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★ Reflexion on the Tablets of the Law and the Sermon on the Mount
If you enter by the backdoor of the church Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza in Rome from the Piazza Sant’Eustachio, you will (maybe) notice the decoration above the door underneath the balcony. On the left hand side we see the images of a sword, a book and a wage, symbols of what they taught in early universities: philosophy, theology, law and medicines. Opposite we have a snake looking in a mirror.
Too understand why He came on earth, before all we have to understand the original sin: it is the knowledge of good and evil. In synthesis: I am good and you are evil. Our own projections (looking in the mirror) are become our gods. for each of us it will be something different: the pursuit of money, power, intellect, human fame or achievement, everlasting youth by a facelift... (CCC 1723). The fairy tale of Snow White originated by the brothers Grimm, was inspired on that universal symbol when the queen looks in the mirror and asks herself: “Who is the fairest of all?”. She didn’t listen to others, only to herself. Exactly what happened with the Israelites. They didn’t want to wait until Moses came back, but created their own god in gold, a reflexion of their own desires. Moses brook in anger the Ten Commandments (and that inspired an other great movie “the history of the world” with Mel Brooks). But his prayer made Jhwh mercy and he received a new set.
The Law of Moses expresses many truths naturally accessible to reason. Maybe therefore they became the inspiration of the Universal declaration of human rights. Its moral prescriptions prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and neighbor and prescribe what is essential to it.Yet it is still imperfect. Like a tutor it shows what must be done, but does not of itself give the strenght, the grace of the spirit, to fulfill it. Pure observance of legislation and rituals will not change hearts and will not bring to full freedom. It became a Law professed by lips, but not by hearts. Therefore we need so many laws today. Because we are doing like the snake in the mirror. When the Ten Commandments are saying: “You shall not steal” .... we are looking in the mirror and say “You shall not steal ..... what’s mine!” And we start making laws about private property, intellectual property a.s.o. Instead of living the Decalogue altruistic, we are living it egocentric. The Law for many is reflecting our desires of what we want that the other is doing to us, instead of what we can do for the other.
The Constitution of America in 1776 proclaimed: “... men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. I always thought: “The pursuit of Happiness, that is a great line”. No other Constitution in the world has it. It correspond with the interior law of charity as expressed in the Sermon of the Mount. Only those who are living happiness can spread happiness.
The new Law is the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments and called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; it is a law of grace, because it confers the strenght of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observance of the Old Law, it inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who “does not know what his master is doing” to that of being a friend of Christ - “For all I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” - It brings us even to the status of son and heir. (CCC 1972)
From observing the Law of Salvation (OT), we are going to live Salvation in our faith of Jesus. It’s not looking anymore in the mirror like the snake, content and approving our own observance of the Law, but looking in our hearts and spreading the love infused by the Holy Spirit on others. An unconditional altruism, like our Father in Heaven loves us. Jesus teaches us at the end of the Sermon of the Mount the prayer that unites us the most with His Father: “Our Father ....”: We are son and heir!
Mt 8:1-4 and Mc 1:40-45 and Lc 5:12-16
1 After he had come down from the mountain large crowds followed him.2 Suddenly a man with a virulent skin-disease came up and bowed low in front of him, saying, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can cleanse me.'3 Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him saying, 'I am willing. Be cleansed.' And his skin-disease was cleansed at once.4 Then Jesus said to him, 'Mind you tell no one, but go and show yourself to the priest and make the offering prescribed by Moses, as evidence to them.'
Tablets of the Law
Sermon of the Mount
Rosselli Cosimo 1483-5
Vincent Van Gogh: Starry Night
Vincent van Gogh - Wheat Field with Cypresses
Cosimo Rosselli, Sistine Chapel, Sermon of the Mount, detail of hilltop church, 1485
Italian Impressionists of the end of the 15th Century .....
Maison Maria with a View of Chateau Noir: Cézanne
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, 1895
★ Biblical description of Handling over the Tablets of the Law to Moses
✤ On the centre top: Moses receives the Tablets of the Law, while Joshua is waiting on the mount Sinai.
