Saturday, December 03, 2005

Advent: Week 1 Day 7

Moses: The Passover and the Crossing of the Red Sea

The Passover
(The usual Jesse Tree symbol is the lamb.)

"You shall eat it on the fourteenth day of the moon; slaughter the lamb in the evening twilight; you shall splash the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of your doors. You shall eat it with unleavened bread. You shall eat it standing, ready as if for a journey... This is the Passover of the Lord, for I shall go forth, executing judgement on the gods of the Egyptians; all their first-born shall die. You shall keep this feast as a perpetual remembrance, for on this night I shall lead you out of Egypt."

Who can comment on this properly? Where is the great song, the epic, which expresses it better than its original words? Behold! the great rescue of an entire people, its memory bound into and perpetuated by a ritual sacrificial meal, which in its inception was an anticipation, occurring before the dramatic event itself. Detail after detail, restriction and rule and formula and command: in gigantic letters something was being written, but the Israelites could not read it then. They stood there, eating nervously, while outside the first moon of spring was full, and a strange something began to work; yet while the screams of the doomed began, they took courage behind their blood-spattered doors.

And in the morning, they rose to a new freedom.

The Crossing of the Red Sea
(The usual Jesse Tree symbol is the pillar of fire.)

"And God said to Moses, 'Stretch out your hand over the water.' And God swept the sea with a strong east wind. Meanwhile the column of fire, which had led the Israelites, now went to their rear, and blocked the way between them and the Egyptians in pursuit.... And the Israelites went through the sea, with the water like a WALL TO THEIR RIGHT AND TO THEIR LEFT. ... God said to Moses, 'stretch out your hand again.' And the water flowed back to its previous depths. And the Israelites saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And they sang a canticle of triumph to God!"

Note: in the old version of the Easter Vigil,there was a very artistic subito implied at the very end of this reading from Exodus, which was immediately followed by the Canticle which they sang (also in Exodus). (In the Latin the reading ends with a colon!) That is art done right.

Here the boldest water-theme since the creation and the Flood, both rescuing and destroying. Fire and water. Again, like the feast of unleavened bread, something large, something significant: but something mysterious, and demanding a larger explanation. Something was written there, but no one could read it.

Again, how can one not think about Easter at this time of year? The great candle, the fire, the water - again the water divides, as in the Second Day of Creation.

Then there is the Lamb... "Father where is the Lamb for the Sacrifice?" "God will provide." Perhaps some four hundred or more years afterwards, the descendants of Abraham begin offering the spotless lamb on 14 Nisan, the full moon of spring...

The lamb, unleavened bread, fire and water, and a great escape...

"Let us sing to the Lord, for He is covered in glory..."


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