Summa Th. I-II EN Qu.102 a.4
Objection: 1. It would seem that no sufficient reason can be assigned for the ceremonies of the Old Law that pertain to holy things. For Paul said (Ac 17,24): "God Who made the world and all things therein; He being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made by hands." It was therefore unfitting that in the Old Law a tabernacle or temple should be set up for the worship of God.
2. Further, the state of the Old Law was not changed except by Christ. But the tabernacle denoted the state of the Old Law. Therefore it should not have been changed by the building of a temple.
3. Further, the Divine Law, more than any other indeed, should lead man to the worship of God. But an increase of divine worship requires multiplication of altars and temples; as is evident in regard to the New Law. Therefore it seems that also under the Old Law there should have been not only one tabernacle or temple, but many.
4. Further, the tabernacle or temple was ordained to the worship of God. But in God we should worship above all His unity and simplicity. Therefore it seems unbecoming for the tabernacle or temple to be divided by means of veils.
5. Further, the power of the First Mover, i.e. God, appears first of all in the east, for it is in that quarter that the first movement begins. But the tabernacle was set up for the worship of God. Therefore it should have been built so as to point to the east rather than the west.
6. Further, the Lord commanded (Ex 20,4) that they should "not make . . . a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything." It was therefore unfitting for graven images of the cherubim to be set up in the tabernacle or temple. In like manner, the ark, the propitiatory, the candlestick, the table, the two altars, seem to have been placed there without reasonable cause.
7. Further, the Lord commanded (Ex 20,24): "You shall make an altar of earth unto Me": and again (Ex 20,26): "Thou shalt not go up by steps unto My altar." It was therefore unfitting that subsequently they should be commanded to make an altar of wood laid over with gold or brass; and of such a height that it was impossible to go up to it except by steps. For it is written (Ex 27,1-2): "Thou shalt make also an altar of setim wood, which shall be five cubits long, and as many broad . . . and three cubits high . . . and thou shalt cover it with brass": and (Ex 30,1 Ex 30,3): "Thou shalt make . . . an altar to burn incense, of setim wood . . . and thou shalt overlay it with the purest gold."
8. Further, in God's works nothing should be superfluous; for not even in the works of nature is anything superfluous to be found. But one cover suffices for one tabernacle or house. Therefore it was unbecoming to furnish the tabernacle with many coverings, viz. curtains, curtains of goats' hair, rams' skins dyed red, and violet-colored skins (Ex 26).
9. Further, exterior consecration signifies interior holiness, the subject of which is the soul. It was therefore unsuitable for the tabernacle and its vessels to be consecrated, since they were inanimate things.
0. Further, it is written (Ps 33,2): "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall always be in my mouth." But the solemn festivals were instituted for the praise of God. Therefore it was not fitting that certain days should be fixed for keeping solemn festivals; so that it seems that there was no suitable cause for the ceremonies relating to holy things.
On the contrary The Apostle says (He 8,4) that those who "offer gifts according to the law . . . serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things. As it was answered to Moses, when he was to finish the tabernacle: See, says He, that thou make all things according to the pattern which was shown thee on the mount." But that is most reasonable, which presents a likeness to heavenly things. Therefore the ceremonies relating to holy things had a reasonable cause.
I answer that The chief purpose of the whole external worship is that man may give worship to God. Now man's tendency is to reverence less those things which are common, and indistinct from other things; whereas he admires and reveres those things which are distinct from others in some point of excellence. Hence too it is customary among men for kings and princes, who ought to be reverenced by their subjects, to be clothed in more precious garments, and to possess vaster and more beautiful abodes. And for this reason it behooved special times, a special abode, special vessels, and special ministers to be appointed for the divine worship, so that thereby the soul of man might be brought to greater reverence for God.In like manner the state of the Old Law, as observed above (Article ; Question , Article ; Question , Article ), was instituted that it might foreshadow the mystery of Christ. Now that which foreshadows something should be determinate, so that it may present some likeness thereto. Consequently, certain special points had to be observed in matters pertaining to the worship of God.
