Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | October 2, 2008

Searching for Prayer… and Finding Pascha

“It is a night of vigil to the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of vigil to the Lord for all the children of Israel throughout their generations. This is the law of Pascha: no foreigner shall eat it. But every man’s servant bought with money, when you circumcise him, then he may eat it. A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat it. In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones. All the congregation of the children of Israel shall keep it. But when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Lord’s Pasha, let all his males be circumcised, and the let him come near and sacrifice it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.” – Exodus

In trying to sort something out… seeking to deal with unbelief and looking for a prayer… the prayer of Moses celebrating the Glory of the Lord for bringing his people out of Egypt, for safely transiting the Red Sea, I found myself in the first  Pascha. It’s all here, isn’t it. You knew, but to me, this reading was clearly the vigil of Holy Saturday, instruction on partaking of the Eucharist, the circumcision of the heart, and the seal of Chrismation, …even infant baptism. I mean it’s there if you go there. Otherwise… it’s just a lot of surgery.

So that’s quite a lot for a few sentences, and a lot I hadn’t recalled. The prayer of Moses was equally beyond my recall. Of course, it seemed like there should be one… and sure enough there was… but at least in my mind, it was different. Where I had imagined a contemplation and giving of thanks and petition for blessings …even intercessions for those left behind or those lost on the way, for those enslaved in Egypt or as servants of Pharoh… even his soldiers… instead I found prayer to the Glory of God as manifest in the Israelites’ safely gaining the far shore.

While not surprising since the text records a public prayer, one wonders what instead might have been the private prayers of Moses… and whether he would have wept. There’s not a lot of that in OT-land, but surely a man who is at once an Israelite and an Egyptian as was Moses; and surely as he wrestles with both Egyptians and later, the stiff-necked Israelites; surely as the Israelites whined to their tour director time and again about the frustrations of their journey; and surely as at least some old, infirm, and reluctant were left behind or lost along the way; and surely as there were some might-have-beens a Moses would have preferred, – it seems only natural that these would have come to mind – especially at this juncture and entered his prayers… just as for some reason these trials came to my mind when I began to think of the problems of unbelief here in our own day…

Then again, we’re doin’ this in OT… and they’re not given to a lot of introspection at this point.  And maybe Moe was just a little too busy getting his flock the heck out of Dodge, and trying to figure out his next move, to worry ’bout the rest and all the “might have beens”. Certainly he was no “Sensitive Seventies” man… even if he was in the Septuagint. Nevertheless… I wonder.

And amazingly… even as I wondered these things… at that very moment… “ping!”…. came an email from Fr. Pat Reardon with his latest missive (“Pastoral Ponderings” for 10/05/08 – not yet up on his website) regarding prayer… and it’s scarcity of examples and instruction in Scripture. You’d think he was reading over my shoulder! He reminds us of Jesus’s admonition to pray in private, and then cites the Prayer of Hanna in the First Book of Samuel as one of our best examples of instruction on how we are to pray.

No, he doesn’t answer my speculation… but the piece is helpful all the same.


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