7 'You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses his name.8 'Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.9 For six days you shall labour and do all your work,10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath for Yahweh your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the alien living with you.11 For in six days Yahweh made the heavens, earth and sea and all that these contain, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why Yahweh has blessed the Sabbath day and made it sacred.12 'Honour your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you.13 'You shall not kill.14 'You shall not commit adultery.15 'You shall not steal.16 'You shall not give false evidence against your neighbour.17 'You shall not set your heart on your neighbour's house. You shall not set your heart on your neighbour's spouse, or servant, man or woman, or ox, or donkey, or any of your neighbour's possessions.'
23 You must not make gods of silver to rival me, nor must you make yourselves gods of gold.
12 Yahweh said to Moses, 'Come up to me on the mountain. Stay there, and I will give you the stone tablets -- the law and the commandment -- which I have written for their instruction.'13 Moses made ready, with Joshua his assistant, and they went up the mountain of God.14 He said to the elders, 'Wait here for us until we come back to you. You have Aaron and Hur with you; if anyone has any matter to settle, let him go to them.'15 Moses then went up the mountain. Cloud covered the mountain.16 The glory of Yahweh rested on Mount Sinai and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day Yahweh called to Moses from inside the cloud.17 To the watching Israelites, the glory of Yahweh looked like a devouring fire on the mountain top.
18 When he had finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.
✤ On the centre lawer part: Moses destroys the Tablets of the Law after he discovered the erecting and adoration of the golden calf during his absence on the mount Sinai
Ex. 32:1-20 and CCC 1850/1860
1 When the people saw that Moses was a long time before coming down the mountain, they gathered round Aaron and said to him, 'Get to work, make us a god to go at our head; for that Moses, the man who brought us here from Egypt -- we do not know what has become of him.'2 Aaron replied, 'Strip off the gold rings in the ears of your wives and your sons and daughters, and bring them to me.'3 The people all stripped off the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron.4 He received what they gave him, melted it down in a mould and with it made the statue of a calf. 'Israel,' the people shouted, 'here is your God who brought you here from Egypt!'5 Observing this, Aaron built an altar before the statue and made this proclamation, 'Tomorrow will be a feast in Yahweh's honour.'6 Early next morning they sacrificed burnt offerings and brought communion sacrifices. The people then sat down to eat and drink, and afterwards got up to amuse themselves.7 Yahweh then said to Moses, 'Go down at once, for your people whom you brought here from Egypt have become corrupt.8 They have quickly left the way which I ordered them to follow. They have cast themselves a metal calf, worshipped it and offered sacrifice to it, shouting, "Israel, here is your God who brought you here from Egypt!" '9 Yahweh then said to Moses, 'I know these people; I know how obstinate they are!10 So leave me now, so that my anger can blaze at them and I can put an end to them! I shall make a great nation out of you instead.'11 Moses tried to pacify Yahweh his God. 'Yahweh,' he said, 'why should your anger blaze at your people, whom you have brought out of Egypt by your great power and mighty hand?12 Why should the Egyptians say, "He brought them out with evil intention, to slaughter them in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth?" Give up your burning wrath; relent over this disaster intended for your people.13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whom you swore by your very self and made this promise: "I shall make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and this whole country of which I have spoken, I shall give to your descendants, and it will be their heritage for ever."14 Yahweh then relented over the disaster which he had intended to inflict on his people.15 Moses turned and came down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, tablets inscribed on both sides, inscribed on the front and on the back.16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing on them was God's writing, engraved on the tablets.17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, 'There is the sound of battle in the camp!'18 But he replied: No song of victory is this sound, no lament for defeat this sound; but answering choruses I hear!19 And there, as he approached the camp, he saw the calf and the groups dancing. Moses blazed with anger. He threw down the tablets he was holding, shattering them at the foot of the mountain.20 He seized the calf they had made and burned it, grinding it into powder which he scattered on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.
25 When Moses saw that the people were out of hand -- for Aaron had let them get out of hand to the derision of their enemies all round them-26 Moses then stood at the gate of the camp and shouted, 'Who is for Yahweh? To me!' And all the Levites rallied round him.27 He said to them, 'Yahweh, God of Israel, says this, "Buckle on your sword, each of you, and go up and down the camp from gate to gate, every man of you slaughtering brother, friend and neighbour." '28 The Levites did as Moses said, and of the people about three thousand men perished that day.29 'Today', Moses said, 'you have consecrated yourselves to Yahweh, one at the cost of his son, another of his brother; and so he bestows a blessing on you today.'30 On the following day Moses said to the people, 'You have committed a great sin. But now I shall go up to Yahweh: perhaps I can secure expiation for your sin.'31 Moses then went back to Yahweh and said, 'Oh, this people has committed a great sin by making themselves a god of gold.32 And yet, if it pleased you to forgive their sin. . .! If not, please blot me out of the book you have written!'33 Yahweh said to Moses, 'Those who have sinned against me are the ones I shall blot out of my book.34 So now go and lead the people to the place I promised to you. My angel will indeed go at your head but, on the day of punishment, I shall punish them for their sin.' 35 And Yahweh punished the people for having made the calf, the one Aaron had made.
Lumen Fidei 13,19, 46ss
46. Two other elements are essential in the faithful transmission of the Church’s memory. First, the Lord’s Prayer, the "Our Father". Here Christians learn to share in Christ’s own spiritual experience and to see all things through his eyes. From him who is light from light, the only-begotten Son of the Father, we come to know God and can thus kindle in others the desire to draw near to him.
Similarly important is the link between faith and the Decalogue. Faith, as we have said, takes the form of a journey, a path to be followed, which begins with an encounter with the living God. It is in the light of faith, of complete entrustment to the God who saves, that the Ten Commandments take on their deepest truth, as seen in the words which introduce them: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt" (Ex 20:2). The Decalogue is not a set of negative commands, but concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego in order to enter into dialogue with God, to be embraced by his mercy and then to bring that mercy to others. Faith thus professes the love of God, origin and upholder of all things, and lets itself be guided by this love in order to journey towards the fullness of communion with God. The Decalogue appears as the path of gratitude, the response of love, made possible because in faith we are receptive to the experience of God’s transforming love for us. And this path receives new light from Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5-7).
These, then, are the four elements which comprise the storehouse of memory which the Church hands down: the profession of faith, the celebration of the sacraments, the path of the ten commandments, and prayer. The Church’s catechesis has traditionally been structured around these four elements; this includes the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is a fundamental aid for that unitary act with which the Church communicates the entire content of her faith: "all that she herself is, and all that she believes".
✤ On the upper right: worshippers of the Golden calf are punished to death
✤ On the lower left: The Israelites are receiving from Moses with Joshua the New Tablets of the Law.
1 Yahweh said to Moses, 'Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones and come up to me on the mountain, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.2 Be ready at dawn; at dawn come up Mount Sinai and wait for me there at the top of the mountain.3 No one may come up with you, no one may be seen anywhere on the mountain; the flocks and herds may not even graze in front of this mountain.'4 So he cut two tablets of stone like the first and, with the two tablets of stone in his hands, Moses went up Mount Sinai in the early morning as Yahweh had ordered.5 And Yahweh descended in a cloud and stood with him there and pronounced the name Yahweh.
✤ On the right bottom: little cup with pencil and red: allusion on the painter “Rossellli” which means “the red one”
★ Biblical description of the Sermon of the Mount
✤ On the centre: Jesus held the Sermon of the Mount
Mt 5:3-12 and Lc 6:20b-23
1 Seeing the crowds, he went onto the mountain. And when he was seated his disciples came to him.
2 Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
3 How blessed are the poor in spirit: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 Blessed are the gentle: they shall have the earth as inheritance.
5 Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness: they shall have their fill.
7 Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognized as children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 'Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.
✤ On the centre bottom: little baby playing with lamb announcing the sacrifice of the Immaculate Lam.
✤ On the right in front: Curing of the Leper