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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

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Hebrews 9, 1-14

The first covenant also had its laws governing worship and its sanctuary, a sanctuary on this earth.

There was a tent which comprised two compartments: the first, in which the lamp-stand, the table and the loaves of permanent offering were kept, was called the Holy Place;

then beyond the second veil, a second compartment which was called the Holy of Holies

to which belonged the gold altar of incense, and the ark of the covenant, plated all over with gold. In this were kept the gold jar containing the manna, Aaron's branch that grew the buds, and the tables of the covenant.

On top of it were the glorious winged creatures, overshadowing the throne of mercy. This is not the time to go into detail about this.

Under these provisions, priests go regularly into the outer tent to carry out their acts of worship,

but the second tent is entered only once a year, and then only by the high priest who takes in the blood to make an offering for his own and the people's faults of inadvertence.

By this, the Holy Spirit means us to see that as long as the old tent stands, the way into the holy place is not opened up;

it is a symbol for this present time. None of the gifts and sacrifices offered under these regulations can possibly bring any worshipper to perfection in his conscience;

they are rules about outward life, connected with food and drink and washing at various times, which are in force only until the time comes to set things right.

But now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come. He has passed through the greater, the more perfect tent, not made by human hands, that is, not of this created order;

and he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won an eternal redemption.

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkled on those who have incurred defilement, may restore their bodily purity.

How much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal Spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Letter continues the reflection on the new meaning of the high priesthood of Jesus compared to the old one. In the first verses he describes, albeit briefly, the tabernacle of the covenant prepared by Moses according to the instructions he had received on the mountain (8:5). What happened in the first covenant prefigured what God would realise in its fullness with Jesus. The tabernacle of God’s presence in fact already tells us something also of the new and future covenant that will be realised in the new “temple”: Jesus. And Jesus himself affirms that he has not come to abolish but to fulfil the law. The tent of the old covenant was divided into two parts: “the Holy Place” and then the “Holy of Holies” into which only the high priest entered one time each year. The Letter accentuates the separation between these two parts: in the “Holy Place” are found the simple things proper to everyday life, that is, the lamp stand, the table and the bread of the Presence, while the “Holy of Holies” is a dwelling with no object, which refers to the holiness of God. The author sees in the first tent, the image of the earth, while in the Holy of Holies that of heaven. Even among the ministers there was a distinction: all the priests were able to enter in the first tent, while solely the high priest and only once a year was allowed into the second, after having offered a blood sacrifice and having sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat. This ritual shows that “the way into the sanctuary [of heaven] has not yet been disclosed.” Only with Jesus is there a complete change of the priesthood and the law (7:12). The author has so far claimed that Jesus, made high priest, has penetrated the heavens (4:14) and has offered himself once and for all (7:27); then took his place at the right hand of the throne of majesty (8:1) and has become minister of the true tabernacle erected by God and not by human being (8:2). He brings “real” gifts (see l0:1), that is he realises the promises of the new covenant (8:6), which are the remission of sins and definitive union with God. He is able to procure these goods because he exercises his priestly ministry, not in the narrow space of the terrestrial tabernacle, but in “the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation).” And, as High Priest, he could not enter the Holy of Holies “without taking the blood” (9:7). He entered with his blood, but not in the old way, with that of animals. Jesus entered into the sanctuary with his own blood. The disciples, welcomed into this mystery of salvation, already now enter with Him into the Holy of Holies.

Memory of the Church