Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

3/18/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

"Messire Dieu, premier servi!"  The Lord God must be served first.  But this service is not one of grain and fruits, physical firstfruits.  It is our own selves that we must offer in Christ, ourselves as firsfruits in Christ the firsfruits, Aparchē Christos.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/18/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: firsfruits, bikkurim, reshith, aparche, Christ, sanctifying grace, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - "Messire Dieu, premier servi!" said St. Joan of Arc.  The Lord God must be served first.  The notion of serving God first is deeply entrenched in the religious sentiment in man, so that it is a principle of natural or pagan religions as well as a central tenet of the Catholic Faith.

This principle of serving God first is reflected in the notion of "first fruits."  The deity is to be given the "first fruits," even the "first of the first fruits," of the harvest. 

In ancient Greece, the offering of the first fruits of the harvest was called aparchē.  In Latin the word for the first fruit offering is primatias.  Greek and Roman pagans offered the choice fruits of the harvest to their divinities.

While this sentiment is found in natural religion, it is also part of revealed religion, and was a practice among the Hebrews enjoined upon them under their revealed law.  Hebrew uses a variety of words for the first fruit offering, including reshith and bikkurim

The distinction between these terms is not very clear, though there seems to be a general but not absolute connotation that reshith relates to products created by human labor (e.g., bread), whereas bikkurim refers to products that are the yield of nature (e.g., grain).

Sometimes the Hebrew scriptures uses the words reshith and bikkurim separately.  Sometimes, it combines the two. 

For example, in Numbers 15:20, the law instructs that the Jew is to "offer the LORD a contribution consisting of a cake of your first batch [reshith] of dough."

In Leviticus 2:14, the law instructions: "If you present a cereal offering of first fruits [bikkurim] to the LORD, you shall offer it in the form of fresh grits of new ears of grain, roasted by fire."

On occasion, the terms reshith and bikkurim are joined, such as in Exodus 23:19, where the Jews are told: "The choicest first fruits [ראשית בכורי, reshith bikkurim] of your soil you shall bring to the house of the LORD, your God."  See also Ex. 34:26; Ez. 44:30.

The Greek word aparchē, and sometimes the word protogennemata, is what is used in the New Testament and in the Septuagint or Greek translation of the Old Testament to translate the Hebrew word for "first fruits," bikkurim or reshith.  When the Old Testament combines bikkurim and reshith, the Greek combines the words aparchē and protogennemata

The Jewish law concerning the offering of first fruits was a ceremonial or liturgical law that was abrogated, or perhaps better, fulfilled in Christ, rendering such law obsolete.

For this reason, the notion of "first fruits" is found in the New Testament in only a metaphorical sense.  Our sacrifice is no longer one of physical first fruits-but a broken spirit, a contrite heart.  We offer ourselves as firstfruits in Christ the firstfruits. 

Since Christ's sacrifice, there is no longer need for the ceremonial law relating to the offering of firstfruits. 

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul uses the term "first fruits" to refer to Christ himself.  "Christ the firstfruits"   Aparchē Christos.  (1 Cor. 15:23)  Jesus the firstfruits has offered himself-the firstfruits-to the Father in a holy and unblemished sacrifice. 

Jesus ought to be looked at as the choicest of the choicest portion of mankind, the one and only reshith bikkurim, the one and only aparche.   Jesus-the word of God become man-is like us in all things but sin.  (Heb. 4:15)

St. Paul recognizes that, as part of the life of sanctifying grace, Christians become incorporated in Christ's body and thereby enter into the benefits of his passion and death and resurrection.  When we are baptized, we are baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27), and become incorporated into the very body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). 

This is also the teaching that is found in the Gospels: "I am the vine," says Jesus, "and you are the branches."  (John 15:5).  When in a state of sanctifying grace, we are engrafted into Christ.  (Cf. Rom. 11:16-24)

By grace, we become adopted sons of God.  (E.g., Rom. 8:14-17).  As a result of the gift of sanctifying grace, we become, in that memorable phrase, sons in the son, filii in filio.

Our status as sons in the son, filii in filio, also means that we, like Christ, share in his firstruits status.  We become incorporated into "Christ the firstfruits," Aparchē Christos, and, indeed, obtain the "firstfruits of the Spirit" [aparchēn tou pneumatos] (Rom. 8:23) as part of our supernatural life. 

We participate-in God's great gift of sanctifying grace-in the very holiness of Jesus.  "If the first fruits [aparchē] are holy," says St. Paul in his epistle to the Romans, "so is the whole batch of dough."  "And if the root is holy, so are the branches."  (Rom. 11:16)  Since Christ the firstfruits is holy, so are those who maintain themselves in a life of sanctifying grace.

Living in sanctifying grace, then, makes us not only sons in the son, filii in filio, but also first fruits in the first fruits.  Through Jesus, St. James tells us in his epistle, God the Father "willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits [aparchēn] of his creatures."

"It is no longer I that live I, but Christ who lives in me," says St. Paul.  (Gal. 2:20)  This life of Christ in us gives us firstfruits status.

