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Music & Liturgy Reflections

Liturgy Reflection | April 6th, 2023

By April 6, 2023No Comments

The seat of Moses, then, does not stand for itself and by itself, nor is it simply turned toward the people. No, the rabbi looks—as does everyone else in the synagogue—toward the Ark of the Covenant, or rather the shrine of the Torah, which represents the lost Ark. Up to the Exile, the Ark of the Covenant was the only “object” allowed inside the Holy of Holies. That is what gave the Holy of Holies its special dignity. The Ark was seen as an empty throne, upon which the Shekinah—the cloud of God’s presence—came down. The cherubim—representing, as it were, the elements of the world—served as “assistants at the throne”. They were not self-subsistent deities, but an expression of the created powers that worship the only God. God is addressed as “thou who art enthroned between the cherubim”. The heavens cannot contain him, but he has chosen the Ark as the “footstool” of his presence. In this sense, the Ark embodies something like the real presence of God among his own. At the same time it is an impressive sign of the absence of images from the liturgy of the Old Testament, which maintains God in his sovereignty and holds out to him, so to speak, only the footstool of his throne. During the Exile, the Ark of the Covenant was lost, and from then on the Holy of Holies was empty. That is what Pompeius found when he strode through the Temple and pulled back the curtain. He entered the Holy of Holies full of curiosity and there, in the very emptiness of the place, discovered what is special about biblical religion. The empty Holy of Holies had now become an act of expectation, of hope, that God himself would one day restore his throne.

(Ratzinger, J. (2000). The Spirit of the Liturgy (J. Saward, Trans.; pp. 64–65). Ignatius Press.)
  • As we read the description of the Synagogue by Cardinal Ratzinger, we see the clear connection to our own churches and the importance of directional orientation for worship in the liturgy.  Even the teaching/preaching place of the rabbi, the “seat of moses” is turned to face the “shrine of the torah” which represents the ark of the covenant and houses the sacred scrolls of the Pentateuch.
  • God is invisible, and so the visible seat, or footstool, attended upon by cherubim, is an expectation of his presence, and an invitation to him to reign.  A moment to reflect and consider the visible emptiness can occasion a thirst for spiritual fullness – a thirst that directs the mind and heart back to their origin and source.
  • As we begin the Triduum, the contrast of the empty tabernacle with the rest of the year, draws us into the longing for the Real Presence of God – not just in the tabernacle, but in our lives and in our hearts.  That longing, when paired with the events of Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection has the power to deepen the impact of grace in our lives.