bread) and the haroset (sweetmeat), lower right: cleaning of the house, lower left: slaughtering the Passover lamb and cleansing dishes (hagalat kelim).
Origin: Spain, N. E., Catalonia (Barcelona?)

When you’re Catholic, Wonders never Cease

There’s no end to what you can learn!

After being a Catholic for 14 years, I’m just now getting into the meat of “types” and “precursors” in Scripture, which isn’t really what the article linked above is about, but equally fascinating. The Bible is most certainly a historical record, but also something for which we ascribe a certain… Inspiration. Every time I learn something new from the historical record that fits into what we already know about Christ, I’m reminded of how truly credible Catholicism is.

As an aside, over a couple beers the other night, Fr. A and I were talking about context in Scripture, and he mentioned something that he had just learned about crucifixion that I had never heard before — something really meaningful about the way we look at Christ. It’s good. I’ll say no more because an article on this is forthcoming — look for it before Good Friday — if only I can get a chance to do the research and get the facts together……

Francisco de Zurbarán, Angus Dei, c. 1635-40

Francisco de Zurbarán, Angus Dei, c. 1635-40