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.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Atoning Fire: Bible Commentary on Leviticus 9 with poem by Yannai, The Celestial Fire

Daily Readings
Job 38 Exodus 27:20-28:43 Leviticus 9 I Corinthians 15

Daily Text: Leviticus 9

Atoning Fire
Perhaps the most important observation to be made in Leviticus 9 is that every sacrifice points toward atonement for sin (488:78). But first the priest’s sin had to be atoned, for “unatoned sin in the priest would have made the whole people guilty” (488:78). The Christian Church accepts that evil and good are always mixed in the life of the priest and that evil there does not effect the efficacy of either the read and preached Word or the sacraments celebrated by the unshriven priest. Christ is the only true priest and his atonement for our sins is once and always efficacious (BCP:873:Articles of Religion XXVI).

The fire of the atoning sacrifice in Leviticus 9 was normal, but the Hebrews believed that the fire from the Presence augmented it signifying the source of their atonement and the acceptance of their sacrifice by God.

Aaron’s blessing (Leviticus 9:22) was thought to be the first use of the three-fold priestly blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26.
` The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine
upon you , and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance
upon you, and give you peace.

The Celestial Fire

Now an angel of the Lord appeared to
Moses in a blazing fire—

a fire that devours fire;
a fire that burns in things dry and moist;
a fire that glows amid snow and ice;
a fire that is like a crouching lion;
a fire that reveals itself in many forms;
a fire that is, and never expires;
a fire that shines and roars;
a fire that blazes and sparkles;
a fire that flies in a storm wind;
a fire that burns without wood;
a fire that renews itself every day;
a fire that is not fanned by fire;
a fire that billows like palm branches;
a fire whose sparks are flashes of lightning;
a fire black as a raven;
a fire, curled, like the colours of the rainbow!

Collect for the Day
Our God and God of our fathers, let our prayer reach You—do not turn away from our pleading. For we are not so arrogant and obstinate to claim that we are indeed righteous people and have never sinned. But we know that both we and our fathers have sinned.
We have abused and betrayed. We are cruel
We have destroyed and embittered other people’s lives.
We were false to ourselves.
We have gossiped about others and hated them.
We have insulted and jeered. We have killed. We have lied.
We have misled others and neglected them.
We were obstinate. We have perverted and quarrelled.
We have robbed and stolen.
We have transgressed through unkindness.
We have been both violent and weak.
We have practised extortion.
We have yielded to wrong desires, our zeal was misplaced.
We turn away from Your commandments and good judgement but it does not help us. Your justice exists whatever happens to us, for You work for truth, but we bring about evil. What can we say before You—so distant is the place where You are found? And what can we tell you—Your being is remote as the heavens? Yet You know everything, hidden secrets of everyone alive. You probe our body’s state. You see into the heart and mind. Nothing escapes You, nothing is hidden from Your gaze. Our God and God of our fathers, have mercy on us and pardon all our sins; grant atonement for all our iniquities, forgiveness for all our transgressions. [286:850 Day of Atonement]


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