Tuesday, March 1, 2011

But that is, like, sooooooo Old Testament!

There are several reasons people who try the Divine Office have a hard time getting into it. (Even after they've figured out the ribbons and propers and such) They find the psalms and canticles of the Old Testament  too sad, or too violent, too vengeful, or sometimes, too Jewish. This blog will blow away all objections with the laser-blaster of my brilliant insights, which I have in turn more or less stolen from the saints and fathers of the Church. Today we will look at "too Jewish."

I am not addressing antisemitic, RadTrad conspiracy theorists, by the way.  I'm speaking to normal people who don't see the point in praying about the temple, burnt offerings, etc.  Today's morning prayer, for example, has us praying a Canticle from the book of Daniel. Azariah (one of the kids thrown in the fiery furnace by wicked King whatshisname but miraculously preserved--Im sure you've seen the Veggie Tales version which I believes takes place in a chocolate bunny factory.) is making one of those beautiful prayers that both complains and mourns while at the same time praises and trusts God. Azariah bewails the fact that,

we have in our day no prince, prophet,or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. ( Daniel 3: 38  inChristian Prayer, Tuesday, Week IV)

Why does the Church want us to pray these lines? After all, the One perfect sacrifice has been made. And we can tap into it every day of the week at the nearest Catholic church. Even that one with the gurgling Home Depot garden pond on the side altar.  So what has Azariah's lament got to do with me?

This can be answered on many levels, because we are supposed to read and pray scripture on many levels. But the overarching principle, as I've mentioned in in other posts is, It's not about You. Because:

It's about Jesus. Never forget when praying psalms or scripture that these were the prayers He grew up with and prayed, both in the synagogue and at home. Picture Jesus praying these lines about having no holocaust or place to offer it. What was He thinking as He prayed that? Was He reflecting that He would be the holocaust and Calvary would ber the place of offering? Whenever you stop and picture Our Lord praying the verses that He would fulfill, it can't result in anything but a really profound, stopped-in-your-tracks insight into the greatness and wonder of our God. (at which point it is probably better to just go with the meditation rather than plow on ahead with the rest of the Office, if time constraints are forcing a choice between the two.)

It's about God's People (Us and Them)  These Old Testament folks  are our Fathers in Faith. So this is our history. Knowing that we have the One Sacrifice should make us appreciate all the more what Azariah was mourning about, all the more glad that the terrible lack he spoke of has been supplied with overabundance, and all the more longing  for our Jewish siblings to recognize their Savior. Also, since Azariah follows up with a statement of substituting a spirit of contrition and humility for the burnt offereing, we are seeing a kind of prophecy of our own participation in Christ's sacrifice. So this Jewish stuff in the end really is about You. And Me. And all of us.