Old and very good megapost by the New Gasparian:

1. Covenant….

A.) This is the blood of the new and everlasting covenant…

Exodus 24:6-8
Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he dashed against the altar. {7} Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” {8} Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people, and said, “See the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Blood is life. Blood is the boundary between life and death. To splash it on the altar is to go to God, and to splash it on the people was to complete the circle of communication. In the desert, a place of survival, those who were no people have now become God’s people.

b.) Jesus….the law kept some people at a distance…

Ephesians 2:1-13
You were dead through the trespasses and sins {2} in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. {3} All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. {4} But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us {5} even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– {6} and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, {7} so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. {8} For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– {9} not the result of works, so that no one may boast. {10} For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. {11} So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision”–a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands– {12} remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. {13} But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

c:) St Gaspar lived in a time afflicted by Jansenism that taught that God is distant, God is stern, moralistic, pessimistic, critical, and that some of God’s commands are impossible to fulfill or that Jesus did not die for all.

2. Where does God dwell?

Romans 3:24-25
they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, {25} whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;

For the Jewish people the Day of Atonement was a most holy day. The ritual that was celebrated was important because it was for the forgiveness of the sins of the people. In this ritual (which is fully described in chapter 16 of Leviticus) the priest would enter the Holy of Holies and he would sprinkle the blood from the sacrificed animals on the propitiatory. The propitiatory was a rectangular plate made of pure gold that was place on top of the Ark of the Covenant which contained the law (Ex. 25:17-25). This was called the `mercy seat’ because this was where God was encountered. This was where God’s presence could most keenly be felt. It was sprinkled with the blood during the ritual of atonement as a means of communicating with God. The blood carried with it the remorse of the people for their sins, and as a sign of the life force of God, it communicated the forgiveness that God extended to the people.

In equating the body of Jesus with the propitiatory and his blood with the blood of the sacrifice, Paul is making a very bold assertion. The followers of Jesus were trying to make sense of the humiliating public execution that ended Jesus’ life. It seemed to be the all too sudden and abrupt ending to the message that he preached. However, through this statement Paul give meaning to the event of the cross. The blood-shedding on the cross becomes a part of the mission of Jesus, not its end. The death on the cross becomes a sacrificial offering made for the atonement of the sins of the people.

So what does this all mean? First of all it says something about how God dwells with his people. By associating the body of Jesus with the propitiatory, it asserts that God dwells within Jesus. This is not so much a statement of the divinity of Christ as it is stating that God dwells most intimately in a stripped, beaten, broken, and misunderstood man, condemned as a criminal. In other words, God doesn’t appear where we might expect him, rather he appears out on the fringes of established values and ideals. God’s dwelling place is not with the powerful and respected, but in the midst of those broken and calling out for justice and mercy.

Secondly, if the body of Christ is the propitiatory, than the cross becomes the Holy of Holies The Holy of Holies was the most sacred sanctuary of the temple; the dwelling place of God. What a paradox that creates! If the instrument of public execution can be the special place of God dwelling in the world, than it opens up a paradox at the very heart of our perception of the world. Paul speaks of the cross as a “stumbling block to Jews and an absurdity to Gentile” (I Co. 1:23). No longer can we look for God above or beyond the fray of daily existence. God dwells in a broken and shamed man hanging on an instrument of execution. Somewhere in that violent end of life is the hope for new life. Somewhere in that gesture of powerlessness, lies genuine power. Somewhere in the shame of the cross lies the beginning of true human dignity.

Thirdly, Paul gives us a new way of looking at the blood-shedding of Jesus. His blood is likened to the blood of the Day of Atonement. The cross is not the place of the careless shedding of blood in a violent act; rather, it is the means through which God saves his people from their sinfulness. This act of death brings about new life. In the blood shed on the cross we have an image that holds within it both death and life. The blood shed on the cross, like the blood of the Day of Atonement, releases us from sin, and allows us to enter a new life.

3. Is this a basis for spirituality today?

This is a world still beset by Jansenism, God is still distant. Pay attention to the Theology in Bette Midler’s song “From a Distance”

People are still affected by what Thomas Merton calls the “Moral Theology of the Devil.” We are affected by a faulty understanding of ransom, and wonder what I can do to be saved.

Communion and community are a given. It is not something we create. It already is. We are changed, transformed by our involvement in communion. Community is fundamental. One of the primary images of Jesus was that of a wedding banquet which always involved the whole town. The choice for involvement is always free. The call is irrevocable. St. Gaspar was never put off by refusal. The relationship between God and human beings is entirely reconstituted. The Blood of Christ is not some “ransom” as payment for the guilty, but is the means by which the relationship is reconstituted. The tragedy is when anyone still feels or experiences themselves as cut off.

WAC

Advertisements