Reply to Objection: 1. The divine worship regards two things: namely, God Who is worshipped; and men, who worship Him. Accordingly God, Who is worshipped, is confined to no bodily place: wherefore there was no need, on His part, for a tabernacle or temple to be set up. But men, who worship Him, are corporeal beings: and for their sake there was need for a special tabernacle or temple to be set up for the worship of God, for two reasons. First, that through coming together with the thought that the place was set aside for the worship of God, they might approach thither with greater reverence. Secondly, that certain things relating to the excellence of Christ's Divine or human nature might be signified by the arrangement of various details in such temple or tabernacle.To this Solomon refers (1R 8,27) when he says: "If heaven and the heavens of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built" for Thee? And further on (1R 8,29 1R 8,20) he adds: "That Thy eyes may be open upon this house . . . of which Thou hast said: My name shall be there; . . . that Thou mayest hearken to the supplication of Thy servant and of Thy people Israel." From this it is evident that the house of the sanctuary was set up, not in order to contain God, as abiding therein locally, but that God might be made known there by means of things done and said there; and that those who prayed there might, through reverence for the place, pray more devoutly, so as to be heard more readily.
2. Before the coming of Christ, the state of the Old Law was not changed as regards the fulfilment of the Law, which was effected in Christ alone: but it was changed as regards the condition of the people that were under the Law. Because, at first, the people were in the desert, having no fixed abode: afterwards they were engaged in various wars with the neighboring nations; and lastly, at the time of David and Solomon, the state of that people was one of great peace. And then for the first time the temple was built in the place which Abraham, instructed by God, had chosen for the purpose of sacrifice. For it is written (Gn 22,2) that the Lord commanded Abraham to "offer" his son "for a holocaust upon one of the mountains which I will show thee": and it is related further on (Gn 22,14) that "he calleth the name of that place, The Lord seeth," as though, according to the Divine prevision, that place were chosen for the worship of God. Hence it is written (Dt 12,5-6): "You shall come to the place which the Lord your God shall choose . . . and you shall offer . . . your holocausts and victims."Now it was not meet for that place to be pointed out by the building of the temple before the aforesaid time; for three reasons assigned by Rabbi Moses. First, lest the Gentiles might seize hold of that place. Secondly, lest the Gentiles might destroy it. The third reason is lest each tribe might wish that place to fall to their lot, and strifes and quarrels be the result. Hence the temple was not built until they had a king who would be able to quell such quarrels. Until that time a portable tabernacle was employed for divine worship, no place being as yet fixed for the worship of God. This is the literal reason for the distinction between the tabernacle and the temple.The figurative reason may be assigned to the fact that they signify a twofold state. For the tabernacle, which was changeable, signifies the state of the present changeable life: whereas the temple, which was fixed and stable, signifies the state of future life which is altogether unchangeable. For this reason it is said that in the building of the temple no sound was heard of hammer or saw, to signify that all movements of disturbance will be far removed from the future state. Or else the tabernacle signifies the state of the Old Law; while the temple built by Solomon betokens the state of the New Law. Hence the Jews alone worked at the building of the tabernacle; whereas the temple was built with the cooperation of the Gentiles, viz. the Tyrians and Sidonians.
3. The reason for the unity of the temple or tabernacle may be either literal or figurative. The literal reason was the exclusion of idolatry. For the Gentiles put up various times to various gods: and so, to strengthen in the minds of men their belief in the unity of the Godhead, God wished sacrifices to be offered to Him in one place only. Another reason was in order to show that bodily worship is not acceptable of itself: and so they restrained from offering sacrifices anywhere and everywhere. But the worship of the New Law, in the sacrifice whereof spiritual grace is contained, is of itself acceptable to God; and consequently the multiplication of altars and temples is permitted in the New Law.As to those matters that regarded the spiritual worship of God, consisting in the teaching of the Law and the Prophets, there were, even under the Old Law, various places, called synagogues, appointed for the people to gather together for the praise of God; just as now there are places called churches in which the Christian people gather together for the divine worship. Thus our church takes the place of both temple and synagogue: since the very sacrifice of the Church is spiritual; wherefore with us the place of sacrifice is not distinct from the place of teaching. The figurative reason may be that hereby is signified the unity of the Church, whether militant or triumphant.
