Thursday, June 5, 2008
Aliyah\עליה - upwards
The Oriental ancient and Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate this night the Ascension of the Lord, His Analepsis/taking up to heaven and to the right of the Father. We left the proper time of Pascha yesterday, in particular in accordance with the Christian Orthodox tradition. In Jerusalem, the celebration is very peculiar: the feast is rooted in the incarnation of the Lord in Bethlehem and therefore Ascension was a great Church event in the first centuries of the Early Church in the town of the taking flesh of the Savior.
Today, Jesus' taking up is precisely the accomplishment of his body and physical existence in the world. After His resurrection, jesus could move here and there in the territory of Eretz Canaan and did not leave Jerusalem to intervene in the life of His disciples.
The event is very shortly described in the Gospel of Saint Mark 16:14-19). This is something that we should be aware of: even (11) only eleven disciples were present when Jesus came and, as in Matthew, told them to heal the sick and baptize all the Nations and then then Lord appears seating at the right hand of the Father in heaven.
The Gospel of Saint Luke (24:50-51)compacts the event into one verse; on the other hand, the Acts of the Apostles (1:9-12) explain how Jesus will then send the Comforter. Interestingly, the Eastern Orthodox Church stops reciting the "Basileu Ouranie\Heavenly King to the Holy Spirit that will be said at Pentecost.
The first element -perceptible in Jesus' answer to Maria Magdalene (John 20:17), is that Jesus does not belong to any human being, soul, individual, group of collectivity, race, nation. As some Biblical "characters", he ascends to heaven - though the scenery is not really described - as Enoch, Elijah. Taking flesh is infusing into resurrection and the second coming.
How peculiar that this year, June 4th is the chosen by the Jewish Agency to promote the "aliyah process, i.e. the ascent or climbing back home to Israel. It is the only language and country where the citizens mount up to God (aliyah), as one reads the texts of Bible (parashyiot) having gone up to the pulpit. Ol hashamayim is "the yoke of heaven or Mitzvot" that is not a burden and even light as also reported in the Gospel (Matthew 11:30). The Christian Orthodox then understands that during Great Lent, the Liturgy of the Presanctified includes the evening prayer with the "shrey haamaalot - the psalms of ascent to Jerusalem\שירי המעלות " (Tehillim 120-134, as for the day of Shabbat).
Thus, Ascension is the feast for healthy and diet faith. True, usually all living beings are trapped in some conflicting situations that trap them. We could think it is the case in Jerusalem today, this year or since 1967 and even long before. But it has been the main problem over the past 3 000 years, and what about the past two thousand years! The Temple mount as the Ascension Church are in hands of Muslems though Islam did not exist by the time of Jesus. And, beside the problem of some keys, how many Christians understand that, without the insightful argument of patriarch Sophronios of Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulcher would also not be in Christian "hands". Nobody can own, possess thus be dispossessed of the One God.
Life can be a burden and age, sickness, the crippling fading of our look leads us to earth from where we were taken. We can be successful. Our goal is to leave this world like stiff bones and without any good. Historical events are "revolving". They astound us because they take back up and seem to thrown away without anything left.
It is urgent at the present for the Christians who live in the Holy Land to pray for the the consequence of the Ascension in the Christian Creed. The second part of the Creed is that the Lord ascended to heaven and God sent the Spirit. We are in the time of the hope, expectation of the second coming of the Lord. The Lord comes and then there is no first or last, middle-classed. We are called to go upwards - not only forwards.