The Passover Exodus

April 6, 2011 Length: 41:54

In this important episode, Fr. Thomas shows how the Passover Exodus pre-figures the work of Christ and how that relates to our worship today.

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This is the seventh in our series on Worship in Spirit and Truth, the worship in the New Testament, and very particularly a commentary on the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church, the two Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom [and] St. Basil the Great. I will be commenting on these two liturgical services, eucharistic services, in great detail as this series of podcasts continues, but today what we want to do is to continue in our reflection on the prefigurations and the patterns of this ultimate worship in spirit and truth that we find in the old covenant. We discussed already Cain and Abel and the sacrifice of Abel, acceptable to God, Cain murdering Abel. We discussed Noah and the sacrifices and the worship in the covenant of Noah. We discussed Abraham, and how just about everything in the new covenant in Christ is prefigured and patterned in Abraham, in the life of Abraham and the worship of Abraham, which we discussed already.

So today what we would like to do is to discuss the Passover Exodus of Moses, the deliverance from Egypt, the slavery in Egypt, and God freeing his people, God rescuing his people, saving them, and bringing them into the desert, and then through the desert into the land of promise, the land flowing with milk and honey, which actually Moses does not enter, but it is Joshua, whose name is Jesus, prefiguring our Lord Jesus in the new covenant, Joshua with Caleb crosses the Jordan and enters into the promised land, the land that was promised. So what we want to look at today is how the Passover Exodus and, after the Passover Exodus, the law of Moses, the law given by God to Moses, how in that law and in the practices of the law we have very remarkable, wonderful, marvelous prefigurations and patterns, shadows, of the fullness which will come in Christ and will be finally, fully, perfectly completed in Christ’s death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead, his entrance into the holy of holies in heaven not made by hands, there to intercede on our behalf until he comes again in glory at the end of the ages.

We cannot understand the Divine Liturgy of the Christian Church, the eucharistic worship of the Christian Church, the worship in spirit and truth, without understanding these figures and shadows and prefigurations. Those are the words that are used. In Greek you have the “shadow,” the skia. St. Paul uses that expression in the letter to the Hebrews—very important on this topic today—and in [the] Colossian letter. You have the other term, hypodeigmata, the patterns, also used in the letter to the Hebrews, the copies. Even the word paravolē is used, that the old covenant is a parable, a paravolē that then is fulfilled in the reality, the substance, or, as it’s called in [the] letter to the Hebrews, the body, the sōma, that actually is completed in Christ when he offers his own body, his own blood, to God the Father on the cross, which is the very heart of New Testamental worship in spirit and in truth.

Let’s now take a look at the Passover Exodus. I think most of us are familiar with the story. Joseph, who himself is a prefiguration of Jesus, Joseph, the [next-]youngest of the children of Israel—Israel is the name that is given to Jacob; Jacob’s name is changed to Israel, he has the twelve sons, they produce the twelve tribes of Israel, and the [next-]youngest son is Joseph. And we know the story, how Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, sold for silver, preached to the father as if he were dead; his bloody robe is brought to the father, but in fact he’s been sold, but he’s treated as dead; he’s put into a pit. The brother who actually sells him, his name is Judas, Judah; it’s a prefiguration also. But then Joseph doesn’t die. He becomes the king in Egypt; he rules over the whole of the Egyptian empire in the place of Pharaoh. He resists the sexual advances of the wife of Pharaoh. He maintains his purity. He marries Aseneth, an Egyptian woman, and he ends up to be like a king. Then he saves the tribes; he saves the brothers in the time of famine. All of this is prefiguring how Christ saves his brothers and how Christ is not dead, although he was put into a pit and thought to be dead, but in fact he rises and is glorified, not as a king in Egypt but as the king over the whole universe, the king in the kingdom of God.

So we know that the people of God were in Egypt, but then we know also, as Scripture says, that a pharaoh arose “who knew not Joseph,” and then subjugated the Hebrew people to slavery. He was fearful that they were getting too populous and too strong and taking over, and then he makes a decree that the male children of the Hebrew women are to be put to death; they are to be killed. Of course, St. Matthew’s gospel uses this as a prefiguration of how Herod tried to kill Jesus when he was the son, because Jesus in the new covenant, the final covenant, is the new and eternal Moses, the one who brings the law of God to the world and who brings the ultimate deliverance, not just from Egypt but from death to life, from earth to heaven.