4. Just as the unity of the temple or tabernacle betokened the unity of God, or the unity of the Church, so also the division of the tabernacle or temple signified the distinction of those things that are subject to God, and from which we arise to the worship of God. Now the tabernacle was divided into two parts: one was called the "Holy of Holies," and was placed to the west; the other was called the "Holy Place" [*Or 'Sanctuary'. The Douay version uses both expressions], which was situated to the east. Moreover there was a court facing the tabernacle. Accordingly there are two reasons for this distinction. One is in respect of the tabernacle being ordained to the worship of God. Because the different parts of the world are thus betokened by the division of the tabernacle. For that part which was called the Holy of Holies signified the higher world, which is that of spiritual substances: while that part which is called the Holy Place signified the corporeal world. Hence the Holy Place was separated from the Holy of Holies by a veil, which was of four different colors (denoting the four elements), viz. of linen, signifying earth, because linen, i.e. flax, grows out of the earth; purple, signifying water, because the purple tint was made from certain shells found in the sea; violet, signifying air, because it has the color of the air; and scarlet twice dyed, signifying fire: and this because matter composed of the four elements is a veil between us and incorporeal substances. Hence the high-priest alone, and that once a year, entered into the inner tabernacle, i.e. the Holy of Holies: whereby we are taught that man's final perfection consists in his entering into that (higher) world: whereas into the outward tabernacle, i.e. the Holy Place, the priests entered every day: whereas the people were only admitted to the court; because the people were able to perceived material things, the inner nature of which only wise men by dint of study are able to discover.But regard to the figurative reason, the outward tabernacle, which was called the Holy Place, betokened the state of the Old Law, as the Apostle says (He 9,6, seqq.): because into that tabernacle "the priests always entered accomplishing the offices of sacrifices." But the inner tabernacle, which was called the Holy of Holies, signified either the glory of heaven or the spiritual state of the New Law to come. To the latter state Christ brought us; and this was signified by the high-priest entering alone, once a year, into the Holy of Holies. The veil betokened the concealing of the spiritual sacrifices under the sacrifices of old. This veil was adorned with four colors: viz. that of linen, to designate purity of the flesh; purple, to denote the sufferings which the saints underwent for God; scarlet twice dyed, signifying the twofold love of God and our neighbor; and violet, in token of heavenly contemplation. With regard to the state of the Old Law the people and the priests were situated differently from one another. For the people saw the mere corporeal sacrifices which were offered in the court: whereas the priests were intent on the inner meaning of the sacrifices, because their faith in the mysteries of Christ was more explicit. Hence they entered into the outer tabernacle. This outer tabernacle was divided from the court by a veil; because some matters relating to the mystery of Christ were hidden from the people, while they were known to the priests: though they were not fully revealed to them, as they were subsequently in the New Testament (Ep 3,5).
5. Worship towards the west was introduced in the Law to the exclusion of idolatry: because all the Gentiles, in reverence to the sun, worshipped towards the east; hence it is written (Ez 8,16) that certain men "had their backs towards the temple of the Lord, and their faces to the east, and they adored towards the rising of the sun." Accordingly, in order to prevent this, the tabernacle had the Holy of Holies to westward, that they might adore toward the west. A figurative reason may also be found in the fact that the whole state of the first tabernacle was ordained to foreshadow the death of Christ, which is signified by the west, according to Ps 67,5: "Who ascendeth unto the west; the Lord is His name."
