The Readings: Leviticus 8:1-13, 30-36; Hebrews 12:1-14; Luke 4:16-30
The consecration of Aaron and his sons: our reflections could take us in so many directions; here are two.
Among the ceremonies setting individuals apart this account has no equal in the Old Testament. There may have been equally elaborate ceremonies for the consecration of a king, but the Old Testament does not bother recording them. The prophets? Typically, there was no public ceremony, another reason why the credibility of the prophets was a recurrent issue. And yet stories in which a high priest plays a decisive role in the nation’s history are few and far between. Because of who is telling and passing on the stories? Or another illustration of Charles Williams’ dictum “the sacrifice must be made ready, and the fire will strike on another altar”?
The second direction: Peter uses Exodus 19’s “priestly kingdom” language to describe our vocation: “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). Alexander Schmemann (Of Water & the Spirit) has some words that may help us think about this priestly role:
“…to offer sacrifice, i.e., to be mediator between God and creation, the ‘sanctifier’ of life through its inclusion into the divine will and order.…
“The fall of man is the rejection by him of this priestly calling, his refusal to be priest. The original sin consists in man’s choice of a non-priestly relationship with God and the world. And perhaps no word better expresses the essence of this new, fallen, non-priestly way of life than the one which in our own time has had an amazingly successful career… consumer.… The first consumer was Adam himself. He chose not to be priest but to approach the world as consumer: to ‘eat’ of it, to use and to dominate it for himself, to benefit from it but not to offer, not to sacrifice, not to have it for God and in God.”
As the priest lifts up the bread and wine, asking God to do something wonderful with them, so our human vocation is to daily take whatever is in our hands (including, of course, ourselves) and lift it up to God, asking God to do with it something wonderful.