All of this is prefiguring the New Testament. It’s prefiguring Christ. But we know that when the pharaoh says that the boys have to be killed, Moses is saved; he’s raised in pharaoh’s house like pharaoh’s own child. Then Moses has to escape because he kills an Egyptian who was beating up and abusing the Hebrew people. And then we know the story that God appears to Moses in the burning bush. God gives Moses the new name. He says: Before you called me El Shaddai, the Most High God, or the El Elyon; now you will call me Yahweh, which means I will be who I will be, I will cause to be what I will cause to be, I will do what I will do, I am who I am, and that becomes the name of God himself, which is always pronounced in worship as Adonai or the Lord.

Then God becomes the Lord, Theos Kyrios, as it says in the Greek Old Testament. The Lord is God; Yahweh is God. This is the God who raises up Moses to deliver the people from the slavery of Egypt to lead them across the sea, to lead them into the desert, to save and preserve them in the desert, to give them the law on Sinai or Horeb, the two different titles for the same place in Scripture. And then ultimately, to lead them through the desert so that Joshua (Jesus) could cross the Jordan and lead them into the promised land, and that they would have in the desert all the laws of God very particularly for our purposes today, the law of worship, all the laws of worship: liturgical, temple, sacrificial, purifying, forgiving, praising, glorifying worship. All of that is given in the Passover Exodus.

In the Scripture, this would of course be the book of Exodus, but then you also have Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Those would be four of the five books of the Torah, the Pentateuch. You have these five books, but in Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, you have the prefigurations of what we’re interested in today, the prefigurations and the patterns for the worship of God, the true worship of God that reaches its perfection in the final covenant in the body and blood of Christ.

The Passover Exodus. We know the story. Moses, after encountering God in the bush that’s burning and not consumed, the ascent into Egypt to lead the people out, the plagues come upon the people, Moses is entreating that pharaoh would let the people go. And then finally you have in the Scripture, in the book of Exodus, the actual story of how the people actually flee from Egypt. This is the original Pascha. It’s called the Pascha, or the Pass-over. All of this is done to the glory of God, that his name would be declared powerful throughout the earth, that all would know that he is the Lord, that he is the God Almighty, the only God that there really is, and that in delivering his people he would make them, as it says in the writings of the Torah, to make them a kingdom of priests and prophets unto the Lord God himself.

Now, in the Exodus book, in the eleventh, twelfth chapter, you have actually the story of the Passover Exodus. It takes place in the middle of the night. All the firstborn in the land are killed, the firstborn in the beasts and of the Egyptians, and this will prefigure the death of Christ as the firstborn, so that he, being the firstborn of all creatures, could also be the firstborn from among the dead. And then they are to kill the Passover lamb, the lamb is to be slain. Very clear prescriptions on how that is to be done: a lamb without blemish, a male lamb—it’s got to be a male, not a female—it has to be a year old. This is done on the 14th day of the month, and then from that time onward, every year on the 14th of Nisan, of that particular month, the people of God will celebrate the Lord’s Pascha, and that’s what it is called in the twelfth chapter: The Pascha of the Lord. It is the Lord’s Passover.

And I will pass through the land of Egypt that night. I will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and on all the gods of Egypt, I will execute judgment. I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you upon the houses where you are. Where I see the blood, I will pass over you and no plague shall fall upon you, to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout all your generations, and you shall observe it as an ordinance forever.

So this is the teaching, that this will be a holy assembly and a day of worship forever, where the memory of this Passover, the deliverance from Egypt, will be kept by the people. Then on keeping this feast they will kill the Passover lamb, and they will take the blood, and they will sprinkle it, and it will be an ordinance forever. Then the children will ask the parents, when they keep this memorial, what are they doing, what are they watching, and then they will be told the story about how God delivered them from Egypt and consecrated all of the firstborn of the Israelites to God. The firstborn of the Egyptians are killed and slain; the firstborn of the Hebrews are blessed and offered to God. This is the sign and the memorial of God, and the people are to tell their sons and their daughters forever about how God has saved them and how he redeems all the firstborn of his own people.

