HOLY TRINITY CELTIC ORTHODOX CHURCH
CELTIC ORTHODOX BENEDICTINE FATHERS
1703 Macomber Str., Toledo, Ohio 43606
STATEMENT OF FAITH IN THE CELTIC ORTHODOX CHURCH
The Nicene Creed should be called the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed since it was formally drawn up at the first ecumenical council in Nicaea (325) and at the second ecumenical council in Constantinople (381).
The word creed comes from the Latin credo which means “I believe.” In the Orthodox Church the creed is usually called The Symbol of Faith which means literally the “bringing together” and the “expression” or “confession” of the faith.
In the early Church there were many different forms of the Christian confession of faith; many different “creeds.” These creeds were always used originally in relation to baptism. Before being baptized a person had to state what he believed. The earliest Christian creed was probably the simple confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, i.e., the Messiah; and that the Christ is Lord. By publicly confessing this belief, the person could be baptized into Christ, dying and rising with Him into the New Life of the Kingdom of God in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
As time passed different places had different creedal statements, all professing the identical faith, yet using different forms and expressions, with different degrees of detail and emphasis. These creedal forms usually became more detailed and elaborate in those areas where questions about the faith had arisen and heresies had developed.
In the fourth century a great controversy developed in Christendom about the nature of the Son of God (also called in the Scripture the Word or “Logos”). Some said that the Son of God is a creature like everything else made by God. Others contended that the Son of God is eternal, divine, and uncreated. Many councils met and made many statements of faith about the nature of the Son of God. The controversy raged throughout the entire Christian world.
It was the definition of the council, which the Emperor Constantine called in the city of Nicaea in the year 325, which was ultimately accepted by the Orthodox Church as the proper Symbol of Faith. This council is now called the first ecumenical council, and this is what it
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and
earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the
Father before all ages. Light of Light; true God of true God;
begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all
things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down
from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin
Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius
Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose
again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and
sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with
glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no
Following the controversy about the Son of God, the Divine Word, and essentially connected with it, was the dispute about the Holy Spirit. The following definition of the Council in Constantinople in 381, which has come to be known as the second ecumenical council was added to the Nicene statement:
And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life,
who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son
together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. In
one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism
for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
This whole Symbol of Faith was ultimately adopted throughout the entire Church. It was put into the first person form “I believe” and used for the formal and official confession of faith made by a person (or his sponsor-godparent) at his baptism. It is also used as the formal
statement of faith by a non-Orthodox Christian entering the communion of the Orthodox Church. In the same way the creed became part of the life of Orthodox Christians and an essential element of the Divine Liturgy of the Mass in the Orthodox Church at which each person formally and officially accepts and renews his baptism and membership in the church. The Symbol of Faith is the only part of the liturgy which is in the first person. All other songs and prayers of the liturgy are plural, beginning with “we”. Only the creedal
statement begins with “I.” This is because faith is at first personal, and only then corporate and communal.
To be an Orthodox Christian is to affirm the Orthodox Christian faith—not merely the words, but the essential meaning of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol of faith. It means as well to affirm all that this statement implies, and all that has been expressly developed from it and built upon it in the history of the Orthodox Church over the centuries down to the present day.
We know for a fact that the Holy Orthodox and catholic Church is the authentic Church of Christ, the continuation of the early Church, the New Testament Church, the Church of the Ecumenical Councils, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. For the Orthodox
Christian, God is the object of our faith, first and foremost, and nothing supersedes this, as is clear in our statement of faith, the historic Nicene Creed, the Symbol of faith.
The Nicene Creed
"I believe in One God, (Deuteronomy 6:4; St. Mark 12:29, 12:32;
Ephesians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6)
The Father Almighty (Genesis 17:1-8; Exodus 6:3; St. Matthew 6:9;
Ephesians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 6:18)
Maker of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1; Job 38:1-30)
And of all things visible and invisible (Colossians 1:15-16; St. John
1:3; Hebrews 11:3; Revelation 4:11)
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ (St. John 20:28; Acts 11:17, 16:31; 1
Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:5)
The Son of God, the Only-Begotten (St. Matthew 3:17, 14:33, 16:16; St.
John 1:14, 3:16)
Begotten of the Father before all ages (Psalm 2:7; St. John 1:1-2)
Light of Light (St. John 1:4, 1:9, 8:12; Psalm 27:1; St. Matthew 17:2,
5; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Hebrews 1:3; 1 John 1:5)
True God of True God (St. John 1:1-2, 17:1-5; 1 John 5:20)
Begotten, not made (St. John 1:1-2, 16:28, 1:18)
Of one essence with the Father (St. John 10:30)
By whom all things were made (Hebrews 1:1-2, 10; St. John 1:3, 1:10;
Colossians 1:16; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 11:36)
Who for us men and for our salvation (1 Timothy 2:4-5; St. Matthew 1:2;
1 Thessalonians 5:9; Colossians 1:13-14)
Came down from heaven (St. John 3:13, 3:31, 6:33-35, 38)
And was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary (St. Luke 1:34-39)
And became man (St. John 1:14; Hebrews 2:14)
And He was crucified for us (St. Mark 15:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter
under Pontius Pilate (St. Mark 15:15)
And suffered, died (St. Mark 8:31; St. Matthew 27:50)
And was buried (St. Luke 23:53; 1 Corinthians 15:4; St. Matthew 27:59-60)
And He rose again on the third day (St. Mark 9:31, 16:9; Acts 10:40; 1
According to the Scriptures (St. Luke 24:1, 45-46; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
And ascended into heaven (St. Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-10; St. Mark 16:19)
And sits at the right hand of the Father (St. Mark 16:19; Acts 7:55;
St. Luke 22:69)
And He will come again with glory ( St. Matthew 24:27; St. Mark 13:26;
St. John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:17)
To judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:1; St. Matthew
16:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 4:5)
His Kingdom shall have no end (2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:8)
And I believe in the Holy Spirit (St. John 14:26; Acts 1:8)
The Lord and Giver of Life (Acts 5:3-4; Genesis 1:2; St. John 6:63; 2
Who proceeds from the Father (john 15:26)
Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified
(St. Matthew 3:16-17)
Who spoke through the prophets ( 1 Samuel 19:20; Ezekiel 11:5; 1 Peter
1:10-11; Ephesians 3:5)
And I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church (St. Matthew
16:18, 28:19; 1 Peter 25:9; Ephesians 1:4, 2:19-22,4:4,5:27; Acts 1:8,
2:42; St. Mark 16:15; Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 10:17)
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins (Ephesians 4:5;
Galatians 3:27; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 2:12-13; Acts 22:16)
I look for the resurrection of the dead (St. John 11:24; 1 Corinthians
15:12-49; Romans 6:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:16)
And the life of the world to come. (St. Mark 10:29-30; 2 Peter 3:13;
All that is taught and believed by the Celtic Orthodox Church is found
in Sacred Scripture or flows naturally from the Word of God. We define
Sacred Tradition as the Scriptures lived out in the life of the church.
We do not add to or subtract from the Word of God. Our view of Sacred
Scripture is expressed in these quotations from the early Church
THE ROLE OF THE BIBLE IN THE CELTIC ORTHODOX CHURCH
Athanasius; Against the Heathen, I:3.
The holy and inspired Scriptures are fully sufficient for the
proclamation of the truth.
Athanasius, De Synodis.
Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded
Councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above
John Chrysostom, Homily 8 On Repentance and the Church, p. 118, vol. 96
Regarding the things I say, I should supply even the proofs, so I will
not seem to rely on my own opinions, but rather, prove them with
Scripture, so that the matter will remain certain and steadfast.
Gregory of Nyssa, On the Soul and the Resurrection.
We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we
please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every
tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone
which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.
Basil, The Morals, p. 204, vol 9 TFOTC
What is the mark of a faithful soul? To be in these dispositions of full
acceptance on the authority of the words of Scripture, not venturing to
reject anything nor making additions. For, if ‘all that is not of faith
is sin’ as the Apostle says, and ‘faith cometh by hearing and hearing by
the Word of God,’ everything outside Holy Scripture, not being of faith,
Basil, On the Holy Spirit, 7.
We are not content simply because this is the tradition of the Fathers.
What is important is that the Fathers followed the meaning of the Scripture.
Basil, Moralia, 72:1.
The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by
teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject
that which is foreign.
Augustine, Contra litteras Petiliani, Bk 3, ch. 6.
If anyone preaches either concerning Christ or concerning His church or
concerning any other matter which pertains to our faith and life; I will
not say, if we, but what Paul adds, if an angel from heaven should
preach to you anything besides what you have received in the Scriptures
of the Law and of the Gospels, let him be anathema.
Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, IV:17.
For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a
casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must
we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to
me, who tell you these things, give not absolute credence, unless you
receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine
Scriptures. For this salvation which we believe depends not on ingenious
reasoning, but on demonstration of the Holy Scriptures.
Augustine, De Unitate Ecclesiae, 10.
Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if their opinion is against
the canonical Scriptures of God.
Augustine, De Unitate Ecclesiae, 3.
Whatever they may adduce, and wherever they may quote from, let us
rather, if we are His sheep, hear the voice of our Shepherd. Therefore
let us search for the church in the sacred canonical Scriptures.
Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, II, 9.
For among the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be
found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life.
Augustine, De Bono Viduitatis.
What more shall I teach you than what we read in the apostles? For Holy
Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare be wiser than we
ought. Therefore I should not teach you anything else except to expound
to you the words of the Teacher.
Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 9.
There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy
Scriptures, and from no other source… so all of us who wish to practice
piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than
the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare,
at these let us look; and whatever things they teach, these let us learn.
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly
believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you
have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct
you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is
inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for
correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may
be complete, equipped for every good work." II Timothy 3:14-17
ANASTASIUS OF ANTIOCH
"It is manifest that those things are not to be inquired into, which
Scripture has passed over into silence. For the Holy Spirit has
dispensed and administered to us all things which conduce to our profit"
Anagog Contemp in Hexem lib 8 init
"...for the tokens of truth are more exact as drawn from Scripture,
than from other sources..." De Decretis 31
"The holy and inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the
preaching of the Truth" Contra Gentiles 1,1
"These [canonical] books are the fountains of salvation, so that he who
thirsts may be satisfied with the oracles contained in them: in these
alone the school of piety preaches the Gospel; let no man add to or take
away from them." Festal Letters 39
"For they were spoken and written by God" De Incarnatione 56
"...the Scriptures...will learn from them more completely and clearly
the exact detail of what we said" ibid 56
"Scripture is of all things most sufficient for us" Ad Epis Aeg 4
"Divine Scripture is sufficient above all things" De Synodis 6
ANTONY OF EGYPT
"The Scriptures are enough for instruction" Vita S. Antoni 16
"What more shall I teach you than what we read in the Apostle? For Holy
Scripture fixes the rule for our doctrine, lest we dare to be wiser than
we ought" De Bono Viduitatis 2
"Let us therefore give in...to the authority of the Holy Scriptures"
De Peccatorum 33
"Let us search for the Church in the Sacred Scriptures" Epis 105
"[H]e will find there in much greater abundance things that are to be
found nowhere else, but can be learnt only in the wonderful sublimity
and wonderful simplicity of the Scriptures" De Doctr Christ 2,42,63
"It believes also the Holy Scriptures, old and new, which we call
canonical, and which are the source of the faith by which the just
lives..." De Civ Dei 19,18
BASIL THE GREAT
"The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by
teachers and accept that which agrees with the Scriptures but reject
what is foreign" Moralia 72,1
"Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on
whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in
favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth" Epis Ad Eustathius
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA
"How can we prove and certify as true something which Sacred Scripture
does not attest?" Glaphyra on Genesis PG 69,53c
CYRIL OF JERUSALEM
"In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, not the least
part may be handed on without the Holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray
by winning words and clever arguments. Even to me, who tell you these
things, do not give ready belief, unless you receive from the Holy
Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce. The salvation in
which we believe is not proved from clever reasoning, but from the Holy
Scriptures." Catechetical Lectures 4,17
"...that you also, by ranging over the Sacred Scriptures, may lay hold
of salvation for yourself, and, sated with the Scriptures, you may say:
'How sweet to my palate are your promises, sweeter than honey to my
mouth!' [citing Psalm 118(119):103]" ibid 9,13
"Now do not fix your attention on any skill of language on my part, for
perhaps you may be deceived; unless you get the testimony of the
prophets on each point, do not believe what is said. Unless you learn
from the Holy Scriptures regarding the Virgin, the place, the time, the
manner [concerning the Incarnation], 'do not receive the witness of man'
[citing John 5:34]." ibid 12,5
"'He was buried, and He rose again the third day, according to the
Scriptures' [1 Cor 15:4]. An Apostle has sent us back to the testimony
of the Scriptures; from the same source we will do well to discover the
hope of our salvation." ibid 14,2
"Let us assert of the Holy Spirit, therefore, only what is written; let
us not busy ourselves about what is not written. The Holy Spirit has
authored the Scriptures; He has spoken of Himself all that He wished, or
all that we could grasp; let us confine ourselves to what He has said,
for it is reckless to do otherwise." ibid 16,2
"Therefore I beg you all that you give up what appeals to this one or
that one and that you address all these questions concerning these
things to the Scriptures." Homily 13 on 2 Corinthians
"If anything is said without Scripture, the thinking of the hearers
limps. But where the testimony proceeds from the divinely given
Scripture, it confirms both the speech of the preacher and the soul of
the hearer." Commenting on Psalm 95
"But when Scripture wants to teach us something like that, it
interprets itself and does not permit the hearer to err. I therefore beg
and entreat that we close our ears to all these things and follow the
canon of the Holy Scripture exactly." Homily 13 on Genesis
"As a trusty door, Scripture shuts out heretics, securing us from
error..." Joann 58
"Everything in the divine Scriptures is clear and straightforward; they
inform us about all that is necessary" Epis 2 ad Thess 3,4
"[B]eing most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect,
since they were spoken by the Word of God and by His Spirit" *Against
"The Apostles at that time first preached the Gospel but later by the
will of God, they delivered it to us in the Scriptures, that it might be
the foundation and pillar of our faith" ibid 3,1,1
"Since, therefore, the tradition from the Apostles does thus exist in
the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural
proof furnished by those Apostles who did also write the Gospel, in
which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our
Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, and that no lie is in Him" ibid 3,5,1
"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ" *In Isaiah Prologue
"It is necessary to take the Holy Scriptures as witnesses; for our
comments and statements without these witnesses are not trustworthy" In
"For he knows that Scripture, as a whole, is God's one perfect and
complete instrument, giving forth, to those who wish to learn its one
saving music..." In Matt tom 2
"If it is nowhere written, then let it fear the woe which impends on
all who add to or take away from the written word" Ad Hermogenes 22
"It is right that His conduct be investigated according to the rule of
Scripture" Ad Marcion 3,17
THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH
"It would be acting according to demonic inspiration to follow the
thinking of the human mind and to think there could be anything divine
apart from the authority of the Scriptures" Pascal Letter of 401
THE SEPTUAGINT TEXT OF SCRIPTURE, USED IN THE
ORTHODOX CHURCH, IS OLDER THAN THE JEWISH TORAH,
THE PROTESTANT BIBLE OR THE CATHOLIC BIBLE.
THE SEPTUAGINT TEXT WAS THE SCRIPTURE TEXT USED
BY CHRIST, THE APOSTLES AND TH EARLY CHURCH
HOLY ORTHODOXY IS A EUCHARISTIC COMMUNITY OF FAITH
JESUS IS PHYSICALLY ALIVE IN THE EUCHARIST
CONSUBSTANTIAL WITH THE ELEMENTS
OF BREAD AND WINE
The doctrine of the Eucharist has been held from the very earliest days of the Church. For the first 800 years of Christianity, there was no doubt regarding the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Here is a sample of writings from the fathers of the early Church illustrating this.
Paul writing in 1 Cor 10:15-16
"I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?"
Paul writing in 1 Cor 11:23-30
"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself."
Ignatius of Antioch, 110 AD
"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again... Let that be considered a valid Eucharist, which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church." (Epistle to the Smyreans)
"Take heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood; one altar; as there is one bishop, along with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever you do, you may do it according to [the will of] God." (Epistle to the Philadelphians)
Justin Martyr, 150 AD
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus." (First Apology of Justin)
Irenaeus of Lyons, 190 AD
"Christ has declared the cup... to be his own Blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own Body, from which he gives increase to our bodies. If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?" (Against Heresies Book V)
"Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" (Mt. 26:26-28)
The Old Testament
Tabernacle Sacrifice - Bread of the Presence
The Bread of the Presence, in the ancient Tabernacle and later in the Temple, 1 Kgs 7:48 prefigured Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
In the Tabernacle God commanded Moses, Ex 25:8 "Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst." In the sanctuary, in the ark of the covenant, God told Moses, Ex 25:22 "There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you..." God added, Ex 25:30 "You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me always." Jesus told us, Mt 28:20 "I am with you always."
Abimelech the priest gave David this sacred bread. 1 Sam 21:6 "So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence." Jesus taught us that it was for all His disciples. Mt 12:1 "At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck ears of grain and to eat. ... [Jesus] said to them, 'Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence ... I tell you, something greater than the temple is here."
Jesus showed us what was greater than the Temple. Lk 22:19 "He took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'"
Blood of the Lamb
During Moses' time the priests sacrificed in the Tabernacle, a portable house of God in the wilderness. After Solomon built the First Temple, it became the place of sacrifice. The highest form of Hebrew worship was sacrifice, not prayer alone, just as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the highest form of Orthodox worship. A priest is one who offers sacrifice. The Orthodox priest is the counterpart not of the rabbi, but of the ancient Jewish priest who offered bloody sacrifices. The deacon, who reads the Gospel, is the rabbi's counterpart.
The Old Testament sacrifice of a lamb, as opposed to any other animal, was important. The lamb did not resist, run away, or even cry out. Isaiah had foretold that the Lamb of God would do the same, Is 53:7 "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."
The Jewish priests, before sacrificing the lamb, always asked, "Do you love this lamb?" If the family didn't love the lamb there would be no sacrifice. Jesus three times asked Peter, Jn 21:15 "Do you love Me?" Jesus allowed Peter to replace his triple denial with a triple affirmation that he did indeed love the Sacrificed Lamb.
The family would place the lamb into the hands of the priest. When we give something to God we place it in His hands. Jesus' last words on the Cross were, Lk 23:46 "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit!"
The priest and the head of the family then prayed together that God would accept the blood of the innocent lamb for the sins of that family for the entire year, just as the Lamb of God shed His Blood to redeem the sins of all His human family. In our Liturgy the priest says, "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father."
The head of household then cut the lamb's throat with a sharp bronze knife while the priest caught the lamb's blood in a large bronze bowl. The priest then made seven complete trips around the altar, sprinkling the blood from the lamb on each of the four "horns." Then he took the lamb's body and placed it on the altar and started the ritual fire. With a big fire and a small lamb, the sacrifice was over quickly. The smoke rose from the altar. If the wind blew the smoke away and dispersed it, the priest told the family that its offer was rejected, and that it should repent and come back the following year. But if the smoke drifted upward, higher and higher until it disappeared from view, the priest told the family that God had accepted the sacrifice.
Before the great tabernacle sacrifice, Jewish priests washed their hands in a bronze laver, or basin. Ps 26:6 "I wash my hands in innocence, and go about Thy altar, O Lord." Today the Catholic priest washes his hands saying inaudibly, Ps 51:2 "Lord, wash away my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin."
The first priest attended at a great golden lampstand with seven oil lamps, called a menorah. It was dark in the tabernacle, and the menorah gave light.
The second priest attended at the table of showbread. God had commanded Lv 24:5 that the Jewish priests, from Aaron forward, place twelve loaves of bread on a golden table "before the Lord." On each sabbath, the priests ate the bread which had been set in place on the preceding sabbath. This bread was to be eaten by the priests in a sacred place since it was Lv 24:9 "most holy" among the offerings to the Lord. God had said, Ex 23:18 "You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread." During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the Orthodox priest consecrates unleavened bread on the altar which becomes Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, and is consumed by the royal priesthood as the most holy offering in the New and Everlasting Covenant.
The third priest served at the altar of incense. It looked like a small altar of sacrifice, with the same four horns. On it was a bronze laver. The priest would take a red-hot burning ember from the fire in which the lamb had been sacrificed, put it in the basin, and pour some incense on it, that his prayers might have a fragrant scent and go straight up to God. Orthodox Priests and Bishops spread incense about the altar as an act of reverence and purification. The smoke rising to heaven represents our own desire to have our prayers ascend heavenward in God's sight. Ps 141:2 "Let my prayer be counted as incense before Thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice."
God told Moses to place the Torah in the Ark of the Covenant, which in turn was placed within a tabernacle. God commanded, Ex 27:20 "You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may be set up to burn continually." All was placed within the tabernacle. By night, there was always a fire over the tabernacle, Ex 40:38 This began the idea of an eternal lamp beside the Jewish tabernacle. A thousand years later the Temple lamp miraculously continued to shine for eight days with only one day's supply of oil. The Celtic Orthodox Church continues this ancient Israelite tradition by placing a lighted candle beside the tabernacle in which the consecrated Hosts repose.
In the center of the tabernacle was a room called the Holy of Holies. Once a year the cohen gadol, the high priest, alone would enter that room. In it was the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the ark were the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments, a golden bowl of manna, and the five Torah scrolls. The Torah was a witness against the Israelites, Dt 31:26 but above it all was God's solid gold mercy seat, with a crown and two cherubim kneeling in prayer. Above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim, was a brilliant light, the shining glory of God. Ex 25:22 "From above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you." When the priest saw that light he took a huge cup of blood and sprinkled it until it was empty. Jewish tradition holds that not one drop of the blood of sacrifice ever touched the mercy seat or the cherubim; it all went into the bright light of God's glory. Jesus said, Jn 8:12 "I am the light of the world." Jesus' covenant family gave Him their imperfect sacrifices, and He gave them His perfect sacrifice.
The Todah Sacrifice
The ancient Jews had a special ritual meal called the Todah (Hebrew: thanks) (pronounce: Taw-DAH). Although the Todah sacrificed an animal, it was greater than other animal sacrifices because it added the suffering of one's own life. David wrote, Ps 40:6,8 "Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required. … I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy law is within my heart." Again, David wrote, Ps 51:17 "The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit." And again, Ps 69:30 "I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs." Isaiah spoke the words of God, Is 1:11 "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams." God called instead for a baptism: Is 1:16 "Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from My eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good."
The seventy elders who went up with Moses to see God offered the Todah: Ex 24:11 "They beheld God, and ate and drank." Twelve centuries later, twelve apostles beheld God, and ate and drank as Jesus prepared to offer His Todah sacrifice: Lk 22:19 "He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it…" From the beginning, Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity has been called Holy Eucharist (Greek: eucharistia, thanksgiving).
The ancient rabbis believed that when the Messiah would come all sacrifices except the Todah would cease, but the Todah would continue for all eternity. In 70 AD the Temple fell to earth and all of the bloody animal sacrifices stopped. Only the Todah remains, the eucharistia, the Final Sacrifice at which the last words spoken are Todah l'Adonai, "Thanks be to God."
Jesus was pre-figured in the original Passover, when God commanded that Moses tell the Israelites, Ex 12:5-6 "Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male … the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening," as Jesus the Lamb of God was crucified in dim light. Mt 27:45 God commanded, Ex 12:8 "They shall eat the flesh that night," and told Moses, Ex 12:12 "I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt." But He promised, Ex 12:13 "The blood shall be a sign for you … when I see the blood, I will pass over you." Most of us know that the original Passover pre-figured the Body and Blood of the crucified Lamb. But there is more to the Passover story.
Pharaoh commanded the death of every Hebrew male infant in Egypt, Ex 1:22 but death passed over Moses. Ex 2:5-10 Twelve centuries later, before Herod commanded the death of every Hebrew male infant in Bethlehem, Mt 2:13 death passed also over Jesus.
The Jewish celebration of Passover has from the beginning been an experience of exile and return, as its participants re-live the experience of the desert and encounter with God. After Jesus was crucified the apostles also experienced a sense of exile in the desert followed by a transforming encounter with God. In this way Jesus is spiritually present in the entire Seder.
The Seder table is different in many ways from the Jewish table setting on all other nights, as the ma nishtano acknowledges. God chose a young Jewish girl, a virgin who lived in Nazareth, to begin the rest of the story. Mary began her own Seder each year as Jews have since time immemorial, by lighting candles to give festive light to the table. Mary also gave us Jesus, the Jn 8:12 light of the world. Jesus has been at every Seder from the first one to this very day, spiritually present in the bread, wine, and lamb.
John, chapter 6: Sermon of the Bread of Life:
"Let me solemnly assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and
drink his blood, you have no life in you.
54- Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
55-For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink..." (John 6:53-55)
Chapter 6 of St. John has the sixth treasure of the Gospel, the Sermon of the Bread of Life, where Jesus promises us our daily bread, to live on earth this beautiful life in Christ as a wedding feast, to have eternal life, and to help others to do so.
This Sermon was the announcement of the Eucharist, we have to eat his flesh and drink his own blood, the most substantial Sermon of Jesus... but it was the greatest scandal in the life of Jesus, the multitudes and the 72 disciples left him thinking he was crazy, to eat his flesh and drink his blood?!... and not only that, here Jesus signed his death sentence, because "after this Jesus went about in Galilee; he did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him" (7:1)... and the next time he went to Judea they killed him!... on a Cross!.. they were not bluffing.
The chapter starts with two of the seven miracles of the Gospel: The multiplication of the seven barley loaves and two fish, to feed 5,000 people (6:1-14), and Jesus walking on water (6:18:21)... both of them show us the power of Jesus on nature, preparing us for the announcement of the greatest miracle on nature, the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.
The multitudes were so impressed with the multiplication of the bread and fishes that they wanted to make him a king!, but Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself (6:15).
The next day, when they found him, they asked him: "What must we do to perform the the works of God? Jesus answered to them: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent" (6:28)... and he will repeat it four times in this chapter, "This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day" (6:40, 28, 35, 47)... four times repeats it, to prepare us for the great announcement we have to believe and do, to eat his flesh and drink his blood!... as hard as it sounds!... just as Jesus will repeat it 8 times!.
Now they ask Jesus for a "sign", as the "manna" was a sign for their ancestors, for 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus tells them that it is the Father who gives the bread from heaven, or the bread of life. So they said to Jesus: "Sir, give us this Bread of Heaven always" (6:30-34).
And here it comes, the Sermon of the Bread of Life, or the Bread of Heaven, in John 6:35-69:
"Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty" (6:35). Then the Jews murmured about him because he said "I am the bread of life", and they said, ""Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph?... and then the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (6:35-2)... it is for real!... we have to eat his flesh!... he is crazy!... and the multitudes of 5000 men went away taking Jesus for a mad-man...
... And when the multitudes were disputing this and going away, Jesus did not take a word out of it, rather, he repeats 6 times to them: "Very truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them...", read it by yourself in full in 6:52-58, repeats it 6 times in different ways!... it is real... really real!...