"I encourage Catholics to pray fervently for the dead, for their family members and for all our brothers and sisters who have died, that they may obtain the remission of the punishments due to their sins and may hear the Lord's call: 'Come, O my dear soul, to eternal repose in the arms of my goodness, which has prepared eternal delights for you"'.
~ Pope John Paul II

February 11, 2010

Clean vs Unclean

We left off with a description of God as the source and summit of holiness in a transcendent way that man, left to his own devices, will never and CAN never approach. We continue by looking at holiness as it pertains to ritual cleanness as prescribed by God for the Hebrews on Mt. Sinai.

The Book of Leviticus describes (among other things) what man can do or come into contact which will make him unclean. For instance, eating pork or camel meat or snakes or bugs was forbidden under the Law as these animals were considered unclean. Likewise, wearing certain fabrics, coming into contact with mildew, a dead body, or bodily emissions would make a person unclean. Perhaps the most obvious case of uncleanness is leprosy, the cure of which is described in several chapters (as well as in the Gospels: cf. Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16).

The restrictions placed on the unclean were strict and highlighted their separateness from things that were holy. From Leviticus 13:
45 "The person with such an infectious disease [i.e. leprosy] must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, 'Unclean! Unclean!'
46 As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.

Regarding those who were unclean during the time of Passover, we read in Numbers 9:
7 [They] said to Moses, "We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the LORD's offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?"
8 Moses answered them, "Wait until I find out what the LORD commands concerning you."
9 Then the LORD said to Moses,
10 "Tell the Israelites: 'When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they may still celebrate the LORD's Passover.
11 They are to celebrate it on the fourteenth day of the second month [i.e. one month later] at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations.
13 But if a man who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, that person must be cut off from his people because he did not present the LORD's offering at the appointed time. That man will bear the consequences of his sin.

We see that the Israelites who had become unclean were legally forbidden from joining the rest of their kinsmen in making offering to the LORD and from participating in the celebration of Passover. For those who were not unclean, this celebration was considered a moral and legal duty, the neglect of which would cause a man to "bear the consequences of his sin." The consequence of becoming unclean -- even from something as morally innocuous as burying one's father -- was a strict separation from those who were clean under the Law. The demands of holiness in this case are shown to outweigh a man's obligations to God. And this for laymen.

In the next section, we will discuss the role of holiness in the lives of the Levites and the sons of Aaron.

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