Was the Trinity Clearly Prefigured at the Very Heart of Jewish Worship?

Trinity glass window, depicting Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This window was created before 1900, no property release is required.

One of the foremost Catholic doctrines is that of the Trinity. So firmly did the early Church believe in it that all new Christians had to assent to the Apostle’s or later the Nicene Creed in order to be baptized. A large section of our Catechism is devoted to a fuller explanation of all the beliefs surrounding the different members of the Trinity summarized in the Creed.

It is Jesus’ claim to divinity, without it He is just a prophet and a false one at that. If this radical, eternal precept is valid it should have been recognizably prefigured in the Old Testament, at least by hindsight. It was!

When Moses spent forty days on Mt. Sinai in the presence of God he brought back more than the Ten Commandments. He brought back very specific instructions on how the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle were to be constructed, as well as specific details of liturgical worship.  At the very center was the Ark of the Covenant over which the glory of God rested.  The Ark was shielded from human eyes by a thick curtain.  Once a year on the Day of Atonement could the High Priest enter, and then only after offering sacrifices for his sins and those of the nation.  The Ark of the Covenant prefigured the Father, the unseen God.

Watercolour sketch of series

Just outside the curtain were two other pieces of equipment which were in regular contact with only the priests.  The first was the table for the showbread with a loaf for each tribe.  There six loaves on one side of the table and six on the other side.  There were also cups for the wine libations that were to be poured out.  The loaves of showbread after spending some time in the presence of the Lord were to be eaten by the priests. This clearly prefigures Jesus, especially at the Last Supper with the Apostles gathered around the table.  There they shared the Bread and the Wine that were changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

During the Last Supper Jesus told His disciples, “I am the vine. You are the branches.” This brings us to the other piece of equipment the lampstand.  It was made to look like a tree with many branches and flower blossoms that held the oil for the light.  I want you to picture Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended and tongues of fire appeared over the disciples’ heads.  Is it not a visual reminder of the Lampstand? So the Holy Spirit is also there, prefigured by the Lampstand in the Holiest place of Jewish worship.

Menorah

St. Peter called those who believe in Christ a royal priesthood. We on earth have access to both Jesus and the Holy Spirit. However, the Father remains hidden from our view until we enter into the heavenly realms. There we will truly understand how the Trinity can be one, but for now consider this.

“One” can have different meanings.  One can mean solo, single, and solitary. The Creator saw Adam was alone, and said that was not good. When God uses the word “one” He can mean so closely united as to be inseparable.  The first time He used that word was in Genesis when He said that man and woman should cleave to each other and become one flesh. This is significant because of what God said when He made man and woman.

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Humanity’s ability to become one with each other was central to our image and likeness of God.  He even used the plural pronouns “us” and “our” to refer to Himself when God created them.

The Jewish people have worshipped unknowingly the Trinity since the beginning of the Jewish liturgical worship.  Humanity just didn’t have the experience of the Trinity to see it.

Reference scriptures: Ex. 25, Lev. 24:5-9, John 15:5, 1 Peter 2:9, Gen. 1:26-28

Special credit to Brant Pitre and his book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

#trcot #tcot #Eucharist #Trinity

The Desert Revisited – The First Temptation – the Eucharist Revealed.

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - OCTOBER 14, 2014: The neo-gothic fresco of fhe scene as Israelites at gathering of manna by Leopold Bruckner (1905 - 1906) in Saint Nicholas church.
TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA – OCTOBER 14, 2014: The neo-gothic fresco of fhe scene as Israelites at gathering of manna by Leopold Bruckner (1905 – 1906) in Saint Nicholas church.

Most people view the first temptation as tackling desires of the flesh, but there is a whole other level going on in that conversation. It revolves around manna and how the children of God are fed in the desert.

Listen the words of the first temptation.  “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  “Like Father, like Son” What did the Father do in the desert and how did He do it?  He fed the Israelites with manna that formed like a dew on the rocks of the desert.  Let me rephrase Satan’s statement.  “If you the Son of God, do what your Father did and feed yourself with miraculous bread from these rocks.”

Listen to Jesus’ response. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”  Is Jesus not the Word of God?  Did He not call Himself the Bread of Life?  The miracle that Christ will do is greater than manna in the desert. He will become the true bread by which men live.

Jesus spells this out much more specifically in John 6 when He compares Himself to the manna in the desert.  Those who ate manna in the desert died. Yet, He radically claimed that His flesh and His blood are the new manna and that you need to eat of Him to have eternal life.  Not surprisingly many people left Him at this point.

Jesus did not really explain Himself further until the Last Supper when the bread and the wine were miraculously transformed into His body and blood while retaining their outward form.  He lifted up the bread and said, “This is my Body. Take and eat.” and He lifted up the chalice filled with wine and said “This is my blood. Take and drink.”

At the Transfiguration, Moses, Elijah and Jesus spoke of the new exodus that He would accomplish in Jerusalem.  The Eucharist is the new food for the journey to the Promised Land of Heaven.  Jesus promised we would not die like those who ate the manna.  We would have eternal life.

The internal painting of the church of St. Anne, an illustration of the Transfiguration. The author - Ivan Protsiv.
The internal painting of the church of St. Anne, an illustration of the Transfiguration. The author – Ivan Protsiv.

How do we really know that the transformation is real?  How do we really know that it is not still bread, or worse something evil, a deception of the devil?  To answer this Jesus had another saying involving rocks and bread.

What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.

The stones of the desert actually look like loaves of bread. Snakes were considered unclean and the Israelites were forbidden to eat them.  If we ask the Father for this living bread, that Jesus said we need for eternal life, will the Father give us an empty look-alike?  Will He give us something evil or forbidden? Jesus told us to ask the Father for it.

Right in the Our Father it says, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  That particular word for bread was created for only this instance.  It means “super-substantial” bread.  Even if you don’t agree with that translation, it is clearly not ordinary bread or they would not have had to invent a new word for it.

Temptation of Jesus Christ

Listen again to Jesus’ words to Satan. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  Or to phrase it another way, “That old bread is passing away. The people of God will be fed by me, the Word of God, the Living Bread which came down from heaven.

This first temptation was about so much more than Jesus being hungry!

The Dry Land –the Testing in the Desert

First darkness, then light from God shining, wind blowing over the waters, dry land appearing as the water separates, am I talking about Creation or the Parting of the Red Sea?  Both actually.

The waters parting and the dry land appearing was one of the key events of the third day.  God used that same imagery in the parting of the Red Sea to say, “Here is a new creation–a people specially chosen by God.” Every Hebrew was called to leave Egypt and pass through the waters of the Red Sea. After entering the desert, God led, fed, watered, instructed, and tested them for 40 years.

Egypt, rocky wilderness of Sinai mountains, morning view from the heights
Egypt, rocky wilderness of Sinai mountains, morning view from the heights

In  the earlier blog The Waters Above Meet the Waters Below Christ’s baptism was tied to the second day of creation. After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led Him into the desert to be tempted by Satan for 40 days.  This event was foreshadowed by the third day of creation.

If the waters above represented heaven, and the waters below the abyss, then the dry land represents the temporary home of mankind. Here we encounter God, and are taught and fed by Him. It is also where our character and faith is revealed through various trials.  During this temporary existence, our permanent home of either heaven or hell is determined.

Temptation of Jesus Christ

Jesus successfully passed His test, the Hebrews for the most part did not. Although all were called out of Egypt, only two were found worthy of entering the Promised Land. This is a perfect illustration of the Scripture, “Many are called but few are chosen.”  Some of those who left Egypt were found so unworthy, that the earth literally opened up beneath them and swallowed them whole.  A visual reminder that some of us called to follow Christ can through rebellion find ourselves in hell.  But for the rest of the Hebrews, including Moses, Aaron and Miriam neither outcome was their end.  They were instead assigned a time of suffering before meeting a natural end.

Moses’ punishment was light.  He could see the Promised Land but not enter into it.  I think this was because you cannot enter heaven through the Law alone and Moses represented the Law.  The Israelites needed Joshua (whose name is the same as Jesus in Hebrew) to enter the Promised Land.  That Moses made it into heavenly glory is apparent from the Transfiguration accounts.  So there is hope for people whose faith journey was somewhat lacking.

Did Jesus ever say anything even remotely like this?  Yes.  Jesus described the three ends that His servants can meet in a parable about the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants. One set who is found doing their master’s will gets greatly rewarded.  Another set who beat the other servants and spent their time carousing gets thrown out with the unbelievers. A final set received either severe or light beatings based on their culpability.

These three possible ends correspond to the Church’s teaching on Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.  God forgives our sins, making it possible for us to enter heaven.  We cannot through our own actions ever merit heaven, even with a life of perfect obedience.  Only through faith in Jesus may we enter, but our actions still carry consequences.  St. Paul says our deeds will be tested by fire. What was done in God will survive, what was not will be destroyed although our lives will be saved.

Our time on earth is short, difficult, and includes times of trial.  We have all been called but where we end up is determined by our own response to the grace of God.

Referenced scriptures: Gen. 1:1-10, Ex. 4, Matt. 4, Matt. 22:14, Luke 12:41-48, 1 Cor. 3:10-15

#Creation #Purgatory #Temptation in the Desert #trcot #Catholic