Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Altar Fire: Bible Commentary on Leviticus 6:8-30 with poem by George Herbert, Aaron

Daily Readings
Job 34, Exodus 22:1-23:9, Leviticus 6:8-30, I Corinthians 12

Daily Text: Leviticus 6:8-30

Altar Fire
The care of the altar fire is an expansion of the instructions in chapter 1. That the priest is to vest in his best vestments to remove the ashes from the altar elevates this seemingly menial task to that of essential priestly ritual, not unlike the care given the unconsumed sacrament at the Christian altar. The perpetual nature of the fire on the altar is new information and its repetition gives it a significance not unlike that of the perpetual flame of the lamp in the holy place. God is providing not only for a continuing reminder of his presence, but a continual possibility for the sanctification of his people. The perpetual fire has served generations of Jewish preachers as a symbol of unquenchable devotion. Marvels were related concerning it. It came forth from God’s presence (9:24), and it burned continuously for 116 years, yet the thin copper sheathing of the altar never melted, and its wooden core was not charred” [185:783].

Verses 14-18 expand on chapter 2:11, detailing the eating of the meal offering as well as the sin and guilt offerings. It appears that the priest who offers the sacrifice is obligated to eat of it as part of the absolution of the ones making the offering, i.e., he participates intimately in their forgiveness.

Aaron
George Herbert

Holiness on the head,
Light and perfections on the breast,
Harmonious bells below, raising the dead
To lead them unto life and rest.
Thus are true Aarons dressed.

Profaneness in my head,
Defects and darkness in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest.
Poor priest thus am I dressed.

Only another head
I have, another heart and breast,
Another music, making live not dead,
Without whom I could have no rest:
In him I am well dressed.

Christ is my only head,
My alone only heart and breast,
My only music, striking me even dead;
That to the old man I may rest,
And be in him new dressed.

So holy in my head,
Perfect and light in my dear breast,
My doctrine tuned by Christ, (who is not dead,
But lives in me while I do rest)
Come people; Aaron’s dressed.
395:138

Collect for the Day
He who separates sacred from profane, may He pardon our sin; may he increase our descendants and prosperity as the sand, and as the stars at night. The day declines as the palm tree’s shade; I call to God who is good to me; the lookout says: ‘Morning will come though it still be night.’ Your righteousness towers like Mount Tabor; forgive my sins, and let them be as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Hear my prayer, revered and awesome God; grant redemption! In the twilight, in the waning of the day, or in the blackness of the night! [471:636].

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