HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 







A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Ex. 25–27]

HITHERTO the Israelites had no fixed place of worship nor, properly speaking, any priesthood. Their patriarchs had offered sacrifice to God; now in one place, now in another. In later times, the heads of families had exercised the priestly functions; but this state of things was no longer to exist. Moses, while conversing with the Lord on the mountain, had received from Him the clearest and most definite directions regarding divine worship, with all the ceremonies that were to accompany it.

Moses, therefore, built a shrine or Tabernacle (Fig. 27) that could be taken to pieces and carried from place to place. It was a portable tabernacle, or church, as we should call it, and well suited to the wandering life of the children of Israel. It was made of the most precious wood. Its length was thirty, its breadth ten, and its height also ten cubits. The boards were overlaid with plates of gold, and furnished with sockets of silver. It was divided into two parts: the fore part, which was the larger, was called the Sanctuary; the smaller part was called the Holy of Holies. Each part was separated from the other by a curtain worked with great art. Outside and around was a covered court for the people.

 

Fig. 27. The Tabernacle in the desert.

On the inside the roof and the walls were covered with rich tapestry, and on the outside with skins and furs. Moreover, on the ceiling of the Sanctuary as also on its inner walls, was fastened a most precious weaving in very brilliant colours, adorned with an embroidery of cherubim and palms and flowers.

In the Holy of Holies he placed the Ark of the Covenant (Fig. 28) which was covered with gold within and without. At its four corners, on the outside, were attached rings of gold, through which bars, overlaid with gold, were passed, whereby to carry the Ark. In the Ark he put the tables of the Law. As these tables, on which the Ten Commandments were written, contained the chief heads of the Old Covenant, the Ark itself was called the Ark of the Covenant. Later on, there was also placed in the Ark a vase filled with Manna, and the rod of Aaron. He then placed over the Ark a cover or lid of the purest gold, called the Propitiatory, at the ends of which stood two cherubim of beaten gold, looking at each other, and spreading their wings so as to overshadow the Propitiatory.

 

Fig. 28. Ark of the Covenant.

In the Holy were three principal sacred objects: 1. the altar of incense (Fig. 29) made of acacia wood and overlaid with the purest gold. On this altar was offered the daily sacrifice of incense. 2. The seven-branched candlestick wrought of the finest gold, on which seven lamps were burning perpetually (Fig. 30). 3. The table of the twelve loaves of proposition, or shew-breads, likewise overlaid with the finest gold (Fig. 31). These loaves were unleavened bread made of the finest flour and had to be renewed every Sabbath. By the side of the table stood a golden vial filled with wine. In the outer court stood the brazen altar on which the holocausts were burnt (Fig. 32), and by its side a brazen laver for the use of the priests. The people had to remain in the outer court. Only the priests were allowed to enter the Holy, and into the Holy of Holies no one but the High Priest could enter, once a year (on the great day of Expiation).

 

Fig. 29. Altar of incense.

 

Fig. 30. Seven-branched Candlestick.

 

Fig. 31. Table of the loaves of proposition.

When all was completed according to God’s command, Moses poured sacred oil on the Tabernacle, and on all it contained; and then the cloud covered the Ark of the Covenant, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle, and rested between the two cherubim. As often as Moses had occasion to consult the Lord, he received an answer of Him from the Propitiatory of the Holy of Holies.

 

Fig. 32. Altar of holocausts.

The immediate meaning of the building of the Tabernacle. The Ark of the Covenant, in which were kept the two tables of the law, was more costly than anything else in the Tabernacle. By it the Israelites were to be constantly reminded of the covenant made with God as to the strict observance of the Commandments. The Manna, which was also deposited in the Ark, was to remind them of God’s loving guidance and preservation of them, and move them to love and trust Him. As cherubim kept guard over Paradise, so they now watched over the Ark of the Covenant; and, at the same time, they reminded the people that they should worship God, and serve Him as willingly as do the angels in heaven. The golden candlestick with its lights always burning was an emblem of faith in the true God, and admonished the Israelites to live according to that faith, to avoid the works of darkness, and walk in God’s presence. The laver and the strict laws regarding ablutions were to remind the priests that they ought to approach the holy service of God with clean hearts. The never-ceasing smoke, ascending from the altar of incense, bade the people to lift up their hearts to God, and send up constant prayers, like incense, to heaven. The loaves of the proposition were a perpetual exhortation to be grateful to God, from whom come all good gifts for our souls as well as our bodies. The curtain, which shut off the Holy of Holies, and through which even the High Priest dared pass only once a year, signified “that the way into the holies was not yet made manifest” (Hebr. 9:8). As God was present in the pillar of cloud, resting on the Ark, so the Tabernacle was God’s dwelling in the midst of His people.

Its typical meaning. “The Tabernacle is a parable of the time present” (i. e. the Christian era), writes St. Paul. It foreshadowed the Church of the New Testament and its houses of God. As there was only one Tabernacle and one divine worship instituted by God Himself, so there is only one Church and one true worship of Christ in the world instituted by Himself. In every Catholic church or chapel you will find the same divine worship regulated by one supreme authority, the Vicar of Christ. The different rites (Latin, Greek, Coptic, Syrian, Slavonic &c.) differ only in accidentals and are one even in their difference, because approved by one and the same authority. As there was a real but mysterious and hidden presence of God in the Tabernacle (in the cloud over the ark), so there is the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. He is both the cloud and the living bread (Manna) that has come down from heaven to give life to the world.

As there was an altar of holocausts and bloody sacrifices and an altar of shew-breads, so there is in the New Testament one and the same altar ever representing the bloody sacrifice of the cross and ever offering up the “living bread that descended from heaven”. The seven lights are the seven Sacraments which are here dispensed, and the laver is the baptismal font and the confessional, where we are cleansed from our sins—or even the stoup of holy water, by the devout use of which venial sins are remitted. You can see, therefore, that in many respects the Tabernacle was a type, which finds its perfect fulfilment in our churches; and that even the poorest village-chapel is holier than was the Tabernacle of the Old Covenant. As the Tabernacle was divided into two parts, so our churches have two parts: one for the priests, called the sanctuary, and another for the faithful, called the body of the church. Hence the Tabernacle was a pattern for our Christian churches.

God’s Goodness to the Israelites was exceedingly great; for He deigned to dwell in their midst in a visible way, in the pillar of cloud. But immeasurably greater is God’s love and condescension to us; for His Divine Son made Man dwells with us not only in one place, but in thousands of different churches and chapels, under the appearance of bread, blesses us, offers Himself up for us, and feeds our souls with the bread from heaven, that contains within itself all sweetness.

The veneration of images. By God’s command Moses had figures of cherubim embroidered on the hangings of the Sanctuary, and placed golden cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. These images served for the glory of God and the edification of the Israelites. It is evident, therefore, that it is pleasing to God that we should venerate the images of the angels and saints.

Ark of the Covenant. Mary is called, in the Litany of Loretto, the Ark of the Covenant, because she is the Mother of Jesus Christ, who instituted the New Covenant.

APPLICATION. We should be zealous for the beauty of the house of God. “I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of Thy house, and the place where Thy glory dwelleth” (Ps. 25:8). Gladly visit the church; and beware of desecrating it. Be careful how you behave in it, and how you use holy water &c.








Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com