The author of the letter to the Hebrews would seem to address the contemporary issue of the sort of 18th century piety which demands that people shrink back, bow and scrape, and do full prostration in the divine presence of God. Because we are worth scum in the sight of God due to our sins, we are unworthy in every moment to approach God. It is the difference between translating “fear of God” and “awe of God”, the two legitimate options based on the Hebrew original phrase. The clergy of any religion has wanted to instill a sense of “fear of God” in the people to control them and ensure job security. The one is a negative orientation to God, and the second a positive understanding. Of course in a day and age of deep human narcissism and godlessness, one can understand the need to instill fear.After all, God is the final judge.

But the Hebrew’s writer declines the negative view of human unworthiness by the use and description of the first “not” in favor of the second “no”, we have approached something filled with awe and wonder. The scene is “festal” not “fearful.”

The sprinkled blood is the sign and ritual of the new covenant, the eloquent words recreate the scene of Exodus 24, 1-8. where blood is sprinkled and the covenant is read out to the people who answer affirmatively that they have heard and will act upon the covenant. eating to a feast shared between God and the people. Communion is not only about the holy presence of God, but about the covenant between God and the human family. We tend to focus only on the first aspect to the neglect of the second.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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