When we hear this, of course, we remember immediately from the New Testament that this prefigures the death and resurrection of Christ. The deliverance is not from Egypt through the desert into a promised land; it’s a deliverance from this earth into the kingdom of God, through the desert of this life into the kingdom that has no end. The passage across the Red Sea in the [Old] Testament becomes the baptismal passage, where we are baptized into Christ and pass through the waters, and all the enemies that pre-symbolize and prefigure all the demons and the powers of destruction and so on, God is victorious over them all. Then Christ himself becomes our Pascha. 1 Corinthians 7, St. Paul will say: “Our Pascha has been sacrificed for us. To Pascha hēmōn.” In the RSV, it says, “Our Paschal lamb,” but it doesn’t say “lamb” in the original; it simply says, “Our Pascha.” And the New Testament speaks about a kainou Pascha, a new Pascha, and this new Pascha is Christ himself.

But he certainly is the Paschal lamb. He is the lamb who was slain. He becomes the Passover lamb. It is his body and his blood that are now eaten, and even the blood will be drunk in the New Testament. The name “the lamb of God,” it will be one of the main titles of Jesus in the New Testament: the Passover lamb, the lamb that is slaughtered. St. John the Baptist, in baptizing him, in the theological gospel of John, will say, “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes upon himself the sins of the world.” That term, lamb, will be used in the Apocalypse of the New Testament, the Apocalypse of John, about 35, 36, 37 times, that he is the lamb, the one who was dead and is alive again. So all of this prefigures what happens in the New Testament with Christ.

Then, of course, the Passover is a meal. It’s an eating and a drinking. The lamb is eaten. So the Christians also eat the lamb of God, but it is the Melchizedek sacrifice, not the levitical one. And the Melchizedek sacrifice—we heard about this in Genesis—is the sacrifice of the bread and the wine. Then we know in St. John’s gospel that it is recalled how, when the people were led out of Egypt and were in the desert and had nothing to eat, that God gave them the manna from heaven to eat, the bread of heaven, the bread of angels, as it’s called in the psalms. In St. John’s gospel, the sixth chapter, it’s saying that the people ate the manna and they died. God gave them the manna in the wilderness; that was the sign that he was their God and that he had saved them, but then Jesus launches into 60-verse speech, oration, homily, catechesis in St. John’s gospel that he is the bread of life. “I am the living bread who came down from heaven. I am the bread of life. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will never die, but will live forever.” The people who ate the manna died; the people who eat the bread of life that I am, Jesus says: I am the bread of life, they live forever. As being our Pascha, he is not only our Paschal lamb, he is our manna; he is our bread; he is our bread from heaven.

Then we know in the desert, when the people were thirsty, Moses struck the rock, and the water came from the rock and the people did not die of thirst, but they had the rock. St. Paul will say the rock that the water came from in the desert was Christ himself. He says: And the rock that followed them was Christ; St. Paul says in the letter to the Corinthians. So all of these activities of the Passover Exodus are prefigurations of the death and resurrection of Christ that are celebrated and are at the very center of the worship of spirit and truth in the final new covenant in Jesus.

Once the Passover Exodus had taken place and the people were in the desert, God gave the law to Moses, the Mosaic law, about how the people were to behave. If they believed that the God, Yahweh the Lord, had really saved them and he was their God and they had to obey him and praise him and glorify him and not worship any of the Canaanite idols and not make idols for themselves but worship God alone, so God gives them the commandments. Of course, we have the Ten Words, which we call nowadays the Ten Commandments, that God gives to the people in the wilderness: I am the Lord your God, you will have no other gods besides me. You won’t make graven images. You will keep the sabbath day holy. (We’ll get to that in a minute.) You will honor your father and your mother. You will do no murder. You will not commit adultery. You will not bear false witness. You will not covet.

All these laws were given, but there were laws given also for how to worship, how the people were to worship God. Let’s first of all look at the sabbath day. Part of the Mosaic law was that the sabbath would be kept holy, and that would be the seventh day. We know that in Deuteronomy they project this back even onto the creation story, that God creates the world in the six days—St. Basil called them the six completed actions, the yom, which means a completed action; the “day” doesn’t mean a 24-hour period day—but then you have this famous sabbath rest, that on the sabbath rest God rested from all his works, on the sabbath day. And the sabbath day had to be kept holy, and the people had to do no work on that day, and God was strict about this. This one man, he was even collecting sticks. God said: Let him be driven out and killed, because you’re not to work on the sabbath. There was violent pedagogy going on here about the holiness of God. You don’t mess around with God, but you keep that sabbath day holy.

Here we see that in the new and final covenant, the worship in spirit and truth, we’re going to see that the day of worship will not be the sabbath, the seventh day, which by the way in the early Canaanite language meant “do nothing”—that’s what sabbath originally meant: the do-nothing day. Then that came to be the seventh day of the week, Saturday. So Saturday is the sabbath. But the Christian worship day came to be, as it’s called in the New Testament, mia ton savvaton, one of the sabbath, one after the sabbath. Sunday being the first day, the sabbath being the last day, and then Sunday becoming the eighth day that symbolized the day of the coming kingdom. That’s the day when Christ is risen from the dead, where he’s raised from the dead. He lies dead in his grave on the sabbath day, and then on Sunday the tomb is empty.

In Orthodox Christian worship until today, sabbath day is a holy day for us. It’s always a eucharistic day, even during Great Lent. Sabbath is still kept as a very holy liturgical day in the Orthodox Christian Church, but the day of the Lord, Sunday, that’s the day of the gathering of the Christians. That’s the day of those who have died and risen with Christ. That’s the day of those who are sealed with the Spirit. That’s the day when the Christians gather and celebrate their worship in spirit and in truth which we nowadays call the Divine Liturgy, which is now in Christ and in memory of Christ and not in memory of the old Passover, but in memory of the new Passover Exodus that takes place with Christ.

It’s interesting that in St. Luke’s gospel, on the mount of the Transfiguration, when Jesus is speaking with Moses and Elijah there, it says they spoke about the Exodus—that’s the word that is used—that he would make in Jerusalem. So his death is called not only a Passover; it’s called an Exodus, a moving-out, a transitus, a journey out and into, but it’s out of this age of death and darkness and sin, into the glorious day of light, “the day without evening,” as Isaiah will call it in the prophets.

But that sabbath is kept holy, and that sabbath still prefigures what happens in the New Testament. That’s why, in the Orthodox Church, on Great and Holy Saturday, before the Pascha Sunday, before Easter Sunday, the day of Resurrection, we sing in church: “This is the blessed Sabbath on which Christ rested from all of his work.” So God rests from all of his work when his Son, the Messiah, the messianic priest and king, offers himself in sacrifice to God the Father and lays dead in the tomb as the sacrificial lamb that’s been slain for the life of the world. So when Christ is resting dead in his tomb, and in our churches we even put a tomb out on Great Friday and Saturday, and we have the icon, the winding-sheet of Christ, lying in his tomb in the middle of the church, and we sing the entire 119th psalm over him, which says that if you keep the commandments of God, you cannot die; in them, they are life, and Christ came to the world, and he kept all those commandments, and he ransomed us from death and darkness by his righteousness on the cross where he does not sin at all.

So all of this in the old covenant prefigures the new. It’s a shadow, a pattern, a figure, a copy of what became a paravolē, a parable, of that which is fulfilled perfectly, completely, and totally, in truth, in Christ himself, in his buried body on this earth.

In addition to keeping the sabbath holy, the law of Moses also gave prescriptions for festivals to be kept holy. We already mentioned that the Passover had to be kept holy every year, and they had to celebrate the Passover Exodus, and that was on 14 Nisan. Then there was the celebration of seven weeks, seven times seven days: 49 days. Then on the 50th day was called in the Old Testament Greek translation of Hebrew, the Pentekostē, the Pentecost day, and this Pentecost day was the 50th day after the celebration of Passover. That became the day which was originally an agricultural feast, just like Pascha was, but then Pascha came to be the festival of the deliverance from Egypt, and then Pentecost came to be the festival of the giving of the law to Moses on Sinai, or Horeb. That mountain has two names. But the giving of the law on the 50th day became a celebration also, and so there was a 50-day Paschal-Pentecostal celebration in the Old Testament. It was said in the law of Moses that this would take place till the end of the world; it would never end.

