Sunday, October 24, 2010
The priests are up well before dawn. They rub the sleep from their eyes as they begin stoking the great fire at the altar. The musicians arrive in clumps, tune their strings and complain about the early hour. The ram's horn player warms his instrument in his hands and under his cloak, then gently blows air through it. A priest's assistant pulls a lamb from its pen, binds its legs and brings it to the altar. As dawn breaks the ceremony begins. The musicians and singers take up the familiar tunes of the psalms. The priests march in procession. At the altar one priest raises a knife to the lamb's throat, drains its blood into a basin and throws the blood on the fire at the altar. The sacrifice of atonement is made. The sins of the people are covered. Now the priests light incense, and plumes of smoke indicate that it is the time for the prayers of the people to ride along on those scented clouds to God.
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