The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
WHEN the trumpet sounded from Olivet's summit He rose from sleep in Lazarus's house, arid with His disciples wended His way back to the Holy City.
The Jews fasted Mondays and Thursdays, (Taanith, ii. 9.) as the Gemara says, and Christ and his Apostles took no break fast this morning.
"And in the morning when he returned into the city he was hungry. And seeing a fig-tree by the wayside, he came to it and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he said to it: 'May no fruit grow on thee henceforth forever.' And immediately the fig-tree withered away. And the disciples seeing it wondered. (Matt. xxi. 18-19.) The Fathers of the Church see in this withered tree a type of the Jewish people, called to the grace of the Gospel they spurned.
As the Lord and his little band are going over the western slopes of Olivet that day, to attend the Temple services, let us be there in spirit and see the magnificent forms of worship God, through Moses, established to foretell His death and the Christian Liturgy telling all the ages since that He came. Let us see that image of Calvary and of a pontifical high Mass.
Jewish writers and late investigations throw great light on the Temple prayers and ceremonial, which came from heaven. For speaking to Moses when founding the tabernacle God showed him the heavenly sanctuary and said: " Look and make it according to the pattern that was shown thee on the mound." (Exod. xxv. 40 ; xxvi. 30.)
The regular afternoon service of the day before took place at three o'clock as Josephus says. After that the people came each with his particular sacrifice for himself and family, his offerings and special devotions, and that took up most of the afternoon. The last sacrifices were immolated between the two vespers—between the gloaming and darkness, after which the great Temple gates were closed for the night, the labors of priests and Levites now ended that Sunday, and " night in the Temple " began.
As the westering sun is sinking below the mountains of Gibeon, the labors of that band of ministers ended and the new band or the " course," of the priests who are to take their places are coming up through the southern gate, from Ophel, the quarter of the city south of the Temple where the priests lived. They are under the leadership of the elders.
Those preparing to leave are passing out through another gate, after having put off their vestments, depositing them in the chamber reserved as a sacristy. They take off their sandals at the door, for the ministers wore nothing on their feet in the Temple. The Levites vested only in white linen till they obtained from Herod Agrippa II. the right to vest in priestly garments, which, as Josephus says, " was contrary to the laws of our country." (Antiq. xx., ix. 6.) As they parted priests and Levites saluted each other with the words:" He that hath made His name to dwell in this house may He cause love, brotherhood, peace, arid friendship to dwell among you," reminding us of St Paul's words to the Corinthians. (II. Cor. xiii. 13.)
As the priests of the course on duty that week departed the massive gates, requiring the united strength of twenty priests and Levites, were closed, locked, and the keys placed in the Beth-ha-Moked, " the House of Stoves," the guardroom of the priests, under a marble slab on which one of them slept.
Now they gather in the warm room, and pieces of the flesh of the sacrifices, the cakes of the proposition bread, and parts of the victims and things offered in sacrifice are brought, the table laid, and all sit clown to supper. They used to collect the tithes, sacrifices and animals already offered to God, and sell them back again to the worshipers, a proceeding from which they derived large profits.
The Levite Temple guards, stood at the different gates to prevent the defiled, the lepers, the Gentiles, etc., from entering. They were under an officer called the "captain of the Temple," known in Jewish writings as the " man of the Temple Mount." At night these guards were placed in twenty-four stations around the gates and courts, each guard consisting of ten men, making in all two hundred and forty Levites, with thirty priests over them. The Jews divided the night guards into three, but the Romans into four watches. These were the guards who later with the Roman soldiers watched around the sepulcher of the dead Christ.