23 March 2009

The Mercy Seat

The Lord spoke to Moses: "Speak to Aaron your brother, that he not enter at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat" (Leviticus 16:2).

From Homily IX by Origen:
Once a year the high priest leaves the people and goes into that place where the mercy seat is, and over the mercy seat the cherubim, where the ark of the covenant is kept; where the altar of incense stands which no one is allowed to enter except the high priest alone.

Let me now turn to my true High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. When He was in the flesh He was with the people the whole year, the year of which He Himself said: “He has sent Me to preach good news to the poor, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of forgiveness.” Notice how only once in that year, on the Day of Atonement, He enters the holy of holies, that is, He enters heaven, having accomplish His work, and appears before the Father to make Him look with mercy on the human race, and to intercede for all who believe in Him.

Aware of this atoning Sacrifice by which He makes propitiation for men before the Father, the Apostle John writes: “My little children, I am writing this to you that we may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate before the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just One, and He is the expiation for our sins.”

Paul similarly recalls this propitiation when he says of Christ: “God put Him forward as an expiation by His Blood, to be received by faith.” Thus the Day of Atonement remains with us until the end of the world.

Holy Scripture says: “And imposing incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat which is upon the testimony, lest he die; and he shall take some of the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat towards the east.”

This taught the ancients how the rite of propitiation was to be carried out which was offered to God on behalf of men. But you have turned to Christ, the true High Priest, Who by means of His Blood obtained God’s mercy for you and reconciled you with the Father. Become acquainted… with the Blood of the Word and listen to Him tell you Himself: “This is My Blood which will be poured out for the forgiveness of sins.”

However, do not consider it pointless that the blood is sprinkled towards the east. Your propitiation came from the east. From there came the Man Whose Name is the Dawn, Who became the Mediator between God and man.

This invites you to keep looking to the east where the Sun of Justice rises for you, where light is always dawning for you… that you may always walk in the clear light of knowledge, always having the daylight of faith, and may always obtain the light of charity and peace.