Fr. Martin Fuchs´s sermon on 3rd February 2019, Prague, Czechia
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Yesterday we celebrated the purification of Our Lady. That is why I want to speak about the purification laws in the Old Testament.
Why purification laws? Is not everything good that God has created? Is not everything pure what comes from the purest?
Yes, everything that God has created is good; it is not only good, it is very good. Everything that God has created is pure; it is really pure.
What does not come from God makes things unclean, and this is the sin.
The reason why God declared some things unclean was because of their relation to the original sin.
In the Holy Scripture we read that God declared unclean:
- the corpse and carrion
- processes in the sex life
- some kind of food
- the pagans
In the first book of the Holy Scripture we read that God took man and put him into the paradise of pleasure, to dress it, and to keep it. And He commanded him saying: “Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day so ever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
Death was the consequence of sin. That is why Our Lord declared that man mustn’t have contact with a corpse or a carrion.
And all kind of illnesses are harbingers of death. It is especially well shown by leprosy or lepers. People who suffered from leprosy were kept away from others: “And it came to pass, as he was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain town, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off; And lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, master, have mercy on us. Whom when he saw, he said: Go, shew yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God.“ (Luke 17:11)
God created man in the state of sanctifying grace. This grace should be given by the parents to their children through procreating. But after the first sin, Adam and Eve have lost sanctifying grace. Thus they could not pass the sanctifying grace to their children. That is why God declared some processes of the sex life unclean:
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: If a woman having received seed shall bear a man child, she shall be unclean seven days, according to the days of the separation of her flowers. And on the eighth day the infant shall be circumcised: But she shall remain three and thirty days in the blood of her purification. She shall touch no holy thing, neither shall she enter into the sanctuary, until the days of her purification be fulfilled. But if she shall bear a maid child, she shall be unclean two weeks, according to the custom of her monthly courses, and she shall remain in the blood of her purification sixty-six days.
And when the days of her purification are expired, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of the testimony, a lamb of a year old for a holocaust, and a young pigeon or a turtle for sin, and shall deliver them to the priest.“ (Lev. 12:1-6)
“The man that hath an issue of seed, shall be unclean.“ (Leviticus 15:2)
Our Lord declared also some kind of food unclean because the original sin came from eating from a forbidden fruit and because He wanted to show His people that they were a chosen nation. They were not allowed to eat what other people did.
That is why Judith took her own food with her when she went to the camp of Holophernes. (Judith 12:2)
And Tobias too, he did not eat the food from the pagans: “When all ate of the meats of the Gentiles, he kept his soul and never was defiled with their meats.“ (Tobit 1:12)
In the 2nd Book of the Machabees we read the following story: “Eleazar one of the chief of the scribes, a man advanced in years, and of a comely countenance, was pressed to open his mouth to eat swine's flesh. But he, choosing rather a most glorious death than a hateful life, went forward voluntarily to the torment. And considering in what manner he was come to it, patiently bearing, he determined not to do any unlawful things for the love of life.
But they that stood by, being moved with wicked pity, for the old friendship they had with the man, taking him aside, desired that flesh might be brought, which it was lawful for him to eat, that he might make as if he had eaten, as the king had commanded of the flesh of the sacrifice: That by so doing he might be delivered from death: and for the sake of their old friendship with the man they did him this courtesy. But he began to consider the dignity of his age, and his ancient years, and the inbred honour of his grey head, and his good life and conversation from a child: and he answered without delay, according to the ordinances of the holy law made by God, saying, that he would rather be sent into the other world. For it doth not become our age, said he, to dissemble: whereby many young persons might think that Eleazar, at the age of fourscore and ten years, was gone over to the life of the heathens: And so they, through my dissimulation, and for a little time of a corruptible life, should be deceived, and hereby I should bring a stain and a curse upon my old age.
For though, for the present time, I should be delivered from the punishments of men, yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty neither alive nor dead. Wherefore by departing manfully out of this life, I shall shew myself worthy of my old age: And I shall leave an example of fortitude to young men, if with a ready mind and constancy I suffer an honourable death, for the most venerable and most holy laws. And having spoken thus, he was forthwith carried to execution.“ (2 Machabees 6:18-28)
To eat the food of pagans meant fellowship with idolatry.
And saint Peter refused unclean food as it is written in the Acts of the apostles: “Peter went up to the higher parts of the house to pray, about the sixth hour. And being hungry, he was desirous to taste somewhat. And as they were preparing, there came upon him an ecstasy of mind.
And he saw the heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending, as it were a great linen sheet let down by the four corners from heaven to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts, and creeping things of the earth, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him: Arise, Peter; kill and eat. But Peter said: Far be it from me; for I never did eat any thing that is common and unclean. And the voice spoke to him again the second time: That which God hath cleansed, do not thou call common.
And this was done thrice; and presently the vessel was taken up into heaven. Now, whilst Peter was doubting within himself, what the vision that he had seen should mean, behold the men who were sent from Cornelius, inquiring for Simon's house, stood at the gate. And when they had called, they asked, if Simon, who is surnamed Peter, were lodged there. And as Peter was thinking of the vision, the Spirit said to him: Behold three men seek thee. Arise, therefore, get thee down and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.“ (Acts of the Apostles 10:10-20)
The Jewish people did not want to have contact with the pagans, with people who did not want to obey the Commandments. That’s why saint John mentions in his gospel: “Then they led Jesus from Caiphas to the governor's hall. And it was morning; and they went not into the hall, that they might not be defiled, but that they might eat the pasch.“ (John 18:28)
Let us summarize: God created a good world. But then Adam and Eve sinned.
God declared things unclean, such as the corpse and carrion, leprosy, processes of the sex life, some kind of food and the contact with pagans, with people who do not worship the true God. These things have a certain relation to the original sin.
Besides the relation to the original sin, purification laws were introduced because of other reasons: They protected the women’s life after having given birth. The husband was not allowed approach her because of her uncleanness and they prepared people by obedience to the Redeemer. The first sin came by disobedience in the world. The salvation comes by obedience.
Mary, the Mother of God, was free of original and any personal sin. She has not to be purified, but She herself wanted to obey the laws of the Old Testament.
We will ask her for help to fulfil God’s will everywhere and at any time. And we will think of the sin and the consequences of the sin in order to do penance. Amen.