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

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Death of Moses: Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 34 with poem by R. M. Rilke, Face to Face

Daily Readings
Proverbs 16, Joshua 5, Deuteronomy 34, II Corinthians 11

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 34

The Death of Moses
For Moses to see the land was to receive title to it. But the LORD continued to refuse him entry. As a consequence he transferred the fief to Joshua whose responsibility it was to secure it and distribute it (cf. Lohfink’s thesis 498:869). But how was he to see all of the land described? From Mt. Pisgah this is impossible. Was a vision intended, or could Moses have been assumed into the presence of God as was later believed? Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration was with Elijah and Moses. The notion of the Assumption of Moses fits in with this meeting, since Elijah also was taken up into heaven. The book of Jude, verse 9, hints at this belief. On the other hand, Deuteronomy 34 says he was buried, the death of Moses clear and final. How he ‘saw’ this extent of land is difficult to imagine. But then he was unique, one with whom God spoke face to face.

Moses uniqueness is widely recognized in Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, in history and in art. Elie Wiesel has written, “His passion for social justice, his struggle for national liberation, his triumphs and disappointments, his poetic inspiration, his gifts as a strategist and his organizational genius, his complex relationship with God and His people, his requirements and promise, his condemnations and blessings, his bursts of anger, his silences, his efforts to reconcile the law with compassion, authority with integrity—no individual, ever, anywhere, accomplished so much for so many people in so many different domains. His influence is boundless, it reverberates beyond time” [185:1588].

Face to Face
R. M. Rilke

Then slowly the aged
God bowed down His aged face to the aged mortal.
Withdrew him out of himself in kisses
into his older age. And with hands of creation
swiftly remounted to the mountain, until it amounted
to nothing more than the others, lightly surmounting
human conjecture.

Collect for the Day
Great and holy is the Lord,
the holiest of holy ones for every generation.
Majesty precedes him,
and following him is the rush of many waters.
Grace and truth surround his presence;
truth and justice and righteousness are the foundations of his throne.
Separating light from deep darkness,
by the knowledge of his mind he established the dawn.
When all his angels had witnessed it they sang aloud;
for he showed them what they had not known;
Crowning the hills with fruit,
good food for every living being.
Blessed be he who makes the earth by his power
establishing the world in his wisdom.
In his understanding he stretched out the heavens,
and brought forth wind from his storehouses.
He made lightning for the rain,
and caused mists to rise from the end of the earth.
[286:11:25 Dead Sea Scrolls]


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