So intimately do we participate in Christ's firstfruits status, that St. Paul refers to individual Christians as firstruits.  For example, in his epistle to the Romans, he refers to Epaenetus as the "firstfruits in Asia for Christ" (Rom. 16:5), and in his first letter to the Corinthians, he refers to the household of Stephanas as the "firstfruits of Achaia" (1 Cor. 16:15).

This firstruits status, moreover, is what saves us, and we maintain it even in heaven.  St. John in Revelations has a heavenly vision of the "ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes."  These, the Apostle John states, "have been ransomed as the firstfruits [aparchē] of the human race for God and the Lamb."  (Rev. 14:4)

"Messire Dieu, premier servi!"  The Lord God must be served first.  But this service is not one of grain and fruits, physical firstfruits.  It is our own selves that we must offer in Christ, ourselves as firsfruits in Christ the firsfruits, Aparchē Christos.

This is exactly the sentiment behind St. Paul's teaching: "I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship."  (Rom. 12:1).

This Lent, let us re-offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, our spiritual worship, as firstfruits in the firstfruits Christ, and so render ourselves holy and pleasing to God.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Living Faith

Catholic priest who blessed atomic bomb crews -- and his conversion

Image of

By Tony Magliano

Seventy years ago, on August 6, 1945, the single most destructive weapon ever unleashed upon human beings and the environment - the atomic bomb - was dropped by an American B-29 bomber on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing approximately 80,000 people. Three days ... continue reading


'Let Jesus satisfy your hunger for God': Pope Francis encourages people to make offers to God Watch

Image of Pope Francis reflected on the Sunday reading from the Gospel of John in which a vast crowd follows Jesus, but lacks enough food to eat.

By CNA/EWTN News

Jesus Christ's miraculous multiplication of the loaves shows that he offers "fullness of life for hungry man," Pope Francis said Sunday. He encouraged everyone to offer what little they have to God so that God can multiply their gifts and good deeds. Vatican ... continue reading


What to wear to church: What's more important, physical or inner beauty? Watch

Image of

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Wearing your best outfit or putting on a little makeup in preparation for Church isn't too looked down upon. A leading Christian writer shared with Crosswalk.com what she has realized over years of church participation. Although she loves beautiful clothes and make-up, ... continue reading


'Nothing can separate me from the love of God': The first American Ebola patient shares his profound realization on deathbed Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

He was the first American who contracted the deadly Ebola virus - fearful and sick, Dr. Kent Brantly came to realize something important for Christians and their relationship with God. Amid the pain and moments of uncertainty, from being diagnosed positive with ... continue reading


J. Matt Barber: The Meaning of Life

Image of Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law.

By J. Matt Barber

So this was rock bottom. The day, which yet again wore into night with fast food and old Bonanza reruns, would end like all the rest. Where were my car keys? As I searched in preparation for another trip to the liquor store, I made my way to my bedroom and opened ... continue reading


'There is no hope, no life, no hope for an end': 'Donor fatigue' setting in among those helping Christians in Middle East fleeing ISIS Watch

Image of Refugees now realize that they will be unable to return to their homes in Iraq or Syria.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With no end in sight, "donor fatigue" is setting in for those trying to help Middle Eastern Christians fleeing ISIS. There appears to be no solutions, only increasing refugees and more need. The refugees' situation is only getting worse. Refugees now realize ... continue reading


Giant cross at veteran memorial to stay standing with game-changing agreement made Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Legal battle over the issue of a giant cross standing over a veterans' memorial has been a long and tedious fight, but an agreement may now put it all to rest, keeping the monument on the land. Atheists and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed legal ... continue reading


A MIRACLE? Virgin Mary painting caught on tape moving lips along with the Lord's Prayer (VIDEO) Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The lips on a painted image of the Virgin Mary, on display at the St. Charbels Church in New South Wales, Australia, were reportedly witnessed moving along with the reading of the Lord's Prayer. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The video featuring the Virgin ... continue reading


Many accuse Pope Francis of socialist, even communist leanings - is he? Watch

Image of The gift of a

By CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis' recent trip to Latin America has rekindled questions about whether he endorses socialism, or even communism. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - The gift of a "communist crucifix" from Bolivia's president Evo Morales and uncertainty over the Pope's response ... continue reading


Schedule released for Pope Francis' Jubilee of Mercy Watch

Image of Twelve prominent events, each with the participation of Pope Francis, have been scheduled in Rome for the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy.

By CNA/EWTN News

Twelve prominent events, each with the participation of Pope Francis, have been scheduled in Rome for the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy, and CNA was able to glance at details of their programs. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - The twelve big events of the Jubilee of ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34-37
1 Yahweh spoke to Moses and said:4 "These ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 81:3-4, 5-6, 10-11
3 blow the trumpet for the new month, for the full ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:54-58
54 and, coming to his home town, he taught the people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 31st, 2015 Image

St. Ignatius Loyola
July 31: St. Ignatius was born in the family castle in Guipzcoa, Spain, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter