|St. Paul at the Areopagus (Raphael, c. 1515)|
“Almighty God …
You grant that the Church, his body,
adorned with manifold heavenly graces,
drawn together in the diversity of its members,
and united by a wondrous bond through the Holy Spirit, should grow and spread forth
to build up a new temple
and, as once you chose the sons of Levi
to minister in the former tabernacle,
so now you establish three ranks of ministers
in their sacred offices to serve in your name.”
This is from the Prayer of Consecration of the Rite of Ordination of a Deacon, which Archbishop Gregory will be praying over y’all, brothers, in just a few days.
The triple rank of Holy Orders in the New Covenant is foreshadowed by the choosing of the sons of Levi to minister in the tabernacle of the old Covenant. Deacons are often referred to as Levites in the liturgical books … for instance in the Easter proclamation, the Exsultet, which perhaps some of you might be chanting next year, he calls himself an unworthy member of the tribe of Levi.
So this got me thinking – what is it about the tribe of Levi that it received this particular honor and blessing? There was already a priesthood, from Aaron … why the Levites? In Deuteronomy, when Moses is blessing the twelve tribes, of Levi he says, "Give to Levi thy Thummim, and thy Urim to thy godly one, whom thou didst test at Massah, with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Mer'ibah; who said of his father and mother, 'I regard them not'; he disowned his brothers, and ignored his children. For they observed thy word, and kept thy covenant.” (Deut. 33:8)
Levi, who regarded not his father and his mother, and disowned his brothers and ignored his children.