And we Christians, say: Yes, indeed, it never ends, but we celebrate it until this day. Except that we celebrate the new Passover and the new Pentecost. The new Passover is the death and resurrection of Christ; that’s the new Passover Exodus. And then the new Pentecost, 50 days later—it’s on a Sunday also now, Pentecost Sunday—that’s the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, because as God gave the law to Moses, so he pours out the Holy Spirit onto the disciples of Christ who are baptized into him. And then that prefigures our baptism and our chrismation. We can actually say that our baptism-chrismation is our Paschal-Pentecostal experience. We die and rise with Christ, and we are sealed with the coming of the Holy Spirit upon us. And we celebrate that liturgically every year in worship in spirit and truth in the new covenant Church, but this was all prefigured in the old covenant.

Then there was the feast of Sukkoth, booths, and that booths began as an agricultural feast again. Then it became a feast celebrating the coming age, when everyone would be fed by God and no one would be hungry and all the firstfruits would be given and everybody would enjoy them and God’s kingdom would come and his reign would be on earth. Then for Christians that was kept also. It was kept as the festival, for Christians, of the Transfiguration, in the summertime, on the sixth of August, where we celebrate how, before he was crucified and raised and glorified, Christ showed himself as the divine Son of God to Moses, speaking with Moses and Elijah, to show that he was the Lord of the law, symbolized in Moses, and the prophets, symbolized by Elijah; also the living and the dead: Moses is dead, buried, in the earth; Elijah is taken to heaven alive, so Elijah is the living one. Elijah stands for heaven; Moses stands for earth. Elijah stands for the living; Moses stands for the dead. Elijah stands for the prophets; Moses stands for the law. All this is now celebrated by Christians on the very festival of the booths.

Then there are other festivals that came: the days of atonement, the festival of the lights later on, which became the Christmas-Epiphany of the Christians. So all of this is prefigured in the law of Moses, and it is commanded by God in the law that these things would be kept. So you have the sabbath day, you have the feast days, and then, of course, we have to also reflect on the building of the tabernacle, because in Exodus and Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, God tells Moses how they are to build a tabernacle as the shrine in the holy place where he will worship. It’s given in great detail. For example, at the end of Exodus, it tells how the levitical priests will serve in this sanctuary. It tells how the sanctuary is to be built, how the altar table is to be a cube, how there is to be a seven-branched candlestand, how they are to put in there the ark of the covenant, how they are to put in the tables of the law, the manna that the people ate in the wilderness, the rod of Aaron that budded, how all of this was put in there and how Moses would speak to God in there face-to-face as a man speaks to his friend, and that they would speak in front of a place that’s called in English the mercy-seat. In Greek it’s called hilastērion, and this hilastērion, you could read about it in Exodus and in the other books of the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, how it’s to be built, with the veils, with the vestments for the priest, with the utensils, with the altar table, with the censers, and with all the golden vessels and so on, the bread of showing.

All of this is in the law of Moses. It’s all there already, and here we see again, and you could read about this in Hebrews 9, where the author to the letter [to] the Hebrews very clearly says how all this from the law of Moses is fulfilled in Jesus, that Jesus is the high priest, according to Melchizedek, not Leviticus. If he was on earth, he would not be a priest, but where he offers himself is on the cross as the lamb of God. Then he enters into the sanctuary not-made-by-hands in the heavens. And how he lives to make intercession for us before God, and he is our great high priest, and how the offering that he offers is his own body and blood, as the lamb of God, and that this is the final, ultimate offering and sacrifice, the ultimate worship. The letter to the Hebrews explains this in great detail. Please read it. Read the end of Exodus and read the letter to the Hebrews. Read the letter to the Hebrews and go back and read Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy, and you will see how all of this is prefigured already in the time of Moses and the law.

In this tabernacle, how it was built, very simply what developed in the Christian Church, following the letter to the Hebrews, is that you have now in the Christian Church the same kind of tabernacle, the same kind of skia, dwelling place, the same kind of shrine. The dwelling place, of course, in the New Testament, are the people, but then when the people built their buildings, they patterned them after the Old Testament tabernacle and later on the temple. We’ll talk about the temple later, which is a kind of a permanent building of the tabernacle.

So in our Christian churches now, we also have a holy place. It is also covered by a veil. We also have a cubic altar. We also have the seven-branched candlestand on our altars. But in place of the tables of the law, we have the four gospels; not the whole Bible, not the whole New Testament, even, but just the four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—that is enshrined on our table. We have instead of the manna bread, we have the holy communion. We preserve and hold on our altar tables the consecrated bread and wine that is the body and blood of Christ. It’s in the ark on our altar table. Instead of Aaron’s rod that budded, we have the cross. That’s what stays on our table. And then behind our table, we also have a hilastērion, a mercy-seat, but it’s no longer empty. It’s an image of the Theotokos, Mary, holding the Christ-child on her lap, or Mary holding her arms in prayer and worship of the Christ-child within her.

That’s why over our altars in Orthodox churches, we have that particular fresco, once the tradition developed, because that’s our mercy-seat, and we even have a cherub on each side, the same way it was prescribed in the law of Moses. He said: You will build the mercy-seat, you will have a cherub on each side. It will remain empty because God is invisible, and there God will speak to Moses. Now God speaks to us all in the person of his incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, so our mercy-seat is Mary, and in our Akathistos hymn, and in our Church services, Mary is called “the living mercy-seat, the warm, vivified, Spirit-filled mercy-seat,” and it’s no longer invisible; it’s visible and Christ is there, and we see the Word of God and hear the Word of God, and God still speaks to us from heaven. That’s what will be said in the letter to the Hebrews, the 12th chapter. He says if people weren’t spared when they didn’t listen to Moses, when God spoke to him on earth, how much less will we be spared when the Lord speaks to us from heaven, the risen Christ speaks to us in the Church through the Holy Spirit, when we gather as the Church in our tabernacle, in our holy shrines.

So all of this in the New Testament is already prefigured in the Old Testament, and then again, in addition, beside the tabernacle and the veils and the vestments and the incense and the candles and all that is in that tabernacle which we continue to have in the Orthodox Church until this very day, all christened, all now understood in terms of Christ in the spirit and truth worship of the New Testament, we also have to say that in the Old Testament, in the law of Moses, was a whole sacrificial system given. If you read Leviticus, for example, and then Numbers and Deuteronomy also in general, but if we just took the levitical book now, you have not only all the commandments about how to behave, how we’re supposed to live, but you have commandments about how the priest is supposed to be. He’s got to have his household ruled well. He’s got to have all the parts of his body. He’s got to offer sacrifices of lambs without blemish. He’s got to wear certain vestments when he does it. He’s got to be purified when he goes into the altar to act. He’s got to offer the incense to the Lord, and so on. All of this is prescribed in the levitical laws.

Then there is prescribed all the various sacrifices, all the various offerings. You have the praise-offering, the thank-offering, the guilt-offering, the sin-offering, the purification-offerings, the offerings for atonement, the offerings for the forgiveness of sins. All these different sacrifices are prescribed. Here again, these are all copies, patterns, shadows, figures, prefigurations, you see, hypodeigmata, as it says in Greek, paravolē. They’re all preparations and pedagogical shadowings and foreshadowings of what is fulfilled again in Christ. So when Christ offers his body and blood, broken on the cross, this fulfills all the sacrifices. It’s the sacrifice, as it will say in the letter to the Hebrews, hapax, once and for all. And it’s not a sacrifice of bulls and goats and lambs; it’s the sacrifice of Christ himself as the lamb of God. He is the great high priest, the one high priest chosen by God from among men, not from Levi tribe, but according to Melchizedek. Read the letter to the Hebrews; this is what it says.

That’s Jesus, and the offering that he offers and the sacrifice that he makes is his own body, his own blood that’s shed on the cross. And then he enters into the holy of holies, not in some tabernacle or temple on earth, but in the heavens, in the very presence of God, there to make intercession on our behalf before God his Father, and by his blood, his own blood offered, to free us from all of our sins and to ransom us from death and to wash away all of our guilt, all of our impurities. Then that becomes the perfect praise offering.

That becomes the sacrifice of praise, and then that becomes also what St. Paul will call the logikē latreia, the spiritual worship, or the human worship, the worship rational or reasonable worship, which is a name that’s used three times for the Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Church. The sacrificial offering of the holy Eucharist is a logikē latreia, in Slavonic a slovesnaya slujba. It’s the offering and the worship that human beings make, but what is that offering? It’s our own body, together with the body of Christ, to God the Father. So in the twelfth chapter of the letter to the Romans, St. Paul will say, “I beg you, brothers and sisters, to offer unto God your bodies, sōmata, as a living sacrifice, pleasing and acceptable to God, which is your logikē latreia, your reasonable, human worship.”

So our worship in spirit and truth is the offering of Christ, offering his body and blood to God, and our worship in spirit and truth in Christ is to offer our body and our blood—our body meaning our very being, our blood meaning our very life—together with Jesus Christ to God the Father, and we can do so because we invoke the Holy Spirit upon the bread and the wine that we offer, and we invoke the Holy Spirit on ourselves. Here it’s very, very important that in the letter to the Hebrews it says specifically that it was the Holy Spirit that led Jesus Christ to the cross, and it was the Holy Spirit that inspired and empowered Jesus as the Messiah to offer himself to God the Father, to offer his body as a living sacrifice to God. That’s what we do in the Divine Liturgy. That’s what we do. We are so bold that we offer Christ to God, but we offer ourselves together with God.

And here we will say this again and again during these reflections that if we are not offering our own body, our own blood, our own being, our own life to God the Father together with Christ, then our Divine Liturgies and our participation in holy Communion, our offering of the bread and the wine and our receiving of the consecrated bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ, will be unto condemnation and judgment. It will not save us; it will condemn us. But all of this is prefigured in the levitical code, because there you have the praise-offering, the thank-offering, the guilt-offering, the sin-offering, the offering for atonement, the offering for ransom, the offering for remission of sins, the offering for purification and healing, the offering of being restored to the people of God after you have been involved in some holy act where you are somehow rendered unclean because you were an instrument of God or when you were sinning in some way and had to offer those sacrifices.

Well, as the author to the letter to the Hebrews again says, those sacrifices of those lambs and bulls and goats, they can provisionally reconcile you to God for a time, but they have to be offered over and over and again and again according to the law and on very particular times and on very particular feast days, and the law says how you offer the sabbath sacrifice and how you offer the Passover sacrifice and how you offer all these various sacrifices on the various feast days, and how you prepare all… all of that is provisional. All of that is pedagogical, to the ultimate fulfillment and completion of it all in Christ, who, in St. John’s gospel, when he dies on the cross, he says one final word: Tetelestai. It is fulfilled. It is accomplished. It is perfected. It is now all done. So all of these figures and patterns and copies and parables and shadows, they’re all fulfilled in Jesus when he dies on the cross, and Christian worship is that worship. It’s the entrance into Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, once and for all, into the presence of God, with his offering his body and blood to God, and we go with him and we follow him and we offer our body and blood, together with him, and this becomes our worship.

Then the bread and the wine that stands for his body and blood stands for our body and blood; stands for his life, stands for our life. That becomes our holy Communion. It is transformed and shown to be the very body and blood of Christ, and also the Holy Spirit comes upon us, showing us to be also the very body and blood of Christ. Now, we will discuss all this in detail as we go through the Divine Liturgy, and we will repeat this point again and again, but what we want to see today is how all of this is prepared in the Passover Exodus of Moses and how all this becomes part of the Mosaic worship. It becomes the very heart of the worship of the Mosaic covenant, God’s covenant with the people in Moses’ time.

And therefore you have the commandments about sabbath worship and sabbath holiness. You have the Mosaic commandments about the festivals and the fasting, the feasts of Passover and Pentecost, and Sukkoth, the booths, the tabernacles, when in the New Testament Jesus was transfigured. You have the tabernacle building. You have all the appointments: the altar table, the incense, the vesting, the veils, the manna, the commandments, the ark, the Aaron’s rod, the seven-[branched] candlestands, the mercy-seat. You have all of that there, and all of that is prefiguring what will be fulfilled in Christ and which will become the heart of the Christian worship. Then you have also all the sacrifices, the various sacrifices that are all fulfilled in the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ, offering himself to God on the cross, which remains until he comes again the heart of Christian worship.

“Take ye, this is my body, broken. Drink of it, all of you: this is my blood, shed.” Christ, our Pascha, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. He is our bread of life. He is the living bread. He is the one that you eat it and you drink it and you never die again. He is the one who rescues us from death, from this world, and takes us with himself, through the desert of this life, across the waters of the Red Sea, across the waters of Jordan, into his own very kingdom which will have no end. This is the foreshadowing of the worship in spirit and truth in Christ that we find in the Mosaic Passover Exodus and in the commandments of the Mosaic law.