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, May 31, 2006

The Throne Room of God: Bible Comment on Ezekiel 1 with poem by Henry C. Spear, Spirit Versus Machinery

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Daily Readings
Zephaniah 3:14-18, Luke 1:39-48, Ezekiel 1, Philippians 3;16-4:1

Daily Text: Ezekiel 1

The Throne Room of God
One of the most difficult of all chapters in the Bible to interpret, still the imagery of Ezekiel 1, with some study, seems clear. The focus and the overarching imagery is that of the throne room of God. That throne sits on the dome of the world making use of the ancient conception of the concave nature of the heavens that separates the waters above the world from those beneath. Under the dome and supporting it are four creatures, by Sirach’s time thought to be cherubim (Cf. Sirach 49:8). These creatures ride a four-wheeled chariot, the wheels of which each is oriented toward North, South, East or West. So that depending on the direction of the creatures, they ride on two wheels as in a chariot. When not on the earth they fly on two wings each. These wings touch at the tips and are thus in unison, if they enable them to fly at all. The text does not say, though wings do seem to imply that. What the text does say is that they move as the spirit moves them.

The four creatures each has four faces: human, eagle, lion and ox. These images are picked up by the Church and related to the Evangelists: Matthew, man; Mark, lion; Luke, ox; and John, eagle. They are also utilized in Revelation 4:1, described differently, but with the same elements. Greenberg comments that “the most lordly of creatures are merely the bearers of the Lord of lords” [502:56]. The cherubim with wings are reminiscent of the Holy of Holies in the Ark and in the Jerusalem Temple. Undoubtedly, this gives those in exile with Ezekiel, the priest, comfort that God’s presence can be anywhere, even on the bank of the Chebar Canal in Chaldea. This allowed the exiles to begin proving faithful even though they were far from the temple precincts. It also gives the priest-prophet renewed and enhanced authority to instruct them from the vision and the Word that follows.

So the four creatures can be seen to be riding in a single chariot and carrying the throne of God. And in the center of the storm theophany, vs. 4 there is a fire, gleaming like amber, that reflects the fire that is seen in the person of the divine image, vs. 27. That fire in the heavenly presence is described as an appearance of splendor all around, like the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day (vs. 28). But more important, is the reassurance that the fire, as well as the cloud, resides on the earth as well as in heaven, and it reminds us of that similar imagery in Moses’ day as the children of Israel are led from slavery in Egypt to the promised land. There is no way that the exiles would not have interpreted Ezekiel’s vision in a similar fashion, taking great hope from its implications.

Spirit Versus Machinery
Henry C. Spear

The spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.—Ezekiel 1:21

We build machines to do the work of man;
We organize a framework for each task;
We think that anyone can work a plan
And run machines and never questions ask.
We’ve standardized and mechanized life’s road,
So people have become mere bolts and cogs,
The human elements we see corrode,
The masses rise and shout, “We are not dogs.”
We must put living spirit in the wheels,
And humanize the avenues of trade,
So daily tender sympathy man feels,
And longs to give to others loving aid.
God breathed His living spirit into man,
We ought to keep that spirit, and we can.

Collect for the Day
You keep us waiting.
You, the God of all time;
Want us to wait
For the right time in which to discover
Who we are, where we must go,
Who will be with us, and what we must do.

So, thank you…for the waiting time.

You keep us looking.
You, the God of all space,
Want us to look in the right and wrong places
For signs of hope,
For people who are hopeless,
For visions of a better world which will appear
Among the disappointments of the world we know.

So, than you…for the looking time.

You keep us loving.
You, the God whose name is love,
Want us to be like you—
To love the loveless and the unlovely and the unlovable;
To love without jealousy or design or threat;
And, most difficult of all,
To love ourselves.

So, thank you…for the loving time.

And in all this,
You keep us.
Through hard questions with no easy answers;
Through failing where we hoped to succeed
and making an impact when we felt we were useless;
Through the patience and the dreams and the love of others;
And through Jesus Christ and his Spirit,
Keep us.

So, thank you…for the keeping time.
And for now,
and for ever.
[489:218:December 2 John Bell]


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