THE SACRIFICE OF PRAISE
“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.’ He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law how on the sabbath the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath.’” (Mt 12: 1-8)
Both the source and the fulfilment of the Old-Testament Law are embodied in the human-divine Person of Jesus Christ. That’s why we are no longer called to follow the Law; we are called to follow Him. The “old“ Covenant between God and His people, expressed in us fulfiling requirements of the Law, like offering the external sacrifices at the Temple, was superseded by the establishment, by His Son, of the New Covenant “of His blood“ (cf. Mt 26: 28), of which we partake. In response to Christ’s Self-offering, we now offer Him a sacrifice not external to us, but from within us, – the “sacrifice of praise“ (θυσία αἰνέσεως / жертва хваления).
So we can truly rest, in the Spirit of Christ, from offering ourselves over to the spirit of condemnation, which would have us preoccupied with externals. We can leave judgment of ourselves and others to the One Judge and the Lord of the Sabbath, Who desires for us to “desire mercy, not sacrifice,“ as does He. Let me let His Way, of mercy, into my heart today, so I can truly rest even as I work. In the new Sabbath of Christ, which is our daily “liturgy after the liturgy,“ we “profane the sabbath, and are guiltless,“ as were the priests in the Temple, when we heed His call: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt 11: 29)