Friday, 8 July 2016

Hebrews 9:1-7 - The tabernacle as an allegory of the new covenant and heaven

St Thomas Aquinas summarises Hebrews 9 and 10 as follows:
 Having showed in general the dignity of the New Testament as compared to the Old, the Apostle now shows the same in particular by reaching down to the individuals in each Testament. In regard to this he does two things: first, he compares things of the Old Testament with those of the New to show the dignity of the New; secondly, he clarifies some things he had presupposed.
Hebrews goes on to describe this section as an allegory, and St Thomas takes up this theme, explaining how the things in the tabernacle prefigure Christ and the New covenant so that: "the things of the Old Testament were a figure of the New, and the New a figure of the heavenly country."

Hebrews 9:1-5
The former indeed had also justifications of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made the first, wherein were the candlesticks, and the table, and the setting forth of loaves, which is called the holy.  And after the second veil, the tabernacle, which is called the holy of holies: Having a golden censer, and the ark of the testament covered about on every part with gold, in which was a golden pot that had manna, and the rod of Aaron, that had blossomed, and the tables of the testament.  And over it were the cherubims of glory overshadowing the propitiatory: of which it is not needful to speak now particularly.
Habuit quidem et prius justificationes culturæ, et Sanctum sæculare. Tabernaculum enim factum est primum, in quo erant candelabra, et mensa, et propositio panum, quæ dicitur Sancta. Post velamentum autem secundum, tabernaculum, quod dicitur Sancta sanctorum:  aureum habens thuribulum, et arcam testamenti circumtectam ex omni parte auro, in qua urna aurea habens manna, et virga Aaron, quæ fronduerat, et tabulæ testamenti, superque eam erant cherubim gloriæ obumbrantia propitiatorium: de quibus non est modo dicendum per singula.
The candlestick: ‘I am the light of the world’. In it are six orders: three on the left, namely, the perfect of the Old Testament; and three on the right, namely, of the New Testament. They are designated in Ezekiel: By Noah, prelates; by Daniel, contemplatives; by Job, the actives. Those branches receive light and impart it: ‘As every man has received grace, ministering the same one to another’...

The twelve loaves are the doctrine of the Apostles and their successors: they are put out on the Sabbath of hope to the Sabbath of hope; and if in the meantime one is removed by death, another is substituted.

The ark made of sethim wood:  is Christ’s pure and most precious flesh, which is called a gold urn because of His wisdom full of the sweetness of the godhead. 

The tablets: are His wisdom

The rod: is His eternal priesthood, or it is Christ’s power.

The manna: the sweetness of grace given by the priesthood of Christ or by obedience to His commandments, as a man obeys the power.

The mercy seat: But because no one has grace without having sinned, except Christ and His mother, it is necessary to have a mercy seat.

The two angels:  are the two testaments looking peacefully at Christ; or all the angels serving Christ in concord and unity of spirit...guard Christ’s Church.

The propitiatory: Christ is the propitiation of our sins’ (1 Jn. 2:2).

Hebrews 9:6-7
but this was the general fashion of it. Into the outer tabernacle the priests made their way at all times, in the performance of their duties; into this other, only the high priest, once a year, and even then not without an offering of blood, for the faults which he and the people had committed unknowingly.
 His vero ita compositis, in priori quidem tabernaculo semper introibant sacerdotes, sacrificiorum officia consummantes: in secundo autem semel in anno solus pontifex non sine sanguine, quem offert pro sua et populi ignorantia:
Priests of the outer tabernacle: there was in the forepart of the tabernacle near the center the altar of thyme or of incense, which is the same thing, and the golden candlestick; but at the southern part opposite, the table of proposition. Every day in the morning and in the evening the priest entered the holies for two reasons: to dress the lamps and to renew the incense, in order that light and all good odor might be continually present in the holies. He says, therefore: Now these preparations, namely, which pertain to the appearance of the tabernacle, having been thus made, the priests go continually into the outer tent [first tabernacle] performing their ritual duties: not to sacrifice in the holies, because they sacrificed on the altar of holocausts in front of the door of the tabernacle under the sky; but he calls the renewal of the incense and the devotion of the offerers a sacrifice.

The veil:  It should be noted that the priests entered into the holies every day; but into the second, which was beyond the veil the high priest alone once a year...the interposition of the veil signifies that heavenly things were veiled from them...Furthermore, the fact that they did not enter signifies that the Old Testament is not the way to enter heaven before Christ’s coming.

The high priest: ...on the day of atonement (which occurred on the tenth day of the seventh month, namely, September, which is the seventh month after our March, which coincides with part of our April, when the Jewish year begins: ‘This month shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first in the months of the year’, for they began their month with the full moon which always begins in March, unless prevented by an embolism), the high priest offered a calf for himself and his whole house, and a goat for the sin of the people. When these were immolated, he took some of their blood and filled the thurible with the burning coals from the altar of holocausts, which was in the court in front of the tabernacle, and with all these things entered into the holy of holies to expiate the tabernacle with blood, sprinkling some of the blood on the veil. After he came out, he used the same blood to anoint the altar of incense. He did this once a year...and not without taking blood, which he offered for himself and the people’s errors, i.e., sins.

The mystical meaning: ...by the first tabernacle is designed the present Church, in which the faithful should sacrifice themselves: ‘Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God’, ‘A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit’. They should also sacrifice their property in alms: ‘By such sacrifices God’s favor is obtained’. But the high priest alone, i.e., Christ in soul and body, entered into the holy of holies, i.e., into the heavenly country. Yet according to the letter the intention of the Apostle is that the Old Law is signified by the holy, and by the holy of holies the state of the New Testament and heaven, because one enters heaven by the New Law.


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