Wednesday, 4 February 2015

How Christ said the first mass, By Rev. James L. Meagher, D.D. Part 22.


"At the entrance of the great hall on the outside stood twelve Levites with silver staves in their hands, and within twelve with gold staves in their hands. The duties of those on the outside were to direct and warn the incoming people not to injure one another in their great haste, and not to press forward in the crowd, to prevent quarrels; as it previously happened on one of the feasts of Passover, that an old man with his sacrifice was crushed in consequence of the great rush. Those on the inside had to preserve order among the outgoing people, that they should not crush each other. They were also to close the gates of the court, when they saw that it was already full to its capacity.
"When they reached the slaughtering place, rows of priests stood with gold and silver chalices in their hands: one row had all gold chalices, and another row had silver chalices. This was done to display the glory and splendor of the place. Every priest who stood at the head of the row received a chalice full of the sprinkling blood. He passed it to his neighbor, and he to his until the altar was reached. And the priest who stood next the altar returned the chalice empty, and it went back in the same manner, so that every priest received a full chalice and returned an empty one.
"And there occurred no manner of disturbance, as they were used so to the service, that the bowls seemed to fly back and forth as arrows in the hand of a hero. For thirty days previous they practised that service, and therefore found out the place where there was a possibility that a mistake or a mishap might occur. There were also two tall pillars on which stood two priests with silver trumpets in their hands, who blew when each division began the sacrifice, in order to give warning to the priests, who stood on their eminence to begin the Hallel, amid jubilee and thanksgiving, and accompanied by all their musical instruments. The sacrificer also prayed the Hallel. If the sacrifice was not ended the Hallel was repeated.
"After the sacrifices, they went into the halls, where the pillars were full of iron hooks and forks, the sacrifices were hung upon them and skinned. There were also many bundles and sticks. For when there were no more empty hooks, they put a stick on the shoulders of two of their number, hung the sacrifice upon it, skinned it, and went away rejoicing, as one who went to war and returned victorious.
"The one that did not bring the paschal lamb at the appointed time, was eternally disgraced. During the service the priests were dressed in scarlet, that the blood, which might accidentally be spilled on them, should not be noticed. The garment was short, reaching only to the ankle. The priests stood barefooted, and the sleeves reached only the arms, so they should not be disturbed during the service.


On their heads they had a miter, around which was tied a three-ell-long band, but the high priest, as they told me, had a band which he could tie around his miter forty times. His was white.
"The ovens, in which they roasted the paschal lambs, were before their doors, in order, as they told me, to publish their religious ceremonies, as also on account of the festival joys. After the roast, they ate amid jubilee, songs and thanksgiving, so that their voices were heard afar. No gate of Jerusalem was closed during Passover night, because of those who were constantly coming and going, who were considerable in number. The Jews also told me that on the Feast of the Passover the number of those present was double that which went out of Egypt, for they wished to acquaint the king with the number.
"The second service was the entrance of the high priest into the sanctuary. Of the service itself they did not tell me, but of the procession to and from the Temple. Some of it I have also seen with my own eyes, and it surprised me greatly so that I exclaimed, 'Blessed be He who imparts His glory to His nation.'
"Seven days before that day, which they call Atonement Day, and which is the most important in the entire year, they prepare at the house of the high priest a place, and chairs for the chief of the courts, the Nassi (in Hebrew, "the Prince"), the high priest, or his substitute (the Sagan), and for the king, and besides these, also seventy silver chairs for the seventy members of the San-hedrin. The oldest of the priests got up and delivered an oration before the high priest, full of earnest entreaty. He said:
" 'Bethink thyself before whom thou enterest, and know that if thou wilt lose the devotion of thy mind, thou wilt at once drop down dead, and the forgiveness of the Israelites will come to naught. Behold, the eyes of all Israelites are turned upon thee. Investigate thy deeds. Perchance thou hast committed some slight sin. For there are sins which equal in weight many good deeds, and only Almighty God knows the weight thereof. Investigate also the deeds of the priests, thy brothers in office, and have them repent. Take it to heart that thou art to appear before the King of all kings, who sits upon the throne of judgment, who sees everything. How darest thou appear when thou hast the enemy within thee?'


"The high priest then makes answer, that he has already investigated himself, and has repented all that seemed to him sinful, that he has also already assembled all the priests, his brother officers in the Temple, and by Him whose name rests there, conjured them that each one should confess the transgressions of his brother officers, as well as his own, and that he prescribed for each transgression a corresponding penance. The king also spoke to him kindly, and promised to shower on him honors, when he should safely come out of the sanctuary. After that, it was publicly proclaimed that the high priest was about to take possession of his room in the Temple.
"Whereupon the people made ready to accompany him and march before him in the following order, which I witnessed myself. First went those who traced their ancestry to the kings of Israel, then those who were nearer in the priesthood, then followed those who Avere of the kingly house of David, and, indeed, in the most perfect order, one after the other, and before them was exclaimed: 'Give honor to the family of David.' Then followed the Levites, before whom it was exclaimed, 'Give honor to the family of Levi.' Their number amounted to 36,000. At this time the substitute Levites donned violet silk garments, but the 'priests, 24,000 strong, vested in white silk garments.
"Then followed the singers, the musicians, the trumpeters, then the closers of the gates, the preparers of the incense, the preparers of the holy veils, the watchers, the masters of the treasury, and then a band, which was called Chartophylax, then all who were employed at the Temple, then the seventy members of the Sanhedrin, then a hundred priests with silver staves in their hands to make room, then the high priest, and behind him the older priests in pairs.
"At the corner of every street stood the heads of colleges, who spoke to him thus: 'High priest, enter in peace. Pray to our Creator for our preservation, so that we may occupy ourselves with the study of his Law.'
"When the procession reached the mount of the Temple, they halted, and prayed for the preservation of the members of the house of David, then for the priests, and the Temple, whereat the Amen exclamation, because of the great crowd, was so loud that the birds overhead fluttered to the ground.


"After that the high priest bowed before the entire people very respectfully, and, weeping, separated himself from them all, and two substitute priests led him into his room, where he took leave of all the priests, his brothers in office.
"All that took place at the procession to the Temple. But at the procession from the Temple (after the whole ceremony was finished seven days later), his honor was double, for the entire population of Jerusalem marched before him, and most of them with burning candles of white wax, and all attired in white. All windows were draped in varicolored kerchiefs, and were lighted dazzingly, and, as the priests told me, the high priest during many years, because of the great crowds and rush, could not reach his house before midnight, for although they all fasted, nevertheless they did not go home before they convinced themselves whether they could kiss his hand.
"On the following day he prepared a great feast, to which he invited his friends and relatives, and made that day a holiday, because of his safe return from the sanctuary. After that he caused a goldsmith to make a gold tablet, with the following inscription engraved on it: 'I, so and so, the high priest, son of so and so, and in the great and holy Temple, in the service of Him who rests his name there, in the year of creation so and so. May He who favored me with the performance of that service, favor also my son after me to perform the service before the Lord.' "