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

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ordination: Bible Commentary on Leviticus 8 with poem by Yose ben Yose, The Vestments of the High Priest

Daily Readings
Job 36:24-37:24, Exodus 26:31-27:19, Leviticus 8, I Corinthians 14

Daily Text: Leviticus 8

The offering of ordination was mentioned in 7:37, but not until Leviticus 8 is it detailed beyond what was said in Exodus 28 and 29. There are four elements in the ordination: special vestments, oil of annointing, the gathering of the whole people and finally, sacrifices for sin, burnt offering and ordination.

This is no ordinary convocation. It has implications for every person’s redemption, for the entire congregation’s well-being. Yes, the high priest is central, but only because he is required by the people of God. (Note here that Moses serves as the High Priest until Aaron is consecrated. This notion was continued in the West in the idea of the Divine Right of Kings. One such example was seen in Henry VIII’s willingness to speak for the English Church in separating from Rome in the 17th century.) Obviously, Aaron and his sons had as much need for sin and guilt offerings as did the people, for even in their ordination they were required. Nothing much has changed, only the ceremonies.

The Vestments of the High Priest
from Avoda: The Service on the day of Atonement
Yose ben Yose

Then the officer,
the overseer in charge of the holy service,
sends faithful messengers to the East,
saying to them: ‘See if the dawn has risen,
if light from the east has spread over the earth.’

As soon as they tell him that the light is gleaming,
the high priest rushes to the pool of purification in the Temple court.
They spread a screen of fine linen between him and the people,
thus dignifying him, so that none should see his nudity.
Quickly he strips off his clothes,
goes down and bathes, comes up and dries himself.

The prefect, in charge of his vestments,
clothes him in linen,
then further adorns him with golden ornaments.
He rejoices in his majestic garments but does not become proud,
having put them on for the glory of God,
nor for his own.

He consults the Urim1 about the order of battle,
raising his eyes to his Master,
as a pupil to his teacher.
Then He reveals the secret to him in the decision of the Urim:
should they go forth or desist;
will they fall by the sword or be victorious.

Oh, sing out God’s praise,
sons of a great nation,
for He is always close at hand,
bearing tidings of salvation!

He exults in the fringed linen pants—
like an envoy, like a horseman on the alert,
a messenger faithful to those who dispatch him.
By wearing the pants he atones for lechery,
for they were prescribed2 to cover his nakedness.

He completes the concealment of his body
with a double tunic, fringed,
reaching down to the wrists.
Thus he atones for the sin of the house of Jacob,
who sold the righteous Joseph because of his ornamented tunic.3

Then he girds himself with a splendid sash,
a belt entirely woven of linen,
and not of linen mixed with wool
as is the custom throughout the year.

The crown on his head is like a sovereign’s glory,
a turban-diadem of fine linen,
for dignity and beauty.

Wrapped in a robe of blue,
bright as the firmament,
his rounded arms fill the sleeves.
The opening for the head has a binding around it,
as in a coat of mail,
which deflects the slingstones,
without being torn.

All around the hem there are multi-coloured pomegranates,
with golden bells between them;
when they strike each other and tinkle,
the high priest atones for the voice of him
who strikes down his neighbour in secret.4

Collect for the Day
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all comfort, dwelling on high but having regard for the lowly, knowing all things before they come ti pass: We give you thanks that from the beginning you have gathered and prepared a people to be heirs of the covenant of Abraham, and have raised up prophets, kings, and priests, never leaving your temple untended. We praise you also that from the creation you have graciously accepted the ministry of those whom you have chosen.
[BCP:520 at the Consecration of the Bishop]

1 A kind of oracle, set within the ‘breastpiece of decision’, worn by the high priest over his heart.
2 Exodus 28:42
3 Joseph’s ‘coat of many colours’ (Genesis 37:3)
4 I.e., the sin of slander.


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