purifyingnous

Melchizedek

In Sacraments, Scripture on June 8, 2012 at 7:06 pm

This is in response to another blog post, but only for my own purposes. I have found that my reasoning and debating “skills” are a little rusty and it would behoove me to try and concentrate on the Truth and Tradition of the Church in response to something within it that seems – not so good.

Firstly in the original post, the author writes that “biblical readers” have different interpretations about the Priest Melchizedek. First of all the semantics of this post, even though maybe not poured over with exactness, are extremely important to anyone who is reading it. Obviously there are tons of people who can interpret the Bible anyway they want it. – as there are as many interpretations as there are interpreters. Who has the authority for these things? To tell the Truth? To weed out error? The Church has the authority when it comes to interpretation, which is brought about by councils foremost and the consensus of the Church Fathers, Priests, and Bishops. It is not enough just to quote Scripture in this day and age and elaborate whatever way you want without reference to the Saints, especially since that is a big part of Tradition, not to mention that resources from the Saints are readily available online with a simple google search. If you are going to present the “traditional Christian understanding of Melchizedek” then you need to backup what you’re saying with citations and quotes from the Saints. How is anyone supposed to believe you when you don’t give backup information? See St. Vincent of Lerins’ Commonitory.

There are three main reasons Melchizedek is important in Christian understanding. First, Abram (later re-named Abraham) offers Melchizedek a tithe. This offering would indicate Abram viewed Melchizedek as greater than himself.

St. John Chrysostom has a wonderful homily including a part on Melchizedek. He makes the point that Melchizedek came to Abraham before the levitical priesthood was in force, ‘before Jerusalem existed, before the coming of Moses when the Law had not yet been written…. This Melchizedek was at the same time both priest and king; hew as to be a type of Christ.’ See IV, (5). St. John mentions that Abraham had the rank of the layman in tithing to Melchizedek, and therefore so did Levi, while he was in his loins. See V (4) & (8). “he wanted to show that our priesthood is much greater than the Jewish priesthood.” See V (3). So in a way the priesthood of Christ is older than the levitical priesthood. See this paper by Bishop Photius of Lyons. The whole homily is basically on how the levitical priesthood and the Law is no longer in force since Christ abolished them.

Second, Melchizedek is the “king of peace” and a priest of God Most High. These titles are taken to refer to Melchizedek as associated with whatSt Paulwould call “the heavenly Jerusalem” (for certainly the earthly Jerusalem has not been known as a peaceful place!).

“For the Fathers and the commentators, Salem here signifies Jerusalem.” Bishop Photios writes, though he doesn’t go much into the background of this. St. John Chrysostom puts more emphasis on the title of Melchizedek and its relationship to Christ in his Homily XII: “First” (he says) “being by interpretation King of righteousness”: for Sedec means “righteousness”; and Melchi, “King”: Melchisedec, “King of righteousness.” Seest thou his exactness even in the names? But who is “King of righteousness,” save our Lord Jesus Christ? “King of righteousness. And after that also King of Salem,” from his city, “that is, King of Peace,” which again is [characteristic] of Christ. For He has made us righteous, and has “made peace” for “things in Heaven and things on earth.” (Col. i. 20.) What man is “King of Righteousness and of Peace”? None, save only our Lord JESUS Christ.

Third, Melchizedek offers Abram bread and wine, two extremely important images in Christianity.

‘Melchizedek, the king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, for he was a priest of the Most High God. He blessed Abraham and said, ‘Blessed by the Most High God, creator of heaven and earth: blessed be the Most High God who has delivered your enemies into your hand. Then Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.’ See IV (5). Bishop Photius writes,

Commenting on this same verse in his “Homelie on Melchisedek”, St. John Chrysostom says: “Melchisedek was righteous and the faithful image of Christ. Moved by a prophetic spirit, he discerned the oblation which must one day be offered for the Gentiles, and, in the example of the future Christ, he offered bread and wine as sacrifice to God. But, the Judaic synagogue, which honored God according to the order of Aaron, offered Him a sacrifice, not of bread and wine, but of bulls and lambs and glorified the Lord by bloody sacrifices. That is why God, addressing Himself to the One Who was to be born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, His Son, says to Him, `You are Priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek’ and not according to the order of Aaron, who honors his God while offering Him bulls and heifers” (Op. cit., p.482-483). St. Ambrose draws the conclusion that the Christian worship is more ancient than that of the Law since it is Melchisedek, the image of Christ, who brings the bread and the wine, not Abraham (Cf “Dictionnaire de Spiritualite”, col. 971. St. Ambrose, “De Sacramentis”, IV, 8, 10-11; “De Mysteriis”, 8, 44-45).

The priests of Israel sacrificed to God the irrelevant blood of animals, but Melchisedek brings bread and wine. He thus shows the imperfection of the Law and prefigures the sacrifice of the Cross where the Lord Jesus offered Himself in His Body and shed His Blood for our salvation, “because,” says the Apostle, “it is impossible that the blood of bulls and he-goats take away sin” (Heb. 10:4).

From all this we can understand the importance of Melchizedek in Christian thought. Christianity moved away from the earthly, Levitical priesthood and the Temple system in favor of the idea of Jesus’ eternal priesthood and once-for-all sacrifice. Furthermore, and quite related, Christianity left behind the Temple sacrifices and the notion of worshipping in one specific geographical location (i.e. the earthly city of Jerusalem) in favor of worshipping God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24) wherever one is located. Christians stress the pre-eminence of the “heavenly Jerusalem,” which will be a peaceful city, over any earthly city. Finally, instead of offering a new sacrifice, Christian worship revolves around the remembrance of Jesus’ death, with the bread and wine being offered as antitypes of His Body and Blood sacrificed on the Cross.

I have several problems with this paragraph:

1. “Christianity moved away from the earthly, Levitical priesthood and the Temple system in favor of the idea of Jesus’ eternal priesthood and once-for-all sacrifice.”

First of all, the priests of the Orthodox Church participate in Christ’s priesthood, being a sort of representative of Him. His sacrifice indeed only happened once, and the Eucharist is a participation in that. We do not make a new sacrifice every Sunday. However, Christianity never moved away from the levitical priesthood, it was never in force in Christianity. St. Paul was responding to a heresy of the day when he uses a ‘once for all’ terminology. There were people at the time accusing Christianity of cannibalism because in the Eucharist, we believe that we are eating Christ’s body and blood, so some people took that to a ridiculous conclusion. Just google ‘cannibalism eucharist heresy’ and you’ll find plenty of articles about it.

2. Furthermore, and quite related, Christianity left behind the Temple sacrifices and the notion of worshipping in one specific geographical location (i.e. the earthly city of Jerusalem) in favor of worshipping God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24) wherever one is located.

Yes, Christ did say to the Samaritain woman that worshipping in Jerusalem isn’t really that important. However, Protestants take the ‘wherever you want’ part of it to take away sacred places. It is important to go to Church, Churches, at least Orthodox Churches, are sacred. They have been blessed, they have icons, relics, an altar. In the Divine Liturgy we pray “for the founders, benefactors, and beautifiers of this holy temple.” It’s so important to come to the Church to pray for Liturgies and other services.

3. “Finally, instead of offering a new sacrifice, Christian worship revolves around the remembrance of Jesus’ death, with the bread and wine being offered as antitypes of His Body and Blood sacrificed on the Cross.”

I am extremely uncomfortable with this part of the paragraph. It sounds so much like the Protestant world in which I grew up. In the baptist churches I went to, the table up front always said ‘This do in remembrance of me’. However, it is not just a remembrance. It is REAL. The word antitype means “something that is foreshadowed by a type or symbol…” The Eucharist is not a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. It is a particiaption IN Christ’s sacrifice. NOT an antitype.

I think I’m done with this one now.

Hesychios the Priest on the Nous

In salvation, theosis on May 26, 2009 at 8:58 pm

So we can speak of the blindness and inability of the nous to see things clearly.  And when our nous is darkened, we do not have a pure and open passage to our neighbor.  Everything is defiled and darkened, with terrible and upsetting consequences for our life.  Just as clouds hide the sun, so evil thoughts bring shadows to the mind and ruin it.  Our nous is darkened and remains unproductive either when we speak words of worldly import or, entertaining such words in our mind, we associate with them, or when our body involves itself with the nous in sensory things. Then we immediately lose our fervor, compunction, intimacy with God and spiritual knowledge. Therefore “so long as we concentrate our attention on the nous, we are enlightened; but when we are not attentive to it we are in darkness” [Hesychios the Priest, The Philokalia, Vol. 1, p. 184].

Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos, Orthodox Psychotherapy, p. 135.

Make haste to help me

In Psalms on March 29, 2009 at 2:18 am

O Lord, rebuke me not in they wrath, nor chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thine hand has cut me off.

There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger,

Neither is there any health in my bones because of my sin.

For mine iniquities have gone over my head as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness,

I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long

For my loins are filled with loathsome disease and there is no soundness in my flesh

I am feeble and sore-broken, i have roared by the reason of the disquietness of my heart

Lord all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee

My heart panteth, my strength faileth me, as for the light of mine eyes, it has also gone from me.

My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore and my kinsman stand afar off.

They also that seek after my life lay snares for me;

And they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, And imagine deceits all the day long.

But I, was a deaf man, that hears not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.

Yea, I am as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.

For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt answer, O Lord my God.

For I said, Lest they rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.

For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.

For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.

But mine enemies are lively, and are they strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.

They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries, because I follow the thing that good is.

Forsake me not, O Lord: O my God, be not far from me.

Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.