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Vol.III, Jan.’97

 

The Silent Caller (Ex 3,1-3)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

At the beginning of this third year of our meditations about our priestly life in union with the holy Angels we stand again before the question of the theme: We decided to continue with the meditations on the holy Angels and our priestly life in Sacred Scripture, following the logic seen in nature: just as there are no leaves and fruits without a living trunk, so too, words cannot be fruitful without living union with the Divine, living WORD; there can be no life-giving charity from the priest without constant personal surrender to God, without implantation in God Who is love.

This is precisely the fundamental message of the biblical texts on the Angels which follow those of the Book of Genesis: Not by the natural strength of Moses alone, but principally by the grace of God and with the angelic intervention, was Israel freed from Egypt.

1. Moses was a man of great sensibility for justice and a man of action. How many times he witnessed the cruel and unjust treatment of his people by the Egyptians. In an apparent outrage of righteousness, he killed a soldier, a representative of the Egyptian nation, and in doing so he had to flee in order to save his life. Despite his best intentions, he had to abandon his people and leave them in the hands of the evil doers.

His initiative to free his people from slavery by "taking the sword of justice into his own hands" did not find approval by God; later on Peter acted in a similar way and was also reprimanded (cf. Mt 26,51). God’s handling of Moses was different; many years passed, much water had run down the Nile and much change had taken place in Moses himself. For years he humbly shepherded the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro. They did not even belong to him; he was foreigner in a foreign land, just a guest. In that setting he matured. In still remaining ready to help anyone in need, he had become balanced through a deeper self-knowledge: He, who beforehand under the impulse of emotion had trusted in the power of his own hand, now confesses with sincerity of heart: "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?" (Ex 3,11) What the strength and self-confidence of man never achieves, suffering offered to God in supplication does attain (cf. Ex 2,24-25; 3,9): God listened, God heeded his call, for He recognized man’s need of His help! - Here again we see a parallel to the life of St. Peter, whose liberation was brought about through the hidden prayer of the community (cf. Acts 12).

2. The book of Exodus first presents the character of Moses through some events in his life, as if God wants to show us how He builds His work of grace upon nature. As Moses changed from an aggressive initiator to passive collaborator with all that God and life brought his way, God, Who on His part had first been a silent and watchful companion, gradually becomes the guiding force in Moses’ life. This transition, however, did not take place without a middle term, without the intervention by God’s servant, the Angel, who was sent to prepare Moses for his encounter with God. This came about while Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, a very natural daily duty: The encounter was unexpected, Moses was not looking for it, such that, normally speaking, not even the devil would have the idea to invent something similar to this. Moses "came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed." Moses pondered the fact he saw, the bush, the fire and the exceptional fact that the fire did not consume the bush; he said "I will turn aside and see this great sign, why the bush is not burnt" (cf. Ex 3, 1-3).

3. We find the Angels often linked with fire: before the gates of Paradise God "placed the Cherubim, and a flaming sword" (Gen 3,24); St. John saw the Angels like "flashes of lightning" and "torches of fire" (Rev 4,5); "I saw another angel,... and his face was like the sun and his feet like pillars of fire" (Rev 10,1). This is because, symbolically, fire is a divine element : "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12,29).

Another truth we do well to recall in order to better understand the text is this: Where we find God, there we will also find the holy Angels; and where we find the holy Angels, there we will find God (cf. Catechism 57, 306-308)! The holy Angels are always with God and will never be separated from Him, neither by any decision on their part nor by any decree from God. Since the Angels remain inseparably united with God whenever they fulfill any service in creation (cf. Mt 18,10), they always have something Heavenly and Divine about them. Furthermore:

Because the holy Angels renounced their own will in favor of God's Will, they desire God exclusively and, consequently, long in all their activities for one goal alone: to glorify God. It is true, of course, that God can never give them any other task or finality than this: to glorify Him in all things.

From these several considerations, it follows that wherever the holy Angels are present in creation, that place is somehow holy, for God is present and dwells there in and through them, to the extent that they are allowed to act there.

Here, "in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush" Moses meets the Angel, and the Angel introduces him to God: Moses is watchful and God calls him by name: "Moses, Moses!" He reveals Himself to him: "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And even more: He reveals His mysterious name which proclaims this divine presence: "I AM WHO I AM." (Ex 3,14) And He charged Moses with the task to truly free his people : "I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth My people out of Egypt." (v. 10)

In the presence of God, Moses was taught to "not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground" (v. 5). And Moses hid his face, he was afraid and fearful lest he not be able to fulfill the will of God. God promised him His help, so that Moses ended up in a mission similar to that of the holy Angels: Sent to do the will of God, and in that, trusting in Him alone.

4. We priests can easily identify with Moses: our attention was drawn away from the enticements of this world; we followed a special call which we may, at least in part, attribute to our Guardian Angel; we were captured by the Majesty and Holiness of God, by His Goodness, and finally simply by Yahweh, Who is "I AM WHO I AM." And so we entered the service of God and consecrated (committed) ourselves forever to the establishment of the Kingdom of God like the Angels. And God accepted us.

Therefore we should, like Moses, reject trusting in ourselves alone. Our life should be a continuous "turning aside" from this world to the fire of God, to unceasing prayer – "pray always" – which is anchored, at least, in the faithful recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours! We need to stay with "the consuming fire", our Eucharistic Lord, as the Angel does. There is where the holy Angels wait for us and expect us. There we shall begin to burn with the fire of Divine charity. We should preach the presence of the Holy God through reverential behavior as Moses was taught. Then, we shall draw the attention others to God like the holy Angels, without many words but through our union with God; we shall learn from the Angels "pastoral prudence," patience and love, as the Angels have here manifested towards Moses.

May this month be a time of less duties and more a time for reflective silence; realizing that although there be innumerable duties that we cannot set aside, these we want to accept with love, confident that this asceticism will dispose us even more for the graces of His love. May the holy Angels draw us nearer to the burning bush of the Tabernacle and re-ignite the fire of Divine Love within us.

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC