Sunday, March 22, 2009

Aaron and Joseph: Priests to the Womb of the Tent of Meeting

In Numbers 16, a man named Korah and 250 people who were not descended from Aaron attempted to offer incense at the altar of the Lord.  They confronted Moses and Aaron saying that they too were holy and asking why should Moses and Aaron put themselves over everyone else.  Moses responded that the next day they would all bring their censers filled with burning coals and incense and offer it before the Lord along with Aaron and that the Lord would decide who was the holy one.   To make a long story short, the leaders of the group and their families are swallowed up by the earth and fire from heaven consumes the 250 others who were daring to offer incense at the Tent of the Meeting.  Numbers 17 continues the story.  

"The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, "It is you who have slain the LORD'S people." But while the community was deliberating against them, Moses and Aaron turned toward the meeting tent, and the cloud now covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the meeting tent, and the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Depart from this community, that I may consume them at once." But they fell prostrate.  Then Moses said to Aaron, "Take your censer, put fire from the altar in it, lay incense on it, and bring it quickly to the community to make atonement for them; for wrath has come forth from the LORD and the blow is falling." Obeying the orders of Moses, Aaron took his censer and ran in among the community, where the blow was already falling on the people. Then, as he offered the incense and made atonement for the people, standing there between the living and the dead, the scourge was checked. Yet fourteen thousand seven hundred died from the scourge, in addition to those who died because of Korah.  When the scourge had been checked, Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the meeting tent.

The LORD now said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and get one staff from them for each ancestral house, twelve staffs in all, one from each of their tribal princes. Mark each man's name on his staff;and mark Aaron's name on Levi's staff, for the head of Levi's ancestral house shall also have a staff.  Then lay them down in the meeting tent, in front of the commandments, where I meet you.  There the staff of the man of my choice shall sprout. Thus will I suppress from my presence the Israelites' grumbling against you."So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their princes gave him staffs, twelve in all, one from each tribal prince; and Aaron's staff was with them.Then Moses laid the staffs down before the LORD in the tent of the commandments. The next day, when Moses entered the tent, Aaron's staff, representing the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth not only shoots, but blossoms as well, and even bore ripe almonds! Moses thereupon brought out all the staffs from the LORD'S presence to the Israelites. After each prince identified his own staff and took it,the LORD said to Moses, "Put back Aaron's staff in front of the commandments, to be kept there as a warning to the rebellious, so that their grumbling may cease before me; if it does not, they will die." And Moses did as the LORD had commanded him.Then the Israelites cried out to Moses, "We are perishing; we are lost, we are all lost!  Every time anyone approaches the Dwelling of the LORD, he dies! Are we to perish to the last man?" 

God gives responsibility of the priesthood to Aaron and his sons alone, where the rest of the Levites may attend to the sanctuary.  Aaron and his direct descendants were to have charge of the altar and the sacred vessels used for sacrifice.  They would have no portion of the promised Land, but the Lord Himself would be their portion.  

In the The Apocryphal Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, the story is related that Mary had been living at the Temple with other young girls dedicated to the Lord since the age of three years. Her parents Joachim and Anna left her there to be educated.   God the Father thought of Mary as His "lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters"(Songs 2:2).  Mary turned fourteen years of age and the high priest announced that it was time for all girls of that age to return home and get married according to custom.   Mary had made a vow of perpetual virginity to God and told the high priest she could not  marry for this reason.  The high priest consulted with the other priests and they decided that the matter must be taken before the Mercy Seat of the Lord.  A voice was heard that said in order to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, "a man should be sought out to whom the virgin could be entrusted and espoused."

"But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.  The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD (Is 11:1-3).  

All of David's descendants who were eligible for marriage were summoned to bring forth their rods to the altar.  None of their staffs blossomed and the high priest found out from God in prayer that Joseph who was very old by this time had withheld his rod and had not come forth.  Joseph was summoned to bring his staff before the altar of the Lord and it blossomed and the Spirit of the Lord in the form a dove descended upon his staff and settled there.  Mary was obedient and became betrothed to Joseph.  She returned to her parents home in Nazareth and it is shortly thereafter that the Annunciation took place and the angel Gabriel calmed her fears and explained to her God's plan of salvation of which she was to be a significant agent. 

Tradition and Scripture tell us of the virgin birth of Jesus and how Joseph cared for and protected Mary in whom God and Man were joined inseparably for eternity.  Joseph served as a priest before the new "Tent of Meeting" between God and man.  The Shekinah of the Holy Spirit came down upon Joseph's staff as a sign that he alone had been chosen to serve at the altar of the Blessed Virgin's Womb.  His obedience to the will of God expressed to him in dreams by angels was a sweet fragrance that was an acceptable sacrifice before God in His new Holy of Holies.

The Tent of the Meeting contained the Word of God written on stone tablets that Moses received from God on Sinai.  Later when the Ark of the Covenant was built there would also be the staff of Aaron and the manna from heaven with which God fed them in the desert for forty years.  The womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary contained the Word of God written not on stone but in the literal Flesh of Jesus.  He was the blossom from the root of Jesse and the Bread of Life come down from Heaven through which God gave them every good thing.

Here within Mary was a temple not made by human hands.  In Hebrews 10 it says upon coming into the world (within Mary's womb) Jesus said to God, "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.  Then I said, 'As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.'"  The author of Hebrews goes on to explain "By this "will," we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10).  

Just as Aaron served before the first tent of the meeting, Joseph served before the second tent of the meeting.  Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and was watched over by a just man who was also chaste and never had relations with Mary.  He treated this sacred vessel of the Lord with great reverence and respect and was always ready to obey the command of the Lord to protect Mary and the child Jesus.  

Aaron's staff bloomed almonds and signified the Lord's choice of his priesthood.  Joseph's staff bloomed a blossom which signified that he was God's choice to be the man entrusted with His beloved bride.  The blossom is depicted as a Lily in artwork probably because Jesus is prophetically called the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley in the Song of Solomon 2:1.     God, through Mary, came to us in a way that we no longer needed fear for our lives in approaching Him.  Jesus is the Mercy of God Incarnate.  From the Mercy seat of Mary's womb he began to offer Himself to God the Father on our behalf as a "once for all sacrifice".  
Mary's intercession helped bring about God with us.  She continues to intercede for us and helps us to approach the Lord in love and confidence.  She says, "Do whatever he tells you to do" (Jn 2:5).  

If any man wants to be a better husband, let him look to Saint Joseph's example for guidance. Actions speak louder than words.  The Scriptures only record what Joseph did.  They never tell what words he spoke.  Joseph listened to the Lord in prayer and promptly obeyed God's will.  As a husband I need to follow his example of being faithful leader of my wife and family and to always be faithful to the sacred duties I have been entrusted with.  

St Joseph, pray for us.

1 comment:

Whimsy said...

Mary wasn’t the only person to say “yes” to God. Dietrich, of wombsoflife, parallels priesthood and fatherhood in Aaron and Joseph: Priests to the Womb of the Tent of Meeting.

See this at the Catholic Carnival.