There is a very interesting detail in the Acts, when presenting the life of the early church after Easter. The apostles make many signs and wonders among the people. Trial after trial, imprisonment after imprisonment. ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’ This is Peter’s answer to the high priest who try to suppress the movement. ‘The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.’ And the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly!
The interesting detail is this. ‘And a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.’ We can presume that these priests played a crucial role in shaping the heart of the Christian liturgy. Coming from the tradition of the Temple sacrifice, I think, it was through them that, in fact, it was Christianity which preserved the heart of Jewish religion at the time. After the destruction of the Temple, in Judaism, the ‘word’, understanding God’s Torah, replaced the role of the Temple-sacrifice. A totally new direction of development forked off.
We should really ponder this precious continuity. In our Eucharist, the whole story of the Temple is there. There is a profound connection with the Old Testament salvation history. The Christian sacrifice is bloodless, and we remember Jesus’ redeeming work in the Spirit. The heritage of those early priest convert is that they were obedient to the faith. To the new spirit of Sacrifice. (Indeed, a good news for our Anglo-Catholic sacramental tradition – being so biblical!)
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..