6. Both literal and figurative reasons may be assigned for the things contained in the tabernacle. The literal reason is in connection with the divine worship. And because, as already observed (ad 4), the inner tabernacle, called the Holy of Holies, signified the higher world of spiritual substances, hence that tabernacle contained three things, viz. "the ark of the testament in which was a golden pot that had manna, and the rod of Aaron that had blossomed, and the tables" (He 9,4) on which were written the ten commandments of the Law. Now the ark stood between two "cherubim" that looked one towards the other: and over the ark was a table, called the "propitiatory," raised above the wings of the cherubim, as though it were held up by them; and appearing, to the imagination, to be the very seat of God. For this reason it was called the "propitiatory," as though the people received propitiation thence at the prayers of the high-priest. And so it was held up, so to speak, by the cherubim, in obedience, as it were, to God: while the ark of the testament was like the foot-stool to Him that sat on the propitiatory. These three things denote three things in that higher world: namely, God Who is above all, and incomprehensible to any creature. Hence no likeness of Him was set up; to denote His invisibility. But there was something to represent his seat; since, to wit, the creature, which is beneath God, as the seat under the sitter, is comprehensible. Again in that higher world there are spiritual substances called angels. These are signified by the two cherubim, looking one towards the other, to show that they are at peace with one another, according to Jb 25,2: "Who maketh peace in . . . high places." For this reason, too, there was more than one cherub, to betoken the multitude of heavenly spirits, and to prevent their receiving worship from those who had been commanded to worship but one God. Moreover there are, enclosed as it were in that spiritual world, the intelligible types of whatsoever takes place in this world, just as in every cause are enclosed the types of its effects, and in the craftsman the types of the works of his craft. This was betokened by the ark, which represented, by means of the three things it contained, the three things of greatest import in human affairs. These are wisdom, signified by the tables of the testament; the power of governing, betokened by the rod of Aaron; and life, betokened by the manna which was the means of sustenance. Or else these three things signified the three Divine attributes, viz. wisdom, in the tables; power, in the rod; goodness, in the manna---both by reason of its sweetness, and because it was through the goodness of God that it was granted to man, wherefore it was preserved as a memorial of the Divine mercy. Again, these three things were represented in Isaias' vision. For he "saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated"; and the seraphim standing by; and that the house was filled with the glory of the Lord; wherefrom the seraphim cried out: "All the earth is full of His glory" (Is 6,1 Is 6,3). And so the images of the seraphim were set up, not to be worshipped, for this was forbidden by the first commandment; but as a sign of their function, as stated above.The outer tabernacle, which denotes this present world, also contained three things, viz. the "altar of incense," which was directly opposite the ark; the "table of proposition," with the twelve loaves of proposition on it, which stood on the northern side; and the "candlestick," which was placed towards the south. These three things seem to correspond to the three which were enclosed in the ark; and they represented the same things as the latter, but more clearly: because, in order that wise men, denoted by the priests entering the temple, might grasp the meaning of these types, it was necessary to express them more manifestly than they are in the Divine or angelic mind. Accordingly the candlestick betokened, as a sensible sign thereof, the wisdom which was expressed on the tables (of the Law) in intelligible words. The altar of incense signified the office of the priest, whose duty it was to bring the people to God: and this was signified also by the rod: because on that altar the sweet-smelling incense was burnt, signifying the holiness of the people acceptable to God: for it is written (Ap 8,3) that the smoke of the sweet-smelling spices signifies the "justifications of the saints" (Ap 19,8). Moreover it was fitting that the dignity of the priesthood should be denoted, in the ark, by the rod, and, in the outer tabernacle, by the altar of incense: because the priest is the mediator between God and the people, governing the people by Divine power, denoted by the rod; and offering to God the fruit of His government, i.e. the holiness of the people, on the altar of incense, so to speak. The table signified the sustenance of life, just as the manna did: but the former, a more general and a coarser kind of nourishment; the latter, a sweeter and more delicate. Again, the candlestick was fittingly placed on the southern side, while the table was placed to the north: because the south is the right-hand side of the world, while the north is the left-hand side, as stated in De Coelo et Mundo ii; and wisdom, like other spiritual goods, belongs to the right hand, while temporal nourishment belongs on the left, according to Pr 3,16: "In her left hand (are) riches and glory." And the priestly power is midway between temporal goods and spiritual wisdom; because thereby both spiritual wisdom and temporal goods are dispensed.Another literal signification may be assigned. For the ark contained the tables of the Law, in order to prevent forgetfulness of the Law, wherefore it is written (Ex 24,12): "I will give thee two tables of stone, and the Law, and the commandments which I have written: that thou mayest teach them" to the children of Israel. The rod of Aaron was placed there to restrain the people from insubordination to the priesthood of Aaron; wherefore it is written (Nb 17,10): "Carry back the rod of Aaron into the tabernacle of the testimony, that it may be kept there for a token of the rebellious children of Israel." The manna was kept in the ark to remind them of the benefit conferred by God on the children of Israel in the desert; wherefore it is written (Ex 16,32): "Fill a gomor of it, and let it be kept unto generations to come hereafter, that they may know the bread wherewith I fed you in the wilderness." The candlestick was set up to enhance the beauty of the temple, for the magnificence of a house depends on its being well lighted. Now the candlestick had seven branches, as Josephus observes (Antiquit. iii, 7,8), to signify the seven planets, wherewith the whole world is illuminated. Hence the candlestick was placed towards the south; because for us the course of the planets is from that quarter. The altar of incense was instituted that there might always be in the tabernacle a sweet-smelling smoke; both through respect for the tabernacle, and as a remedy for the stenches arising from the shedding of blood and the slaying of animals. For men despise evil-smelling things as being vile, whereas sweet-smelling things are much appreciated. The table was place there to signify that the priests who served the temple should take their food in the temple: wherefore, as stated in Mt 12,4, it was lawful for none but the priests to eat the twelve loaves which were put on the table in memory of the twelve tribes. And the table was not placed in the middle directly in front of the propitiatory, in order to exclude an idolatrous rite: for the Gentiles, on the feasts of the moon, set up a table in front of the idol of the moon, wherefore it is written (Jr 7,18): "The women knead the dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven."In the court outside the tabernacle was the altar of holocausts, on which sacrifices of those things which the people possessed were offered to God: and consequently the people who offered these sacrifices to God by the hands of the priest could be present in the court. But the priests alone, whose function it was to offer the people to God, could approach the inner altar, whereon the very devotion and holiness of the people was offered to God. And this altar was put up outside the tabernacle and in the court, to the exclusion of idolatrous worship: for the Gentiles placed altars inside the temples to offer up sacrifices thereon to idols.The figurative reason for all these things may be taken from the relation of the tabernacle to Christ, who was foreshadowed therein. Now it must be observed that to show the imperfection of the figures of the Law, various figures were instituted in the temple to betoken Christ. For He was foreshadowed by the "propitiatory," since He is "a propitiation for our sins" (1Jn 2,2). This propitiatory was fittingly carried by cherubim, since of Him it is written (He 1,6): "Let all the angels of God adore Him." He is also signified by the ark: because just as the ark was made of setim-wood, so was Christ's body composed of most pure members. More over it was gilded: for Christ was full of wisdom and charity, which are betokened by gold. And in the ark was a golden pot, i.e. His holy soul, having manna, i.e. "all the fulness of the Godhead" (Col 2,9). Also there was a rod in the ark, i.e. His priestly power: for "He was made a . . . priest for ever" (He 6,20). And therein were the tables of the Testament, to denote that Christ Himself is a lawgiver. Again, Christ was signified by the candlestick, for He said Himself (Jn 8,12): "I am the Light of the world"; while the seven lamps denoted the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. He is also betokened in the table, because He is our spiritual food, according to Jn 6,41 Jn 6,51: "I am the living bread": and the twelve loaves signified the twelve apostles, or their teaching. Or again, the candlestick and table may signify the Church's teaching, and faith, which also enlightens and refreshes. Again, Christ is signified by the two altars of holocausts and incense. Because all works of virtue must be offered to us to God through Him; both those whereby we afflict the body, which are offered, as it were, on the altar of holocausts; and those which, with greater perfection of mind, are offered to God in Christ, by the spiritual desires of the perfect, on the altar of incense, as it were, according to He 13,15: "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise always to God."
