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THE SACRAMENTS: IV
(1) In the Old Testament the priests were accustomed to enter the first tabernacle frequently;' the highest priest entered the second tabernacle once a year. Evidently recalling this to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul” explains the series of the Old Testament. ivi there was manna in the second tabernacle;s there was also the rod of Aaron, that had withered and afterwards blosso ned, and the censer. *
(2) To what does this point? That you may understand what the second tabernacle is, in which the priest introduced you, in which once a year the highest priest is accustomed to enter, that is, the baptistry, where the rod of Aaron flourished. Formerly it was dry; afterwards it blossomed: ‘And
1 Cf. Exod 30.10; Lev. 16.2-34; Heb. 9.6-7. 2 Cf. Heb. 9.1-7. 3 Cf. Heb. 9.3-4. 4 Cf. Num. 17.2-10. 5 Heb. 9.7.
you were dried, and you begin to flower by the watering of the font.' You had become dry by sins, you had become dry by errors and transgressions, but now you began to bring forth fruit ‘planted near the running waters.'
(3) But perchance you may say: 'What was this to the people, if the rod of the priest had become dry and blossomed again? What is the people itself, if not of the priest? To these it was said: ‘But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, as says the Apostle Peter. Everyone is anointed into the priesthood, is anointed into the kingdom, but the spiritual kingdom is also the spiritual priesthood.
(4) In the second tabernacle also is the censer. The censer is that which is accustomed to emit good odor. Thus you also now are the good odor of Christ;10 now there is no lot of transgressions in you, no odor of graver error.
(5) There follows your coming to the altar. You began to come; the angels observed; they saw you approaching, and that human condition which before was stained with the shadowy squalor of sins they saw suddenly shining bright, and so they said: “Who is this that cometh up from the desert whitewashed?” So the angels also marvel. Do you wish to know how they marvel? Hear the Apostle Peter saying that
6 Cf. Vergil, Georgics 4.32. 7 Ps. 1.3. 8 1 Peter 2.9. 9 Cf. Heb. 9.4. 10 Cf. 2 Cor. 2.15.
those things have been conferred on you which the angels also desired to see. Hear again. It says: 'The eye hath not seen, nor ear heard what things God hath prepared for them that love him.'3
(6) Then recognize what you have received. The holy Prophet David saw this grace in figure and desired it. Do you wish to know how he desired it? Again hear him as he says: 'Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. Why? Because snow, although it is white, quickly grows dark with some filth and is corrupted; that grace which you have received, if you hold fast what you have received, will be lasting and perpetual."
(7) You came, then, desiring; inasmuch as you had seen so much grace, you came to the altar desiring to receive the sacrament. Your soul says: ‘And I will go in to the altar of God, to God who giveth joy to my youth.'' You laid aside the old age of sins, you took on the youth of grace. The heavenly sacraments have bestowed this upon you. Finally, again, hear David as he says: “Thy youth will be renewed like the eagle's.”? You have begun to be a good eagle, which seeks heaven, disdains earthly things. Good eagles are about the altar, for ‘Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together.'8 The form of the body is the altar, and the body of Christ is on the altar; you are the eagles renewed by the washing away of transgression.
2 Cf. 1 Peter 1.12.
(8) You have come to the altar; you have seen to the sacraments placed on the altar; and indeed you have marveled at the creature itself. Yet the creature is customary and known.
(9) Perchance someone may say: 'God furnished the Jews so much grace; manna rained upon them from heaven; what more has He given His faithful; what more has He allotted to these to whom He promised more?'1
(10) Accept what I say: that the mysteries of the Christians are earlier than those of the Jews and the sacraments of the Christians are more divine than those of the Jews. How? Accept. When did the Jews begin to be? Surely from Juda, the great-grandson of Abraham, or, if you wish also to understand it so, according to the Law, that is, when they merited to receive the law of God.' Therefore, from the greatgrandson of Abraham they were called Jews in the time of holy Moses. Then God rained manna from heaven on the Jews as they murmured. But for you a figure of these sacraments preceded, when Abraham was, when he gathered 318 servants born in his house, and he went, pursued his adversaries, and delivered his great-grandson from captivity. Then he came as a victor; Melchisedech the priest met him and offered bread and wine. Who had the bread and wine? Abraham did not have it. But who had it? Melchisedech. He himself then is the author of the sacraments. Who is 'Melchisedech'? Who is signified as ‘king of justice, king of peace??5 Who is this king
1 Cf. Exod. 16.14,15.
of justice? Can any man be king of justice? Who, then, can be the king of justice other than the justice of God? Who is the peace of God, the wisdom of God? He who was able to say: ‘My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you.”
(11) So first understand these sacraments which you receive, that they are earlier than the sacraments which the Jews say that they have, and that the Christian people began before the people of the Jews began, but we in predestination, they
(12) Thus Melchisedech offered bread and wine. Who is Melchisedech? 'Without father,' it says, 'without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. The Epistle to the Hebrews has this. “Without father,' it says, and 'without mother.' You have 'likened unto the Son of God.' The Son of God was born by heavenly generation 'wihout mother,' because He was born of the only God the Father, and again He was born 'without Father, since He was born of a virgin. For He was not begotten of the seed of a man, but was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, brought forth from a virginal womb. Melchisedech, also, was a priest in all respects 'likened unto the Son of God, to whom it is said: “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech.'9
(13) Therefore, who is the author of the sacraments but the Lord Jesus? Those sacraments came down from heaven, for all counsel is from heaven. Moreover, truly a great and
6 Cf. 1 Cor. 1.30. 7 Cf. John 14.27. 8 Heb. 7.3.