Spiritual Reflections of Fr John Brian

A web place for epistles, sermons, homilies, and other spiritual and pastoral reflections of Fr John Brian Paprock, including Sunday sermons from Holy Transfiguration Chapel in Madison Wisconsin and links to articles published on-line. All images are from the archives of Fr John Brian. Most of them are photographs taken by him. Permission to use any of the content of this blog needs to be requested - frjohnbrian@gmail.com

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Seven Sacrifices - Seven Remissions

Seven Sacrifices
Seven Remissions
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Origen, 2nd Century Father of the Church
excerpted from
Homilies on Leviticus - Fathers of the Church Series, Volume 83
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Summary list

A. Seven Sacrifices in Leviticus:
> These were killed - sheep, goats, cattle and birds.
> This was moistened - wheat flour/bread.
1. a calf
2. he-goat (also called scape-goats
3. fat goats
4. ram/sheep
5. pair of turle doves or two pidgeons
6. loaves of fine wheat flour
7. fine wheat flour from gridiron

B. Seven Remissions correlated by Origen:
1. baptism
2. martyrdom
3. alms
4. forgive your brother's sins
5. convert a sinner
6. abundance of love
7. penance and weeping

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[Origen's excerpted text in English begins here]

... perhaps the hearers of the Church may say, generally it was better with the ancients than with us, when pardon for sinners was obtained by offering sacrifices in a diverse ritual.

Among us, there is only one pardon of sins, which is given in the beginning through the grace of baptism.

After this, neither mercy nor any indulgence is granted to the sinner. Certainly, it is fitting that the Christian, "for whom Christ died” (Rom 14:15) have a more difficult discipline. For the ancients, sheep, he-goats, cattle, and birds were killed and fine wheat flour was moistened. For you, the Son of God was killed.

How could it please you to sin again? And yet, lest these things not so much build up your souls for virtue as cast them down to despair, you heard how many sacrifices there were in the Law for sins. Now hear how many remissions of sins are in the gospel.

First is the one by which we are baptized "for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4).

A second remission is in the suffering of martyrdom.

Third is that which is given through alms. For the Savior says, "but nevertheless, give what you have and, behold, all things are clean for you. (Luke 11:41).

A fourth remission of sins is given for us through the fact that we also forgive the sins of our brothers. For thus the Lord and Savior himself says, "If you will forgive from the heart your brothers' sins, your Father will also forgive you your sins. But if you will not forgive your brothers from the heart, neither will your Father forgive you” (Mt 6: 14, 15). And thus he taught us to say in prayer, "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6:12).

A fifth forgiveness of sins is when "someone will convert a sinner from the error of his way." For thus divine Scripture says, "Whoever will make a sinner turn from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”(Jas 5:20).

There is also a sixth forgiveness through the abundance of love as the Lord himself says, "Truly I say to you, her many sins are forgiven because she loved much.” (Luke 7:47). And the Apostle says, "Because love will cover a multitude of sins" (1 Pet 4:8).

And there is still a seventh remission of sins through penance, although admittedly it is difficult and toilsome, when the sinner washes "his couch in tears” (Ps 6:7) and his "tears" become his "bread day and night” (Ps 41:4) when he is not ashamed to make known his sin to the priest of the Lord and to seek a cure according to the one who says, "I said, 'I will proclaim to the Lord my injustice against myself,' and you forgave the impiety of my heart" (Ps 31:5).

What the Apostle James said is fulfilled in this:' "But if anyone is sick, let that person call the presbyters of the Church, and they will place their hands on him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and if he is in sins, they will be forgiven him.” (Jas 5:14-15).

And you, therefore, when you come to the grace of baptism, you offer "a calf," for "you are baptized into Christ's death” (Rom 6:3). But when you are led to martyrdom, you offer "a he-goat," because you kill the devil, the originator of sins. When you give alms and bestow the love of mercy moved by pity toward those in need, you load the sacred altar with fat goats.

For "if you should forgive your brother's sin from your heart” (Matt 18:35) and, having laid aside the tumor of your rage, gather within you a mild and simple spirit, be assured, you have killed your ram or offered your sheep in a sacrifice.

Furthermore, if, instructed in the divine readings "by meditating as a dove" (Isa 38:14) and by keeping watch in "the Law" of the Lord "day and night" (Ps 1:2) you should convert the sinner from his error and call him back from worthless wickedness to the innocence of a dove; and if, by clinging to the saints. (Rom 12:9) you should make him imitate the fellowship of a dove, you offered to the Lord "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."

Because of this "love" which is "greater" than hope or faith," (1Cor 13:13) should abound in your heart, so that "you love your neighbor" not only "as yourself" (Mt 19:19) but as that one shows who said "No one has greater love than this, that he lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) know that you have offered loaves made of fine wheat flour "kneaded in the oil” (Lev 2:4) of love, without any "fermentation of malice and wickedness in the unleavened loaf of purity and truth" (1 Cor 5:8).

But if in the bitterness of your weeping you have been consumed in mourning, tears, and lamentations, if you have tortured your flesh and become parched with fastings and much self-restraint and have said, "My bones were fried as a frying pan” (Ps 101:4) then you have offered "as a sacrifice, fine wheat flour from the frying pan or gridiron." (Lev 2:4).

In this way, you will have discovered that you have offered sacrifices more fittingly and more perfectly, which Israel can no longer offer according to the Law.

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Books by Fr John Brian available through Holy Transfiguration Publications

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