Saturday, 7/27/ 13
Our first reading today is a key Old Testament passage in that it describes the covenant ceremony by which the Israelites became God’s people.
A covenant is a contract, but it is more. A contract is a formal way of sealing the agreement parties make to exchange things of value. We sign a contract to give a fixed amount of money in exchange for an auto or a condo. In the super-contracts that we call covenants the parties exchange their very selves. In Matrimony that exchange is expressed when the parties say “We have,” in answer to the priest’s question, “Have you come here freely, without reservations to give yourselves to each other in marriage?”
In ancient times when knights gave themselves to their lords there was an added requirement that the underling conform himself to the model of the lord. He was required to wear the lord’s livery and to live by the lord’s laws. With the old name for a lord being a suzerain, the contract binding an inferior to his lord was called a suzerain covenant. At Sinai the Israelites entered into a suzerain covenant with God.
Setting up the covenant ceremony, Moses built an altar in front of Mt. Sinai. The altar was to represent God. Then, he had the young men slaughter young bulls, saving all the blood in big brass bolls.
Moses set the young men to weaving their way through the assembled nation, sprinkling blood on every individual, then pouring the residue from each bowl on God’s altar.
The Israelites believed that blood was life itself, so they felt that the invisible energy between the separated drops of blood united everyone there along with God in one living entity.
Since that was a suzerain covenant, it required that the lower party, the people, agree to keep the laws of the Lord. So, while the blood was being sprinkled, Moses called out each of the commandments, demanding that the people announce they were committing themselves to living by it.