April 2019 Letter
One of the symbols of the Holy Cross in the Old Testament is “Atonement Day”, mentioned in chapter 16 of the Book of Leviticus. This is one of the greatest days and feasts in the Law of Moses, for on this day the high priest would offer a general atonement for himself, the rest of priests and the whole congregation. This atonement means that their sins during the year prior to this day are forgiven. This day had a special importance for the Jews and had its particular rites. The Jews looked to this day in the same way that we as Christians look today to Good Friday.
For our benefit, let’s study the rites of this day, because it will offer us beautiful meanings about the sacrifice of Christ and His atonement. Every part of the rites of this day points to Christ’s atonement for our sins. This is a great day because it resembles the great redemption day and the longing of humanity for it:
- The high priest was to do the atonement work all by himself, without anyone else entering with him into the Holy of Holies. Similarly, Christ performed all of our redemption by Himself, and no one else could share in this work that fulfills the Divine justice: “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed” (Rom 3: 24-25).
- The high priest takes off his fancy clothes and wears simple white linen ones, then places his hand on the head of the bull to be slaughtered as atonement for his sins and the sins of all the priests, confessing his and their sins, as a representative on their behalf. This resembles how Christ humbled Himself: “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Phi 2: 6-7).
- He then gets two goats, and casts lots on the goats that are offered atonement for the congregation, offering one of them a sin offering, and the other to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness, declaring that the sins are being carried away and removed. So the first goat resembles Christ carrying our sins for its atonement, while releasing the other resembles that they are completely taken away and removed away from the congregation. Another perspective is that the goat that dies resembles Christ who was crucified and died for our sins, while the one that is released alive resembles Him in His resurrection, forgiving us our sins.
- He then takes the blood of the bull and the sin offering goat and enters into the Holy of Holies, and sprinkles it seven times on the mercy seat (cover of the arc of covenant), for the atonement of his sins and those of the priests, and this entrance into the Holy of Holies resembles how Christ carried us into His Father’s bosom.
The blessing of St. Mary, St. Mercurius, the Holy Cross & glorified resurrection be with us all.