MEMORIAL OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUOURI, BISHOP AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
Ever wonder about some of the readings in the Old Testament? Today is one of those. The first line in today's first reading from the Book of Exodus starts with: "Moses did exactly as the Lord had commanded him." (Exodus 40:16). Good thing, because God is awfully specific with His instructions. The following five verses are very specific as to what Moses did because of what God told him.
First we read: "He placed its pedestals, set up its boards, put in its bars, and set up its columns." Next we read: "He spread the tent over the Dwelling and put the covering on top of the tent". Finally we read: "He took the commandments and put them in the ark; he placed poles alongside the ark and set the propitiatory upon it." Whew. What's all the fuss? Why such detail? After all we've had such action-packed adventure of late in Exodus, why is the drama "slowing down" with such detail?
Because this is important ... and God wants to give Moses every detail.
Today we read of instructions for the erection of the "meeting tent".
Be patient with me ... let me walk you through the meeting tent. The details are important.
- As Moses (as the priest, or later other priests) entered the tent he entered into an environment that was not like the world he was living in. The tent ― purposely ― felt different because what happened in the tent was not of this world.
- As he entered, to the right, was the sacred bread, as God declared "On the table you shall always keep showbread set before me". (Exodus 25:30)
- To the left was the Menorah, the gold candles lampstand. (see Exodus 25:31-40)
- As you continued further there was an altar of incense. (Exodus 30:1-5; 37:25-29)
- If you stepped still further there was a veil separating you from the "Holy of Holies". In fact, there were two gold winged angels visually reminding you that you were about to enter into the "Holy of Holies". (Exodus 26:31-33)
- Finally, and most sacred, was the "Holy of Holies". It was here that the Ten Commandments were kept in the Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus 25:10-22)
Here's the cool part. You know what the Hebrew word for this "meeting tent" is? Tabernacle. Sound familiar?
In fact, does any of this sound familiar? An environment that doesn't "feel" ordinary, it looks and feels like something completely different. An altar with incense. Sacred bread. Gold candles. Angels sitting aside the most sacred place housing something that "contains" the covenant of God.
Yes ... believe it or not ... Catholic Church architecture is specific. It is specifically designed by a very specific person ― no, not the architect ... God Himself. Why does the Catholic Mass have gold candles and an altar with incense? Why does the Catholic Mass have sacred bread and a tabernacle? Why does the Catholic Mass proclaim the written word of God? Because 4,000 years ago that's how God told His people He wanted them to worship. Worship is about God, not us. Worship leads us to God, not us. And, worship ― and the places we worship in ― are so important to God that occasionally in the Scriptures we come across intricate details outlining exactly how God wants things to be.
God cares about the details. He cares about the details of worship. He cares about the details of how we worship and where we worship. And, believe it or not, God cares about the details of your life. All your worries. All your fears. All your dreams. Yes, God cares about the details.
Often when we pray we can wonder if God is listening. We can wonder if God really is going to intervene. We can doubt ourselves and we can doubt God. In reality, God is listening. God does care ... and God does care about the details. Today, stop for a second and ask yourself if you've ever really noticed the details of Mass or Church architecture. And, of course, stop for a second and give God your heart. Be not afraid, be not afraid of giving Him the details.
© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013
AND ... ONE LAST TIME ... TODAY AT IPF
Today is the final day of the Institute for Priestly Formation's summer programs. May God, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to fulfillment. ... Flying home today ... looking forward to returning home to Thibodaux. See you all this weekend.
TODAY'S QUOTE FROM POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI
"Life is a journey, certainly. But it is not an uncertain journey without a fixed destiny; it leads to Christ, the end of human life and history. On this journey you will meet with him who gave his life for love, and opens to you the doors of eternal life."
― Homily, Palm Sunday, Handing over World Youth Day Cross, April 5, 2009
POPE BENEDICT XVI ON SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUOURI