Wednesday, 30 March 2016
The tragedy of Calvary. Part 62.
Now the sum is rising over the mountains of Edom to the east of the Dead Sea, and the watchers on Olivet once more blow their trumpets, the priests of the " Temple tower " at the southeast corner of the Temple take up the strain, blow loud blasts from their silver trumpets, and the sleeping city wakes. Placing his Phylacteries, every Jew standing beside his couch repeats the following prayer. In the Temple every person stands in his place while all together, at the sign from the Temple captain, they bow their heads and say :
"Blessed be Thou, O Jehovah our God, who through Thy word didst create the heavens and their whole host by the breath of Thy mouth. He appointed them a law and time, that they should not go back to their places. Joyful and gladly they fulfil their Creator's will, whose workings and whose works are truth. He spoke to the moon and commanded her, that she should renew her self in glory and in splendor for those whom he carried from their mother's breast; for they will one day be renewed like her, and glorify their Creator after the honor of His kingdom. Blessed be Thou, O Jehovah, who renewest the moon. (Talmud, Sanhedr. F. 42.)
While these preparations are being carried out, two priests, appointed for that purpose, ascend the marble stairway leading to the Holies to trim the seven-branched candlestick carved of solid gold standing within the Holy Place. Vested in cloth of gold with girdles binding up their seamless robes, with prayer-shawl on their shoulders hanging down like stoles, they first remove the old wicks made of pieces of worn-out priestly vestments, reciting at each lamp the words :
"Blessed art Thou, O Jehovah our God, who hath given command regarding the lights."
They trim the lamps, put in fresh olive oil, relighting each wick from the higher and central lamp, towards which all the others bent, this central lamp itself being bent to the west, towards the Holy of Holies called by Jewish writers " the Gold House," where God the Holy Ghost dwelled in former times in form of the Shekina. This higher and central lamp could be lighted only from the ever-burning fire on the great altar. They trimmed only five of the seven lamps, the other two being reserved for another service. Each of the numerous candles in various parts of the great Temple was now lighted with the prayer given above. The number of them was very great, and no service was ever held in Jewish home, synagogue, or Temple without burning beeswax candles - a custom which has been preserved in the Christian Church.
At a sign from the master of ceremonies "the captain of the Temple," the five hundred priests, decked in magnificent vestments, take their place before the great altar rising from Moriah's summit in the middle of the Priests Court, and the five hundred Levites, clothed in their proper vestments, gather on the steps of the great Nicanor Gate, each with his scroll of the Temple Liturgy in his hands, while Caiphas, adorned with magnificent pontifical robes God had prescribed for Aaron and his sons, stands in the midst of the priests with his twelve assistant priests beside him, six on either side with Annas his Sagan behind him (Talmud, Passover, p. 26) assisted by another priest, an heir-apparent for the pontiff's office, thus they began the grand Temple ceremonial.
The Jews always stood when praying, and that is why the celebrant stands at the altar when saying Mass. The custom of kneeling at prayer comes from Christ's example, who knelt during his Agony in the garden. (Luke xxii. 41) But during the prostrations they fell on their knees, and thirteen times during the service they prostrated themselves, as there were thirteen tables in the sanctuary, says the Talmud, and thirteen money-chests. But members of R. Gamaliel and R. Hananiah families made an extra prostration towards the Wood-chamber, for they had a tradition that one of their forefathers discovered that the Ark of the Covenant was hidden under it. (Shekalem, Cap. V, and begin of Cap. VI)
For that reason Jews cannot be induced to enter the Temple area lest they might trample over the place where the ark is hidden.
During the services in the Temple the Jews put the palms of their hands together before their breasts, the thumbs forming a cross. They held their feet together, their eyes cast down, as became suppliants in the presence of their God and King.