The play, “Fiddler on the Roof” has an interesting song as Tevye attends the bachelor’s party for his daughter, “Lechaim.” The song title means, “To life,” and is an integral part of any Jewish wedding. The wedding at Cana, is another example of partying being an integral part of a Jewish wedding. This is important in understanding “Holy,” which has a Latin root, “Sanctify.” The Second Reading for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ includes:
f the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes sanctifies/dedicates those who are common, cleansing their flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who… offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to give public service to God to life. Sic. Literal translation of Hebrews 9:14
In a recent class at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, we discussed incense at our altar. One person gave the mistaken view that incense is a sacrifice. Our reading reminds us there is no longer need for a sacrifice. Jesus Christ, our Messiah was our last sacrifice. We no longer sacrifice a piece of ourselves through our property, goats, bulls, or the ashes of young cows.
Purpose of Incense in Catholic Church, tells us how a “sacramental,” is an outward sign of spiritual occurrences. Incense, an “aromatic substance obtained from certain pine trees,” is another sacramental augmenting our celebration of the Sacraments in the Catholic Church. It helps to make us holy, dedicates us. The result of this dedication pleases God. The article gives incense as an example of a sacramental, or sign dedicating us.
The example coming to mind is Mt. Sinai. Food for the poor yesterday, today, and tomorrow, relates how terrible the conditions were at Mt. Sinai when God, through Moses, gave the Jewish people their Social Contract, which is much like our U.S. Constitution. Temperatures ranged from 113 degrees to 129 degrees. The people were at a volcano. Volcanic thunder was all around, as was volcanic dust. Our incense reminds us of that volcanic dust. This reminds us of our rescue through the hot, dry desert to our Promised Land, where we thrash about in our struggle to understand God and how he fits into our lives. This gratitude for our rescue dedicates us.
We are at that wedding, singing, “To life.” Hebrews 9 gives us two choices, “Dead works,” or a living God. The allusion is to Deuteronomy 30:19: “Choose life, for you and your descendants to live, by loving the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge.” This is a Mitzvah, one of the 613, “choose life.”
What would this mean as a Mitzvah? As we live, we are always confronted by two choices. There were no stairs in the Jewish temple. This reminds us that we are always either going up or down. We are always either promoting life or promoting death. All life is potential life, or life in potentiality. Either we help people to live life to its fullest, or we diminish that life. Either we, as a community, move forward to the Promised Land, or we move back to Egypt and oppression.
Purpose of Incense in Catholic Church, speaks of other sacramentals, including candles, the dinner, the wine, and the flowers, all of which are present at a romantic dinner or a wedding celebration. They are an outward sign of our wedding, where God is the groom, and we are the nymphs (Greek for bride) the brides of Christ.
Mark 7:15 reads, “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”The word in Greek we generally translate as, “Defile” literally means “To make common.” To understand how we move from “common” to “defile,” we must understand that the temple was the special place. Commoners lived apart from the temple.
The Hebrew word for “Honor” literally means “To be important,” or “Heavy.” “Mass” comes from the end of our Mass when we say, “Mitte Est,” or “Let us depart.” We show the altar is a special place, we show how we undersand the altar as a special place, by what we do when we leave. We become important to the world.
Our sacramentals are an outward sign, to us and to the world, telling us how, as the song from “Our Jubilee Mass and Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation show,” relates, “You got yourself two good hands and when your brother is troubled you got to reach out your one hand for him ‘Cause that’s what it’s there for. When your heart is troubled you got to reach out your other hand reach it out to the man up there ‘Cause that’s what he’s there for.”
We promote life; life lived to its fullest for all people by doing just as Neal Diamond tells us as Brother Love. Whether we like it or not, or know it or not, God, and every non-Catholic on our planet judges us, our Sacraments, and our sacramentals, by how well we promote life; life lived to its fullest, for all people.
That means a war on poverty. That means promoting universal healthcare. That means adequate, food, clothing, shelter, and transportation, for all people. That means making sure our air, water, and ground are habitable for God who made us in his image. Incense, and all the sacramentals and sacraments remind us of this duty.