7. The Lord commanded an altar to be made for the offering of sacrifices and gifts, in honor of God, and for the upkeep of the ministers who served the tabernacle. Now concerning the construction of the altar the Lord issued a twofold precept. One was at the beginning of the Law (Ex 20,24, seqq.) when the Lord commanded them to make "an altar of earth," or at least "not of hewn stones"; and again, not to make the altar high, so as to make it necessary to "go up" to it "by steps." This was in detestation of idolatrous worship: for the Gentiles made their altars ornate and high, thinking that there was something holy and divine in such things. For this reason, too, the Lord commanded (Dt 16,21): "Thou shalt plant no grove, nor any tree near the altar of the Lord thy God": since idolaters were wont to offer sacrifices beneath trees, on account of the pleasantness and shade afforded by them. There was also a figurative reason for these precepts. Because we must confess that in Christ, Who is our altar, there is the true nature of flesh, as regards His humanity---and this is to make an altar of earth; and again, in regard to His Godhead, we must confess His equality with the Father---and this is "not to go up" to the altar by steps. Moreover we should not couple the doctrine of Christ to that of the Gentiles, which provokes men to lewdness.But when once the tabernacle had been constructed to the honor of God, there was no longer reason to fear these occasions of idolatry. Wherefore the Lord commanded the altar of holocausts to be made of brass, and to be conspicuous to all the people; and the altar of incense, which was visible to none but the priests. Nor was brass so precious as to give the people an occasion for idolatry.Since, however, the reason for the precept, "Thou shalt not go up by steps unto My altar" (Ex 20,26) is stated to have been "lest thy nakedness be discovered," it should be observed that this too was instituted with the purpose of preventing idolatry, for in the feasts of Priapus the Gentiles uncovered their nakedness before the people. But later on the priests were prescribed the use of loin-cloths for the sake of decency: so that without any danger the altar could be placed so high that the priests when offering sacrifices would go up by steps of wood, not fixed but movable.
8. The body of the tabernacle consisted of boards placed on end, and covered on the inside with curtains of four different colors, viz. twisted linen, violet, purple, and scarlet twice dyed. These curtains, however, covered the sides only of the tabernacle; and the roof of the tabernacle was covered with violet-colored skins; and over this there was another covering of rams' skins dyed red; and over this there was a third curtain made of goats' hair, which covered not only the roof of the tabernacle, but also reached to the ground and covered the boards of the tabernacle on the outside. The literal reason of these coverings taken altogether was the adornment and protection of the tabernacle, that it might be an object of respect. Taken singly, according to some, the curtains denoted the starry heaven, which is adorned with various stars; the curtain (of goats' skin) signified the waters which are above the firmament; the skins dyed red denoted the empyrean heaven, where the angels are; the violet skins, the heaven of the Blessed Trinity.The figurative meaning of these things is that the boards of which the tabernacle was constructed signify the faithful of Christ, who compose the Church. The boards were covered on the inner side by curtains of four colors: because the faithful are inwardly adorned with the four virtues: for "the twisted linen," as the gloss observes, "signifies the flesh refulgent with purity; violet signifies the mind desirous of heavenly things; purple denotes the flesh subject to passions; the twice dyed scarlet betokens the mind in the midst of the passions enlightened by the love of God and our neighbor." The coverings of the building designate prelates and doctors, who ought to be conspicuous for their heavenly manner of life, signified by the violet colored skins: and who should also be ready to suffer martyrdom, denoted by the skins dyed red; and austere of life and patient in adversity, betokened by the curtains of goats' hair, which were exposed to wind and rain, as the gloss observes.
9. The literal reason for the sanctification of the tabernacle and vessels was that they might be treated with greater reverence, being deputed, as it were, to the divine worship by this consecration. The figurative reason is that this sanctification signified the sanctification of the living tabernacle, i.e. the faithful of whom the Church of Christ is composed.
0. Under the Old Law there were seven temporal solemnities, and one continual solemnity, as may be gathered from Nb 28,29. There was a continual feast, since the lamb was sacrificed every day, morning and evening: and this continual feast of an abiding sacrifice signified the perpetuity of Divine bliss. Of the temporal feasts the first was that which was repeated every week. This was the solemnity of the "Sabbath," celebrated in memory of the work of the creation of the universe. Another solemnity, viz. the "New Moon," was repeated every month, and was observed in memory of the work of the Divine government. For the things of this lower world owe their variety chiefly to the movement of the moon; wherefore this feast was kept at the new moon: and not at the full moon, to avoid the worship of idolaters who used to offer sacrifices to the moon at that particular time. And these two blessings are bestowed in common on the whole human race; and hence they were repeated more frequently.The other five feasts were celebrated once a year: and they commemorated the benefits which had been conferred especially on that people. For there was the feast of the "Passover" in the first month to commemorate the blessing of being delivered out of Egypt. The feast of "Pentecost" was celebrated fifty days later, to recall the blessing of the giving of the Law. The other three feasts were kept in the seventh month, nearly the whole of which was solemnized by them, just as the seventh day. For on the first of the seventh month was the feast of "Trumpets," in memory of the delivery of Isaac, when Abraham found the ram caught by its horns, which they represented by the horns which they blew. The feast of Trumpets was a kind of invitation whereby they prepared themselves to keep the following feast which was kept on the tenth day. This was the feast of "Expiation," in memory of the blessing whereby, at the prayer of Moses, God forgave the people's sin of worshipping the calf. After this was the feast of "Scenopegia" or of "Tents," which was kept for seven days, to commemorate the blessing of being protected and led by God through the desert, where they lived in tents. Hence during this feast they had to take "the fruits of the fairest tree," i.e. the citron, "and the trees of dense foliage" [*Douay and A. V. and R. V. read: 'Boughs of thick trees'], i.e. the myrtle, which is fragrant, "and the branches of palm-trees, and willows of the brook," which retain their greenness a long time; and these are to be found in the Land of promise; to signify that God had brought them through the arid land of the wilderness to a land of delights. On the eighth day another feast was observed, of "Assembly and Congregation," on which the people collected the expenses necessary for the divine worship: and it signified the uniting of the people and the peace granted to them in the Land of promise.The figurative reason for these feasts was that the continual sacrifice of the lamb foreshadowed the perpetuity of Christ, Who is the "Lamb of God," according to He 13,8: "Jesus Christ yesterday and today, and the same for ever." The Sabbath signified the spiritual rest bestowed by Christ, as stated in He 4. The Neomenia, which is the beginning of the new moon, signified the enlightening of the primitive Church by Christ's preaching and miracles. The feast of Pentecost signified the Descent of the Holy Ghost on the apostles. The feast of Trumpets signified the preaching of the apostles. The feast of Expiation signified the cleansing of the Christian people from sins: and the feast of Tabernacles signified their pilgrimage in this world, wherein they walk by advancing in virtue. The feast of Assembly or Congregation foreshadowed the assembly of the faithful in the kingdom of heaven: wherefore this feast is described as "most holy" (Lv 23,36). These three feasts followed immediately on one another, because those who expiate their vices should advance in virtue, until they come to see God, as stated in Ps 83,8.
Summa Th. I-II EN Qu.102 a.4