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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

2 Chronicles 29, 1-36

Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he came to the throne and he reigned for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah.

He did what Yahweh regards as right, just as his ancestor David had done.

In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the Temple of Yahweh, having repaired them.

He then brought in the priests and the Levites, assembled them in the eastern square,

and said to them, 'Listen to me, Levites! First sanctify yourselves, then sanctify the Temple of Yahweh, God of your ancestors, and remove the filth from the sanctuary.

Our ancestors were unfaithful, and did what is displeasing to Yahweh our God. They abandoned him, turned their faces away from Yahweh's home and turned their backs on him.

They even closed the doors of the portico, put out the lamps and stopped burning incense and making burnt offerings in the sanctuary of the God of Israel.

This was why Yahweh's anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem and he made them an object of terror, astonishment and derision, as you can see for yourselves.

Yes, our ancestors were put to the sword, and our sons, our daughters and our wives were taken captive because of this.

I am now determined to make a covenant with Yahweh, God of Israel, so that his fierce anger may turn away from us.

Now, my sons, do not be remiss, for Yahweh has chosen you to stand in his presence and serve him by conducting his worship and offering him incense.'

The Levites set about it -- Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah, from the Kohathites; Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallel, from the Merarites; Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah, from the Gershonites;

Shimri and Jeuel, of the sons of Elizaphan; Zechariah and Mattaniah of the sons of Asaph;

Jehiel and Shimei of the sons of Heman; Shemaiah and Uzziel of the sons of Jeduthun-

and gathered their brothers together; they sanctified themselves, and in obedience to the king's order, in accordance with the words of Yahweh, they came to purify the Temple of Yahweh.

The priests went into the inner part of the Temple of Yahweh to purify it. They brought all the unclean things which they found in Yahweh's sanctuary, out into the court of the Temple of Yahweh, where the Levites collected them and took them out to the Kidron Valley.

They began sanctifying on the first day of the first month, and by the eighth day of the month had reached Yahweh's portico; thus they took eight days to sanctify the Temple of Yahweh, and by the sixteenth day of the first month everything was finished.

They then waited on King Hezekiah and said, 'We have purified the whole Temple of Yahweh, the altar of burnt offering with all its equipment and the table for the loaves of permanent offering with all their equipment.

We have also got ready and sanctified all the equipment which King Ahaz in his infidelity had removed during his reign. It is all ready in front of Yahweh's altar.'

King Hezekiah lost no time but called the officials of the city together and went up to the Temple of Yahweh.

They brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs and seven goats as a sin sacrifice for the royal house, for the sanctuary and for Judah, and he ordered the Aaronite priests to offer them on Yahweh's altar.

So they slaughtered the bulls and the priests took the blood and sprinkled it over the altar. They then slaughtered the rams and sprinkled the blood over the altar; and they slaughtered the lambs and sprinkled the blood over the altar.

Then they brought the goats, the sacrifice for sin, before the king and the assembly who laid their hands on them.

The priests slaughtered them and made a sacrifice for sin with their blood at the altar to expiate for all Israel, since the king had ordered the burnt offering and the sacrifice for sin on behalf of all Israel.

He positioned the Levites in the Temple of Yahweh with cymbals, lyres and harps, in accordance with the ordinance of David, of Gad the king's seer and of Nathan the prophet, for such was Yahweh's order conveyed through his prophets.

When the Levites stood with David's musical instruments, and the priests with the trumpets,

Hezekiah ordered the burnt offering to be presented on the altar. And as the burnt offering began, the hymns of Yahweh began too, and the trumpets sounded, to the accompaniment of the instruments of David king of Israel,

while the whole congregation worshipped, the singers singing and the trumpeters sounding the trumpets, continuously until the burnt offering was over.

When the burnt offering was finished, the king and all those present with him fell to their knees and worshipped.

Then King Hezekiah and the officials told the Levites to sing praise to Yahweh in the words of David and Asaph the seer; and joyfully they sang their praises, then knelt in worship.

Hezekiah spoke again, 'Now that you have consecrated yourselves to Yahweh, come forward and bring thanksgiving sacrifices to the Temple of Yahweh.' Then the congregation brought thanksgiving sacrifices and those who were generous brought burnt offerings.

The number of burnt offerings brought by the congregation was seventy bulls, a hundred rams and two hundred lambs, all as burnt offerings for Yahweh.

The consecrated gifts amounted to six hundred bulls and three thousand sheep.

The priests were too few, however, and were unable to dismember all the burnt offerings, so their brothers, the Levites, helped them until the work was finished and the priests had sanctified themselves; for the Levites had been more conscientious about sanctifying themselves than the priests had.

In addition to the abundance of burnt offerings, there were also the fatty pieces for communion sacrifices and the libations for the burnt offerings. And so the liturgy of Yahweh's Temple was restored,

and Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over what God had provided for the people, since everything had happened so suddenly.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After the tragic reign of Ahaz, the Chronicler presents the long reign of Hezekiah. The narration is marked by a horizon that gradually widens from the temple to the city, the country, the world. Of the twenty-nine-year reign of Hezekiah, the most important is indeed the first part of the first year, to which the author devotes three chapters (2 Chr 29-31). Hezekiah is aware of the apostasy of his father and the consequent losses suffered by Judah. He wants to follow the example of David, whom he considers his real father: “He did what was right in the sight of the LORD, just as his ancestor David had done” (v. 2). Only Josiah will also earn a similar assessment (2 Chr 34:2). Hezekiah immediately restores the worship to the Lord. He first convenes a meeting of priests and Levites in the square to the east of the sanctuary, perhaps the one closest to the gate of Waters, outside the fence, and delivers a speech in which he first invites the priests and Levites to be purified so that they can then purify others. The sad situation of the people was brought about not only by the unfaithful behaviour of Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father. They too had all turned their backs on the Lord. The sad consequences were obvious to all. The king asked the entire nation to repent for the sin of apostasy, to renew the covenant with the Lord and to make a solemn vow. He therefore demands the priests and Levites to not be negligent in the liturgical service: they must be aware of being in the presence of God, and therefore be clean, free from sin. The next chapter is the meaning of purification through the prayer Hezekiah addresses to God: “The good Lord pardon all who set their hearts to seek God, the Lord the God of their ancestors, even though not in accordance with the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness” (2 Chr 30:19). The Chronicler then reveals the zeal of the Levites: they gathered, sanctified themselves, and went to purify the temple according to the order of the king, confirmed by the word of the Lord that could be read in the Scriptures. The entire operation was conducted and completed in sixteen days. Finally the temple, with the altar rebuilt, was reopened for worship. Immediately a sacrifice was offered on the new altar. The ritual also includes typical details of the celebration that takes place on the “Day of Atonement” (Lv 16). The impurity that had to be removed was not, however, outside the community and the royal family, but in the hearts of believers. Their hearts had to be cleansed from the sin of apostasy. The imposition of hands, by the king and the assembly, on animal sacrifices recalls the goat on which are symbolically transferred all the sins of the Israelites, the goat that in the “Day of Atonement” is driven away to the desert (see Lev 16:20-22). Hezekiah restores the cult as practiced in the time of David: “Thus the service of the house of the Lord was restored” (v. 35). The Chronicler here reflects the terminology that he had previously used: “Thus all the work of Solomon was accomplished from* the day the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid until the house of the Lord was finished completely” (2 Chr 8:16). With this renovation of the house of the Lord and of the liturgy, Hezekiah makes Solomon’s ideals come true. In less than three weeks the unbelievable had happened: a community, fallen into apostasy, was now with faith celebrating the Lord. Through prayer in the temple, a people faithful to the Lord was reborn.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets