Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Hophni and Phineas

Hophni and Phineas, represented in the Psalter of William de Brailes, ca. 1250. (Public domain image from Wikipedia.)
Solomon wisely wrote in Ecclesiastes “there is nothing new under the sun.” As it turns out, the scandals of the past few weeks are nothing new either.

In the Old Testament book of I Samuel, chapter 2, the faithful priest Eli has two sons, Hophni and Phineas. As the narrative goes, Hophni and Phineas meddled with the temple sacrifices, taking the finest sacrificial meat to eat before it had been rightfully offered to God. Shortly after meddling with the sacred sacrifices, Hophni and Phineas were found guilty of sexually abusing the servers in the temple. The two-fold sacrilege was so upsetting, that God placed a curse on the entire family, including Eli himself. God then raised up lowly Samuel, the miraculous and unlikely son of Hannah, to restore proper order to the temple. In the Breviary of St Pius V, this story is read on the day before and the day after one of the greatest solemnities of the liturgical year, Corpus Christi: another example, perhaps, of the “liturgical providence of God”, that the Church’s joyful celebration of the gift of the Blessed Sacrament should be accompanied with such a stern warning to those who administer It unworthily and sacrilegiously.

In our own time, reverent celebration of the liturgy isn’t some mere preference, a side show isolated from other aspects of Catholic practice. It is rather at the very core of authentic faith. Indeed, how can the Eucharist be our “source and summit,” if we meddle with it? May God’s retribution be swift, and may the Samuels of our time hear their call in the night.

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