Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Theotokos - Bogorodica - Yoledet-El

The text is a part of a famous book published by Saint Tikhon's Monastery. It is also mentioned in the notes published by our friend Reader Michael Hann.

The Most-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.

In the theology and piety of the Orthodox Church, a special place of honor is given to the Mother of God the Most-Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, who is reverenced by the Orthodox as being more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious, beyond compare, than the Seraphim. As Orthodox we style her as the most exalted among God's creatures; but we do not regard her as some sort of goddess, the 4th Person of the Trinity, as some accuse us; nor do we render her the worship due God alone. Just as with the Holy Icons, the veneration due Mary is expressed in quite different words in the Greek writings of the Fathers than that due God.

At many of the Divine Services, the Deacon exclaims: Commemorating our Most-Holy, Most-Pure, Most-Blessed and Glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary with all the Saints.... And here we can see three basic truths expressed concerning her.

The Virgin Mary is honored because she is Theotokos the Mother of God not of His divinity, but of His humanity, yet of God in that Jesus Christ was, in the theology of the Church, both God and Man, at one and the same time, in the Incarnation. Therefore, the honor given Mary is due to her relationship to Christ. And this honor, rather than taking away from that due God, makes us more aware of God's majesty; for it is precisely on account of the Son (Himself God) that she is venerated. Of times, when men refuse to honor Mary, it is because they do not believe in the cause of her veneration the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity.

We also speak of the Theotokos as being Ever-Virgin, which was officially proclaimed at the 5th Ecumenical Council (Constantinople 553; the dogma concerning Mary as being Theotokos was proclaimed in 431 at the 3rd Ecumenical Council in Ephesus). This notion does not actually contradict Holy Scripture, as some would think. And His mother and His brothers came; and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him (Mark 3:31). Here the use of the word brothers in the original Greek can mean half-brother, cousin, or near relative, in addition to brothers in the strict sense. The Orthodox Church has always seen brothers here as referring to His half-brothers.

If Mary is honored as Theotokos, so too, she is honored because she is Panagia All-Holy. She is the supreme example of the cooperation between God and Man; for God, Who always respects human freedom, did not become incarnate without her free consent which, as Holy Scripture tells us, was freely given: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38). Thus Mary is seen by the Church as the New Eve (as Christ is the New Adam) whose perfect obedience contrasted the disobedience of the First Mother, Eve, in Paradise. As St. Irenaeus says, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed through the obedience of Mary; for what Eve, a virgin, bound by her unbelief, that Mary, a virgin, unloosed by her faith [Against the Heresies, III, xxii, 4],

As All-Holy and Most-Pure, Mary was free from actual sin, but, in the opinion of most Orthodox theologians, although not dogmatized by the Church, she did fall under the curse of Original Sin as does all mankind. For this reason by virtue of her solidarity with all humanity the Theotokos died a bodily death. Yet, in her case, the resurrection of the body had been anticipated; and she was assumed body and soul into Heaven; and her tomb was found empty an event celebrated in the Feast of the Falling-Asleep (or Dormition) of the Most-Holy Theotokos (Aug. 15). Thus, as the hymns of that Feast proclaim, she has passed from earth to heaven, beyond death and judgment, living already in the age to come. She enjoys now the same bodily glory all of us hope to share one day.

Whereas the Church has officially proclaimed as dogmas the doctrines concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation, the glorification of the Mother of God belongs to the Inner Tradition of the Church. As the noted Orthodox theologian, Vladimir Lossky writes: It is hard to speak and not less hard to think about the mysteries which the Church keeps in the hidden depths of her inner consciousness.... The Mother of God was never a theme of the public preaching of the Apostles; while Christ was preached on the housetops, and proclaimed for all to know in an initiatory teaching addressed to the whole world, the mystery of His Mother was revealed only to those who were within the Church.... It is not so much an object of faith as a foundation of our hope, a fruit of faith, ripened in Tradition. Let us therefore keep silence, and let us not try to dogmatize about the supreme glory of the Mother of God [Panagia, in The Mother of God, ed. E.L. Mascall, p.35].

Appellations of the Theotokos.


The Theotokos is often called an Ark, for the Glory of God settled on her, just as the Glory of God descended on the Mercy Seat of the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25:10-22).

Aaron's Rod.

Just as Aaron's Rod sprouted miraculously in the Old Testament, so too, the Theotokos has budded forth the Flower of Immortality, Christ our God (Num. 17:1-11).

Burning Bush.

On Mt. Sinai, Moses saw the Bush that was burning, but was not consumed. So too, the Theotokos bore the fire of Divinity, but was not consumed (Ex. 3:1-6).

(Golden) Candlestick.

In the Old Testament Tabernacle, there were found in the Sanctuary golden candlesticks. The Theotokos is the Candlestick which held that Light that illumines the world (Ex. 25:31-40).

(Golden) Censer.

Just as the censer holds a burning coal, so too, the Theotokos held the Living Coal. In the Apocalypse, there stands an Angel before the Throne of God, swinging a censer, representing the prayers of the Saints rising up to God. This is also seen as a symbol of the Theotokos, for it is her prayers that find special favor before her Son.


In the Exodus, the Israelites were led out of Egypt by a Cloud of Light, symbolizing the presence of God in their midst. So too, the Theotokos is a Cloud, bearing God within.


In the book of Judges we read the account of the dew which appeared miraculously on Gideon's fleece (Judges 6:36-40). So too, the Dew Christ, appeared miraculously on the Living Fleece the Theotokos.

Holy of Holies.

Into the Holy of Holies only the High Priest could enter. So too, the Theotokos is the Holy of Holies into which only the Eternal High Priest Christ entered (Heb. 9:1-7).


In a dream Jacob saw a ladder ascending to Heaven, with Angels ascending and descending on it. The Theotokos is a Ladder, stretching from earth to Heaven, for on It God descended to man, having become incarnate.

Mountain (from which a Stone was cut not by hand of man).

The Prophet Daniel saw a mountain, from which was cut a stone, not by the hand of man (Dan. 2:34, 45). This is a reference to the miraculous Virgin Birth which was accomplished without the hand of man.


The Theotokos was the Palace within which the King Christ our God dwelt.


[See Urn]

Stem of Jesse.

In the Nativity Service, the Lord is referred to as the Rod from the Stem of Jesse (Is. 11:1), indicating His lineage from David, which was fulfilled through the Theotokos, who was a scion (or stem) of the line of David, the son of Jesse.


The Tabernacle was the place where the Glory of God dwelt. So too, the Glory of God dwelt in the Theotokos the Living Tabernacle (Ex. 40:34).

(Holy) Table.

This refers to the Holy Table (Altar Table) on which, at the Divine Liturgy, the Divine Food is offered. So too, the Theotokos is the Holy Table which bore the Bread of Life.


The Prophet Ezekiel speaks of the Temple whose East gate remains sealed, through which only the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered. This clearly prophesies the Virgin Birth of the Theotokos (Ez. 44:1-2).


The Theotokos is the Throne upon which Christ, the King of All, rested.

(Golden) Urn.

In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant contained within itself a golden urn filled with the heavenly manna. The Theotokos is the Urn which contained Christ, the Divine Manna (Heb. 9:1-7).


The Theotokos is the Vine which bore the Ripe Cluster (of Grapes), Christ our Lord.

Excerpt taken from "These Truths We Hold - The Holy Orthodox Church: Her Life and Teachings". Compiled and Edited by A Monk of St. Tikhon's Monastery. Copyright 1986 by the St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania 18459.

Facing the Theotokos, Myriam Immenu, Em Yeshua ImmanuEl

This note was quoted by Reader Michael Hann (Phoenix, AZ) who is an American Eastern Orthodox faithful of Romanian descent; the text has been published by Fr. Peter Gillquist.

It is safe to say that no woman in history is more misunderstood by modern Christendom than the Virgin Mary.

And it is also probable that in a disagreement concerning Mary between two Christians, if their differences remain unresolved, it will be due in large part to stubborn refusal to deal with the biblical data.

If I have heard him say it once, I have heard Billy Graham say it at least a half dozen times over the years: "We evangelical Christians do not give Mary her proper due."

His statement raises the crucial question about Mary. What is her proper due? Before we look to the Scriptures for some answers, let us acknowledge right up front a problem which makes our task much more difficult than it should be.

The highly charged emotional atmosphere which surrounds this subject serves to blunt our objectivity in facing up to Mary. Many of us were brought up to question or reject honor paid to Mary in Christian worship and art. Therefore, we often have our minds made up in advance.

We have allowed our preconceptions to color our understanding even of the Scripture passages concerning her. We have not let the facts speak for themselves.

As my associates and I attempted to face up to Mary honestly and openly—and it was not easy for us—we turned first to the Bible and specifically to the New Testament. Then we went to the Old Testament. As we studied we also considered what the early Church Fathers had to say on the subject. We looked at the whole of Church history to try to understand both how she had been properly honored, and how incorrect dogmas concerning her crept into the picture.

The New Testament Record

What is it, then, that the New Testament teaches concerning the Virgin Mary? We can find at least four crucial answers.

Mary Is the Greatest Woman Who Ever Lived

Whereas our Lord Jesus Christ told us there was no greater man to walk the earth than John the Baptist, both the Archangel Gabriel and the saintly Elizabeth confessed to Mary, "Blessed are you among women" (Luke 1:28,42).

She is the most blessed of women for several reasons, the greatest of which is that she conceived, carried, gave birth to, and nurtured the very Savior of our souls. The One who today occupies the heavenly throne of David and is seated regally at the right hand of God the Father, entered the human race and became our Savior through her womb. She was chosen by the Father to bear His only-begotten Son.

In that role, Mary was the first person in all history to receive and accept Christ as her Savior. You and I are called to enthrone the Lord in our hearts and lives—to follow Mary's example in doing so. Early in Christian history she is called "the first of the redeemed."

I remember entering a Church in suburban Chicago some years ago and seeing a painting or icon of Mary with open arms front and center on the wall (the apse) just behind the altar. My first impulse was to wonder why Christ alone was not featured at that particular place in the Church, though He was shown in a large circle that was super-imposed over her heart.

When I asked why she was so prominently featured, the Christian scholar with me explained: "This is one of the greatest evangelistic icons in the entire Church. What you see is Christ living as Lord in Mary's life, and her outstretched arms are an invitation to you and me to let Him live in our lives as He has in hers." The power of that icon stays in my mind to this day. For she has set the example for all of us to personally give our lives over fully to Jesus Christ.

Mary is also blessed because she found favor in the sight of God. Gabriel's words of encouragement to her were, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you" (Luke 1:28). Then he comforted her by saying, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God" (Luke 1:30, emphasis added).

What does one do to become one of God's favorites, to be rewarded by Him? Remember Cornelius in Acts 10? He was the first Gentile to convert to Christ, "a devout man and one... who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always" (Acts 10:2). Two verses later he was told in a vision, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God." The Lord took notice of his deeds of devotion and brought him salvation. In a similar way, Mary's purity found favor with God, and she was chosen to bear His Son.

Am I suggesting human merit earns salvation? Not at all. As commendable as it is for us to live in purity, a devout life never merits salvation. Otherwise why would Mary be called first of the redeemed, or why would Cornelius need to be baptized into Christ by Saint Peter? Prayer and devotion, however, do gain God's attention. When we seek Him with all our hearts, we do find Him! When we give Him everything we have, our very life, we will be favored of God. This is precisely what Mary did, and why she is to be considered the greatest woman who ever lived.

Mary Is Our Model for the Christian Life

The Orthodox Church has taught from the very beginning that Mary is the supreme example, or prototype, of what happens to a person who fully places trust and faith in God. Everything we aspire to become in Christ, she already is. We are all to "receive" Christ (John 1:12). And as we noted previously, Mary was the first human being who did receive Christ. Out of the millions of "decisions" made for Christ, Mary's was the first. Therefore, whatever promises the Holy Scriptures hold for us, Mary already possesses.

Our model of obedience. While God certainly knew Mary desired to please Him, He did not take her servitude for granted. The angel explained how she would bear Christ. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest [God the Father] will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

Now Mary had a decision to make. Was she willing? Hear her answer, for it is the doorway to the life of spiritual service for all of us. "Behold the maidservant of the Lord!" she said. "Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Even if we are totally sincere about wanting to follow God, He will never conscript us apart from our consent! Like Mary, we are to choose freely to obey Him and do His will.

Some thirty years later, by the way, Mary again had opportunity to exalt her Lord. She was with Jesus at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. The servants who were in charge of the celebration discovered they were out of wine. Mary had no doubt as to who could solve their problem. Referring to her Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, she advised them, 'Whatever He says to you, do it" (John 2:5). In all her life Mary practiced this advice she gave to the servants. That is why she stands as our example of Christian obedience.

Our model of purity and holiness. We who are called holy brethren (Hebrews 3:1) are commanded to be holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:15,16). We are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Is it so unthinkable that she whose holy body was the recipient of God Incarnate should be called "most holy" by the Church?

If we as the Church are called to be without "spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27), does it not follow that she who is the birth-giver of the Lord of that Church should be of that same holy character? Certainly we should be able to look to Mary as our example of holiness and purity.

Our model of royalty and intercession. If the sacred Scriptures declare that we are all kings (Revelation 1:6), is it so strange that the Church refers to Mary as Queen? If the Holy Bible promises that you and I shall judge angels (I Corinthians 6:3), is it so odd that the Church should sing that Mary is "more honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim"?

Not only has Mary by the mercy and power of God conquered both sin and death, the psalmist sees a glimpse of her in heaven through prophetic eyes. For in Psalm 45:9, Christ is King and Mary is at His side as Queen—and rightly so. If God can make us "kings and priests" (Revelation 1:6) for all eternity, certainly He has the prerogative to crown her with higher honor in heaven's royal procession.

If Saint Paul instructs us as a holy priesthood to pray "always ... for all the saints" (Ephesians 6:18), is it so outrageous to confess with the Church that holy Mary (along with all the saints who have passed from death to life and continually stand in the presence of Christ) intercedes before her Son on behalf of all men? For Mary is the prototype of what we are all called to be.

Mary Is the Mother of God

Now things get a bit more touchy for some of us. Here is one of those emotional trouble spots I mentioned earlier. Whether we like to face it or not, the Bible teaches Mary is the Mother of God. Let's first look at the text, then we will discuss why this title is so important to our lives as Christians in the Church.

After Christ had been conceived in her womb, Mary paid a visit to the home of relatives Zacharias and Elizabeth, parents of soon-to-be-born John the Baptist. When Mary greeted her cousin, Elizabeth called her blessed and said, "Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43, emphasis added). Elizabeth knew that her Lord, the Messiah of Israel, was God. She knew from childhood, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4). And she knew that her Lord was in the womb of Mary.

This title, Mother of God, took on great importance in the fourth century, when a heretic named Nestorius—a man who held high office in the Church—claimed the one in Mary's womb was certainly man, but that He was not God. Orthodox Christians, with one accord, said, "Wrong!" To see Jesus Christ as something less than God in the flesh is sub-Christian. For unless the one in Mary's womb was and is God, we are dead in our sins. To safeguard the full deity of Christ, the Church has always insisted that Mary be rightly called—as Elizabeth discerned her to be—the Mother of God.

This title, of course, does not mean mother of the Holy Trinity, for the Holy Trinity has no mother. Neither does it mean she originated the Person who is God the Son for He exists before all time. It refers instead to Mary being the God-bearer (Theotokos in Greek), Mother of the eternal Son of God, who assumed full humanity in her womb.

When a man buys a large plot of land and turns cattle out to graze on it, he fences in his acreage. He does so to protect his cattle, to keep them from wandering off, and to discourage rustlers. Similarly, the Church sets doctrinal fences around its foundational truths. And nothing is more basic and important to us than the deity of Christ. Because Christ is God, we set a firm and non-negotiable fence around His divinity by our immovable confession that Mary is the Mother of God.

Just as we insist on the Virgin Birth of Christ, we also insist that for the nine months she carried Him in His humanity, He was at every moment fully God as well. Thus we say boldly and with great insistence that Mary is the Mother of God, Theotokos, God-bearer. To say anything less is to side with those who deny Christ's deity.

We Are to Honor Mary and Call Her Blessed

Now comes the toughest test of all. Not only is Mary the most blessed of women, our model for the Christian life, and the Mother of God, but we are also called to honor her and to bless her. How do we know? The Bible tells us so.

During her three-month stay at Elizabeth's house, Mary offered one of the most beautiful prayers of praise to the Lord in all the Scriptures. It begins, "My soul magnifies the Lord"; thus it has become known as "The Magnificat."

In that prayer, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Mary prophesied, "henceforth all generations will call me blessed" (Luke 1:48). Essentially, all generations in Church history have done so; only those of the last few centuries have faltered. Our generation of American Christians is filled with those who refuse to bless her, and we must change our ways.

From the beginning of recorded Christian worship, Orthodox Christians have taken special care to venerate or honor Mary in the Liturgy. There is an ancient hymn which begins, "It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos [Mother of God]." She is also called in this hymn "ever-blessed and most pure." The biblical injunction to honor Mary is followed and taken seriously.

We do not, of course, worship Mary, for worship is reserved for the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But she is most certainly to be honored and venerated. And because Christ is our elder brother, the firstborn of many brethren, we honor the Virgin Mary as our Mother, our Lady, as well. Just as Eve was mother of the old Adamic race, so Mary is the true Mother of the new race, the Body of Christ, the Church.

Perhaps in part because we refuse to honor Mary, our generation seems to struggle with honoring anyone. For example, next time a presidential news conference comes on TV., watch closely how some in the press corps behave! Far from merely trying to get the story, many are out for intimidation and willful dishonor.

While God's Word tells us to honor the king (I Peter 2:17) and to give preference to each other (Romans 12:10), our generation seems to delight in challenging and humiliating other people, especially those in authority. Not only are we who are Bible-believing Christians urged to give honor to whom honor is due (see Romans 13:7), we are called by God in no uncertain terms to bless the Mother of our God. We cannot get around that point in Scripture.

The Old Testament and the Virgin

We know that the Old Testament is more than just an inspired account of the history of mankind, or of Israel in particular. In its pages—indeed central to its message—is also the prophetic record concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is typified throughout. Adam was a type of Christ as head of the human race. Moses was a type of Christ, in that he led the people out of bondage into the land of promise. David typified Christ as King of Israel.

Often overlooked, however, is the fact that the Virgin Mary is also seen in the prophetic pages of the Old Testament. Most Christians are aware that the Prophet Isaiah predicts Mary's virgin conception of Christ when he writes: "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). But there are numerous other passages which speak of Mary as well.


From the very early years of the Church, Mary was called not only Virgin, but Ever-Virgin. She was seen as never having had a sexual union with Joseph, before or after the birth of Christ. Ezekiel 44:1, 2 is a passage often referred to by the early Fathers in this regard. It states: "Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the Lord said to me, This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.'"

In traditional interpretation of this passage, Mary is the temple and Christ is the Prince of Peace. The gate mentioned is seen as a picture of the door of Mary's womb through which Christ entered our world. You might not find that interpretation in some of today's commentaries, but it was held by the great majority of early Church Fathers, as well as many of the Reformation leaders— notably Martin Luther.

Virgin Until

At this point, however, a very valid question can be raised. If she remained a virgin, why does the Gospel of Matthew tell us that Joseph knew not his wife until after Christ was born (see Matthew 1:25)?
From a Scriptural standpoint, the presence of the phrase "till she had brought forth her firstborn Son," does not automatically mean that Joseph must have had a sexual union with her afterward. In both Greek and Hebrew the word until (or till or to) can have several meanings. We find it in II Samuel 6:23: "Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to (until) the day of her death." It is used again in Matthew28:20 where the risen Christ says, "Lo, I am with you always, even to (until) the end of the age." And in Deuteronomy 34:6 we read, "[Moses was buried] in a valley in the land of Moab... but no one knows his grave to (until) this day."

Obviously the use of the word in these passages does not imply that Michal had a child after her death, that Christ will no longer be with us at the end of the world, or that Moses' burial place was discovered the day Deuteronomy 34:6 was written. By the same token, the word until in Matthew 1:25 does not mean that Joseph and Mary began a sexual union after Christ was born. Such a teaching is found nowhere in Scripture and is contrary to the consistent voice of the entire early Church.

Christ's Brothers and Sisters

But doesn't the Bible also mention the brothers and sisters of Christ? Who were they and where did they come from?

For one thing, the Scriptures never call them the sons and daughters of Mary and Joseph. In several passages the Bible speaks of near relatives as "brothers." Abraham and Lot were called brothers, although Lot was actually Abraham's nephew. And Jacob and Laban were called brothers, even though Jacob was the son of Rebecca, Laban's sister.

Scripture is therefore silent concerning the nature of this relationship between Christ and these brothers and sisters. Early Fathers differed slightly in their understanding of what the terms meant. Some, such as Saint Ambrose, believed that the "brothers" were children of a former marriage between Joseph and a wife who died prior to the events of Matthew, chapter 1. Others taught that the "brothers" were cousins. But on one point, almost everyone is in agreement: Mary and Joseph had no sexual union whatsoever, before or after the birth of Christ.

I must say in all candor that had my betrothed been the woman chosen by the Father to bear His eternal Son in the flesh, my view of her would have been utterly transformed, and my honor for her infinitely heightened. Imagine being engaged to the Mother of God! It was so with Joseph. His betrothed was ever-virgin.

Other Traditions—True and False

There are two other beliefs concerning Mary that must be briefly mentioned and addressed. The first is her bodily assumption into heaven, the other her immaculate conception.

The Assumption of the Virgin

It was widely reported in the early Church that shortly after her death, Mary's body was assumed into heaven. In later centuries, the Roman Church ratified this belief as dogma, while the Eastern Church withheld such an official imprimatur. Most Christians agree that such a miracle is within the realm of firm biblical precedent, Enoch and Elijah being two examples. Further, there is no known record of any relics of the Holy Virgin. The assumption of the Virgin can be safely seen and honored as an historic Christian tradition, though not recorded in the Scriptures.

The Immaculate Conception of Mary

However, the Immaculate Conception of Mary is a doctrine unknown in the ancient Church and unique to the modern Roman Church. In an effort to distance Mary (and protect Christ) from the stain of sin, the Immaculate Conception holds that Mary was conceived and born without original sin. This teaching has no basis either in Scripture or in the Creeds of the Church.

Whatever other excesses may have cropped up in history, even the Roman Church has never officially believed or taught that Mary was in any way coequal with the Trinity or was to be worshiped with the Trinity. Such allegations are sometimes set forth by critics of the Roman Church, but without basis in fact.

Mary and Salvation

Near the end of the Vespers service in the Orthodox Church, the officiant says, "O holy Mother of God, save us." Can Mary really save us? Yes, and here is why. Certainly, we believe that Mary is pure and holy, that she rules with Christ, that she even prays for us. We know that Mary relinquished her will to the will of God, thus cooperating fully with the purpose of God. And we know that it is the express purpose of God to save those who have faith in Christ. At the very least we can say that Mary is concerned about our salvation and that she desires it. That should be true of all believers.

So the original question, "Can Mary save us?" leads to another question: "Can we save others?" Again, the Holy Scriptures speak with resounding clarity. Here are some examples:

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (I Timothy 4:16).

Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins (James 5:20).

And on some have compassion, making a distinction; butothers save with fear, pulling them out of the fire (Jude 22, 23).

Fire saves (I Corinthians 3:15); prayer saves (James 5:15); angels save (Isaiah 63:9); baptism saves (I Peter 3:21); preaching saves (I Corinthians 1:21); the Apostle Paul saves (Romans 11:14).

New life in Christ, or salvation, is both personal union with Him and an incorporation into the wholeness of the Body, the Church. Salvation is a Church affair, a Church concern, because we are all affected by it. Therefore, in Christ we all have a part to play in the corporate nature of His saving act.

We do not save alone; Mary does not save alone. Jesus Christ is our wellspring of salvation. He said, 'Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). And "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7).

Mary has a participatory role in our salvation because she provided the body of Christ and thereby became the "mother" of all those who would be saved. That is why Jesus, while on the Cross, said to His mother, 'Woman, behold your son!" and then said to Saint John, "Behold your mother!" (John 19:26,27). Understood in this way, does the Mother of God save us? Thank God, yes!

Changing Our Mind About Mary

Many Christians have been grossly misinformed in the last 150 years concerning the historical Church's view of Mary. We have forgotten she is favored by the Father, and is the model—indeed, the flagship—of all humanity. She was the only one who gave her flesh to the Son of God, and she is uniquely to be blessed throughout all generations (Luke 1:48).

What we do about Mary is connected directly to what we do about the Church. The community of Christ's followers is called to act together. Taking action with regard to Mary is not simply personal or private; it has to do with responding as the Church.

And where in Christendom has the fullness of truth concerning Mary been preserved? Even most Protestants— both liberal and conservative—know she is slighted in their circles. The answer for Protestants who take the biblical and historical evidence seriously lies neither within the Protestant Churches nor in the Roman Church with its questionable late dogmatic additions concerning Mary.

The answer lies in the historic Orthodox Church, which has maintained the biblical fidelity concerning Mary. The hour is at hand for all of us who love Christ and take seriously the Holy Scriptures to set our hearts and minds to giving Holy Mary her proper due in the proper Church. We do so because God has done great things for and through her (Luke 1:49).

As Christians we do not live by feelings, we live by faith. Let us once for all rise above those fears the devil has sown in our hearts to neutralize us against this precious woman who gave birth to our Savior. Bless her in the midst of God's people. Follow her example in exalting Christ. Confess her as the Mother of God. Come home to the Church that has kept intact our holy faith. And may we help turn our generation back to the honoring and blessing of Mary which God has commanded.

Excerpt from "Becoming Orthodox" by Father Peter Gillquist, former Campus Crusade Leader.

You are a sacrificial priest

We were, last week, in interior design with the construction of the Mishkan, God's Tabernacle in the wilderness, housing the Ark of Covenant, the altar and the Shekhinah, the Holy Presence (Shekhinah). God had instructed with much details how His house should be built. There is a move, as we might consider this injunction given to the Israelites to construct the Mishkan. God is everywhere, He is in the desert because it is the natural place for Him to converse/daber\דבר and thus «midbar\מדבר = empty place, place where the Only One speaks and can be listened, heard.» God had obliged the Bney Israel to turn to Him in a « facility » that they had achieved, restricted in space and though hosting the Bore haKol Yakhol\בורא הכל יכול – the Creator of all things, spaces.

This week, the design commandments turn to fashion mitzvot: the connection traces back to the time when Adam and Eve opened their eyes, discovering they incidentally were nude in the face of God. God is not that prudish and two young new humans were certainly a poor experience of what is advertised everywhere today. They supposedly were more naive about nakedness and inexperienced about porn. « Porneia » means « prostitute » in Greek. Not that sure in fact.

There are transgenerational invariants, attitudes that certainly remained unchanged from the ver y beginning of humanity. Adam and Eve had disobeyed God's commandment. They had eaten some fruit, « teenahתאנה - figs » for the Talmudic tradition; the Christians – maybe for fruitful preferences in the West developed he myth of apples that does not match with our fig-tree that is the tree of teaching.Good, Newton discovered gravity with falling apples. The Jewish tradition the Christian Orthodox Church do not refer to any «original sin» and sex is a part of the « oneg shabbat\עונג שבת – honey sweetness of the Shabbat ». Adam and Eve transformed the « or\אור - light » of their innocence to some covering « or\עור - skins » tailored by God in person for these two newborn living beings.They wore the divinely made « katnot 'or\כתנות עור – garments of skins », ot the same way some people put on leather at the present. The thing is that we love to make people feel guilty about sex. But they were « arum - naked », which is a normal state. The word is linked to the root «ari\ערי = to stir up, stimulate, excite the sexual organ by contact (Keritot 2:4). » In Yoma 54a, « the cherubim in the Temple were intertwisted with one another ». Thus, « the man should always be deliberate (arum\ערום) in his fear = of goodwill in his way to serve God » (Berachot 17a). As it is usual in Hebrew, « arum » means the contrary by paradox: « a wicked man is subtle (arum\ערום) » (Sota 3:4). And look at this: « You may separate the priest's gift while not being dressed and at twilight on the eve of Shabbat » (Demai 1:4).

Clothes are not frankly significant because of sins and guilt that some people would love to impose on others. They separate times of service, times for blessings and blessings as the priests were putting on their vestments in order to take up God's Presence and be protected by garments that could prevent them from pride, presumption and hauteur.

Jews have always underscored that, in particular on festive days, they should be well-dressed and wear the most beautiful tallits (prayer shawls). This is what happens to Aaron and his sons that are to be ordained as priests. The beauty of the vestments does not correspond to some sort of fashion competition. Women as all sorts of clerics and rabbis (as the priests in Temple) can be terribly frivolous - « trivial » sounds nice at the present - about their look and the richness of their garments. But these vestments precisely aimed to oblige the priests to forget about their egos and disappear, concede that God covers and overshadows them with these vestments. They were not in a religious fashion defile to show off their human smugness. "Holier-than-thou" parading is a huge temptation for any person serving God in any visible or defined function. But the function is rather comparable to Adam and Eve wearing their « katnot 'or – garments of skin » made by God Who « yalbishehem ילבישהם – clothed them » (Bereishit 3:21).

They act « under His tent ». As new-fled from the Land of Egypt, recently born to freedom, Aaron an his sons would, to begin with, serve with innocence, standing under linen and wool, tissue wings of the Most High (Tehillim 91), wearing the prophetic Urim and Turim breastpiece (Num. 27:21) as a sign of
« mishpat\משפט - decision » that only God can determine. This is the real problem: are these instruments conceived by man, of anthropological interest? or are they fashion accessories for modernist artcraft creators? Again, the Israelites had to listen to God and hear this redundant appeal » « ve'assu, ta'asseh\יעשו ותעשה – and they, you will make ». It clearly has some cultural and ethnological significance. But patterns are basically all the same everywhere in the world. At the Mount Sinai, Aaron was not a model in a show. He did not know what would happen next in this wilderness story. He might have not understood at once that he was covering himself because God wanted to clothe the Israelite of His Presence and make it solemn and beautiful. As beautiful as the « ma'il... techelet – pure bluecoat or robe of the ephod » and the pomegranate bells showing that the priest would not die because this vestment secures him while he officiates (Ex. 27:28).

Let's go for a walk in Jerusalem these days. Long dark black raincoats everywhere, same tailor, same cut, tissue, some colored fur on a black hood, mostly, rarely leather (less modest). Clones meeting their people. It is convenient.Are you? Yope, you/me = same group, tribe.Not only Jews but a lot women, men, youth. At this point, fashion shows who we are, not who God is. Aaron and the Israelites were not like young beauty fashion models scratching their brains to create next year's winter season to be instantly flashed down to cellphones and eventually be erased upon receipt... This is our hedonistic
« one-shot » attitude: epicurean, ephemeral styles, permanently mirroring on trading looks, clothes and maybe the fading models. No long-term envisioning prospects. No. One can be fond of looks. They fade and grow old every minute. « ta'asseh – you shall make » (for Aaron and his sons) a frontlet on pure gold and the seal inscription « Kodesh leHaShem – Holy to the Lord »...the fringed tunic of fine linen, the sash of embroiled work, turbans... to cover their nakedness and enter the Tent of Meeting so that they shall not incur punishment and die. This is a law for all time for him and for his offspring to come » (Shemot 28:36-43). Glamor is on the spot, maybe because of new (video, filming) techniques that would combat evanescent manners and facades and the apparent futility of time. Who knows? Glamorous people might in secret be closer to God that clerics in beards, hats, gehrok\גייראק-געהרוק, cassocks, tunics...

Moses is asked to proceed to the ordination of Aaron and his sons so that they be acting sacrificers (« kahan – to sacrifice » for the Lord in the Tent. The « semichah\סמיכה - ordination » is a very ancient ritual that, in Judaism, is profound ly linked to a major profession: « shochetשוחט – ritual slaughter ». The thing is that we are so embattled in wars, conflicts, rapes, corruption, robbery and titillating sex misconducts that a simple rabbinic ordination certificate look like a clean-cut nature and wildlife document. We visualize bloody scenes, would never admit that our spiritual guide is offering his life like a beast to be slaughtered (Isaiah 53:10). When Aaron put on the refined vestments, he is called to get covered with the blood of the rams and the bulls (Ex. 29). And he was to be anointed with fresh oil. « Semichut- hand-laying » is done on the head of an animal for the good of all the people, potentially for all the humans.And this required the presence of three (people) when elders were ordained (hand laid – semichut zekenim\סמיכת זקנים) », states Tosefta Sanhedrin 1,1).

The shochet\שוחט continues to lay his hands upon the head of the animals to slaughter them the same way as priests were « imprinted, sealed » with the same pressure on their heads. « Vesamach yado al rosh ha'olah - וסמך ידו על ראש העולה/and he (the son of Israel) will lay the hand upon the head of the burnt offering – venirtza lechaper alav - ונרצה לכפר עליו / in expiation for him » (Leviticus 1:4). Aaron wa not only called to bless people. He was mainly called to perfom the different offerings. Thus, he becomes himself a sacrifice. « samach\סמך – (to)nail », like the name of the /s/, fifteenth consonant of the Hebrew alphabet. And daily « shechitah\שחיטה - slaughtering » made by the ritual slaughters who lay the hands on the animals because killing them so that their blood would sprinkle as water « dam kemayim\דם כמים – blood as water » (Gittin 9b) recalls that Orthodox Judaism continue to pray for the restoring of the sacrifices.This should be taken into consideration before being simply rejected or sublimated to a higher level.

This week, we focus on the priestly vestments. The Eastern Christian and ancient Orthodox Churches have kept many features that are common with the oldest vestments made for the service of the Aaron. The Eastern Orthodox tradition can appear to be full of splendor. Interestingly it is the same theological attitude as found in this week portion. The servant of God disappears and would even not be « recognized » as this or that priest. Vestments clothe the servants in order to show God's unique glory and Presence. The image of splendid dress should lead us to look for the Living God Who is not visible.Interestingly. The Greek version of the Septuagint (TaNaKh) did not translate « samach » literally, i.e. By « ereido » because the action of laying the hands with a pressure on a human being would have shocked readers of Hellenistic culture.

Well, this week portion allows us to think of the importance of «tziniyut» in Judaism: vestments, clothes, privacy, discretion, chastity, purity. A general attitude of « modesty », humbleness. This is at the heart of our weekly portion about « tailoring cloths ». The Christian Orthodox Church will commemorate saint Gregorios Palamas, theologian and Archbishop of Thessalonika (14th c.) who defended Hesychastic practice, a famous spiritual movement of sobriety and equanimity.It consists in trying to get to the closest to God (the closet of the heart), knowing that, according to the Oriental tradition, nobody can reach His Essence. Constant praying and getting deeper into silence constitute mental attitudes that firstly appeared in Cappadocia, developed by the Palestinian monks as saint Sava, Evthymios: Hesychasm is a Greek word: « peace and silence, quietness » (in Modern Greek a « siesta, break »).

The mental and physical posture of the hesychast is to confide to the full in God through much interiority.It implies to be ready to accept all forms of God's light. Throughout the centuries, it evolved in the short and fervent « prayer of Jesus », a certain limitation of Liturgical participation, a combat against sloth (« akadia » that corresponds to the spiritual disease of « atzlut\עצלות »). The existence of the Divine Light, uncreated energies, breathing methods and body postures were strongly adopted by the Byzantine Church, along with a very profound theological teaching to reach faith – not ecstasy. It took a long time before the Roman Latin Church and the West accepted such a vital tradition based on sobriety. Saint Seraphim of Sarov, the famous Russian monk who lived in the forest, had adopted this spirituality that was initiated in the first Judean monasteries. It developed in areas where it met with the Slavic and Romanian world of the Jewishness and does show a lot of similarities with the Chassidic movements.

Indeed, it is interesting that on the way to the Feasts of Freedom (Passover/Easter), both Judaism and Christianity suggest to consider our personal, social and general situation with much modesty and sobriety. This will allow us to look into the main Great Lenten prayer of Saint Ephrem. There is something of that nature in the fundamentals of the Israeli society.

av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

March 17/4, 2009 – 21 deAdar 5769 - כ"א דאדר תשס"ט
Mar/mor Ephrem

Purim and Kippurim

The countdown "Israel: + 61 years", after the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel, has shown some defects from the very beginning of the Jewish year 5769. There are points of confusion showing that legality and legacy are weakening. In the Holy Land, we behave as if we never went out of the wilderness.

The Sixtieth anniversary was launched with the UN partition into two States. At the moment, we speculate and contemplate, in some circles, that there should be a two-state, maybe a three-state solution; Why not a four-state way-out? I really think that, if we cannot manage Galilee, Center and discover the richness of the South, we should definitely add some strong connection with Birobidjan in the Siberian Far East. Good old Stalin had envisioned the requirement to provide some soil and identity to the Jews within the framework of international friendship and unity. And what? Yiddish is still the national language of the "Geg'nt\געגנט - Oblast'/область - autonomous region". I wrote articles and blogs for the 70th anniversary of the Birobidjan and usually the Anglo's have removed the note from their archives, lol!

Again, this year, we have a linguistic 150th birth anniversary: Two years ago, it was Eliezer Ben Yehudah's coming out into the world (still rather unnoticed by who it may concern) and now, it is Sholem Aleichem, but people would scarcely say "hello". Languages, speech are true identity "developers"and mind openers; we turn them to be tongue twisters, tools of confusion and we prefer to hide them.

Last year, it was stunning, unreal, kitsch and weird. German Känzlerin/ chancellor came to visit Israel and spoke for the first time in German at the Knesset. She originally comes from East Germany, with a cultural background that , via the former Soviet Union and the Russian civilization, roots her closer to the basements of the State of the Jews. One year later, we are embattled with her fellow citizen Pope Benedikt XVI, mistaken on Monday, repenting on Tuesday, correcting his staff on Wednesday, brushing up the errors on Thursday, worse on Friday and arriving in the Holy Land.... between Shabbat and Sunday, bearing all the sins of New Israel. This is the sad story of a sincere man of God.

If we have some brains and insights, we may understand that Joseph Ratzinger's mother tongue is bayerisch, a dialect terribly close to (basic) Yiddish. The fact that the man is shy, back-laid and a true theologian is hardly comprehensible to returning from exiled and historically injured-hurt,affected Jewish former wanderers always wanting to march in some where, somehow. It is easy to sum up: we have our point of view, his has his own views, maybe not restricted to one or two points. Good enough, the fact is that he has to swindle around false. For instance, there is this true Patagonian dispersed Briton priest that swings between neutral Switzerland, Calvinist Geneva and strongly Catholic Zion in Valais-Wallis (Traditional fraternity) and spoke out his mind on some odd Swedish waves, so what? Nothing, nothing new. An old tale and the tale shall continue for centuries.

It looks like a Purim farce; but who are the jesters? Who is disguised and who changes sides? It is the main issue today as it was exceptionally filmed by Charlie Chaplin in "The Dictator" ass-playing with a balloon globe; the bad Haman one day and the good Persian after a repair... in a delightful Esperanto atmosphere.

"Purim" are "lots" and they can change according to our versatility: "shoteh " in Hebrew and Yiddish means both "drinker, drinks\שותה and full mad, insane person\שוטה" (with a switch in consonants from tet to tav). The real problem is how Judaism can revolve, change and make a real move toward penance; how can we abandon permanent ego-centered guilt, wounds and mental requirement for revenge from the others without seeing that we may impeach the others to truly get to some point of authentic change toward Judaism. Not that change we would expect, but the one they can reach, now, today, at the present and without our being judgmental.

Judaism has a very special blessing: "Blessed are You, Lord of the Universe / shehecheyanu\שהחינו (Who sustains us in Life) vekimanu\וקימנו (and revives us) vehigiyanu lezman hazeh\והגיענו לזמן הזה (and gives us to reach to this time).We may not be able to understand the value of what seems ordinary.

The above blessing insists on a regular, cyclic, on the move development and renewal of life. This is what "zikkaron\זכירון - memorial" also means. Without being politically minded at all, it is totally unexpected, even after six decades, to hear the German Känzelin, Angela Merkel, reprimanding Pope Benedict the Sixteenth (as we say in Hebrew: Benedictus hashisha-assar\בנדיקטוס השישה-עשר). He is a fellow citizen. He used to have at night a nice fresh "Bier und Sauerkraut" at the Vatican nearby Bräuerei. They understand each other. She is the daughter of an East German pastor with the spiritual experience of the East that was very close to Polish John Paul II. Is it a mental "confusion" that East German citizens of the Democratic German Republic has never, never committed anything wrong against the Jews provided that they were the Communist friends, brothers, brethren, comrades of the outraged international people? But Angela intervened as a real angelic actual theologian and "witness for our contemporary errors". She told the Pope to collect his thoughts and get aware of true mistakes. It is so confusing that the Roman Catholic Church seems to be at pains right now, when the Eastern Orthodox Churches, especially the Russian Patriarchate of Moscow, succeeded in maintaining some real unity of the Russian Church. They reunited it and still manage to be linked with those who would prefer to leave the Body. We are often puzzled by simple facts.

Look, it seemed so amazing, one year ago, that Nobel Price and Holocaust survivor Elie(zer) Wiesel refused, at the last minute and right out of the blue, to hold a torch for the Sixtieth anniversary of the State? He had gone through "Di nakht, די נאכט - the Night". At that time, a lot of people condemned him for personal money profits, utilizing the Holocaust as a self promotion... Nu so what? Jews, as Christians, are none without compassion and loving-kindness. In the "Night", E. Wiesel looks, with the inmates of the camp, at the gallows and the hanging body. A man says: "Where is God?" Wiesel whispers: "There, he is hanging at the gallows". Is his answer today the Madoff scandal caused by a man who could even pay to get out of jail?

Elie Wiesel has never become the man he should have been as a member of the Yiddishkayt. His Jewishness and normal route sank during the Holocaust, before it was called "Shoah\שואה". It has not reached the "churban/Yid. chirb'n-חורבן". Today, he often would say this and that, partly dreaming, partly surviving. The intriguing part is that only Israelis are entitled to yell at him or be judgmental. Any soul - that solely passes by this Land of Canaan today is placed beyond any capacity to measure the value of life. It is far beyond mean survival concerns and still it is interwoven with horrible fears.

Somehow, it is very sound though it should be condemned that Israeli media can mock the Shoah poor survivors left without their money at the same time as they carelessly make fun of major Christian faith fundamentals. It is a terrible mistake, It is outrageous and definitely abnormal. But it is sound because who can ever measure the way the grandparents were reduced to human wrecks? Before yelling, we always need to repair our memories.

From growing flowers, trees, roads, pets, computers to human bones, all of them ache or ached or will go through terrible pains. We are simply at the dawn of some new humanity.

* * * * * * * *

The main concern of Purim is not disguising carnival. Carnival? There is nothing dealing with the blessing of flesh (Lat. carne) in the usual way of meeting the feast nowadays. To begin with, it is a State feast and tus it may not be perceived as an act of authentic and pure Jewish faith. A joyous and rejoicing sharing of Hamantashen/ozney Haman\המן טאשען\אוזני המן and Haman ears. As a child I used to attend each year the event this in theaters. Queen Esther was a true rescued person. And there was a rampant question: who had shown to take the place of Malkah Esther, aka Hadas (aka Ishtar) with Mordechai (aka Marduk)? This was an anxious question for a generation full of apparent despair, some incredible forces to build up their lives again and also gamble their minds into shaping new Israel.

Purim is not a carnival. It consists in getting so confused that good and evil are just so close they can match or even get interwoven disappear into an isolated sort of unclear "golem".

What kind of crazy things will we imagine on this Purim? When logics prefer to turn to nonsense, right to left and left to north and reality to dazzling reality? We maybe living in New Zealand, Alaska, Europe, Jews rock between Sumer and the Mesopotamian civilization and Egypt. On the one hand, the birthplace of Abraham and then, along the Nile, the fight for surviving and getting freed. And, here, in Eretz Israel, we are in between: shifting from there to here and swinging like on seesaw. Getting in and out and back again.

The point is that Purim can only match with "Kippurim -כיפורים". It implies that the feast of the Lots are not only based on "lots"; in the Gospel, Jesus is mocked by the Roman soldiers. They were "Roman" but came from the various parts of the great Roman empire, from Dacia, Turkey, other areas and some hardly could speak "Roman = Latin", just the same way we see millions of expatriates and refugees who are flowing throughout the world trying to make their living in many tongues. He was mocked, i.e. it was the ancient and usually way to play with a false king, to dress him "up" and mock him with fake respect. We often do mock each other that way because it is much easier than to cope with the existence of a soul.

But there is more: this kind of mockery reduces the human being to what we only accept to recognize of who he is. When Jesus is mocked, he is on the way to be killed. It does not matter by whom. The point is that there is an intention to murder a human being. And precisely when he is naked, he is still considered as being ridiculous and dangerous in terms of a strong identity. The man is jailed, trapped. Still, he is potentially a king; worse of all, he might be the king. Jews have the same, and it is even worse: they bear the promises to be prophets and messiah-bearers.

The real fight is very clear: Purim\פורים (Lots) and Kippurimכפורים (Ransoming, day of atonement, forgiveness) are very close because God's will has the first and the last Word. It clears up guilt because on such days the combat can overcome idolatry. The problem is that we may, at the present, be confused about "idolatry".

The Jews can be fascinated by "idols"; these are very simple tests and temptations. The word is a bit too pious to be real in our societies. It is simple to look at the opposite face of the Tablets with the commandments. This deals with "morals": to honor time and delays, to respect life and do not slay, to respect properties, marriage and don't be a matter or a source of adultery, to refrain from any action of possession that would alien or harm your fellow people and the foreigners, from objects to beasts or belong to any creature. These were the basic Noahide commandments.

Until now, the Jewish siddurim\סידורים and machzorim\מחזורים are very strict with regard to the respect of these principles and ethic rules. They are not so simple. There are simple ways to rob the others, to create the conditions that would even blur the acts of theft or robbery. Adultery is advertising everywhere and though it is evident that pure hearts and eyes can match in all circumstances, power and capture show when we are unable to control ourselves.

Like the Prophets of Israel and the Rabbis after the destruction of the Second Temple), the first Christians were terribly shocked by "idolatry" that was hideous to them, more than disgusting and they were indeed always ready to give up their lives and violently protest against "idolatry". They had another attitude than the Jews. The Hebrews left Egypt and the Land of serfdom and were rather quickly seduced by idolatry (the golden calf, luxury, gluttony and orgies). Is it possible to explain this by the long absence of Moses? In fact, the death and the rise of Jesus show to involve the same problems of faithfulness. The combat against idolatry is essential at this point. It is at the heart of behavioral attitudes and ethics of our generation. The problem is not to know what new conditions appeared in the course of the years and mirror new forms of idolatry.

The early Christians hated idolatry. We can trace this back by the way we suspiciously consider some ancient sects, like the Essenes or the many first Christian groups. The Eastern Orthodox world can still be very "rough, rude and judgmental" with regard to the purity of the true faith. It is definitely useless to be judgmental. This also appears in the Saint Ephrem's prayer.

The attitude of the first Christians - which has also been the attitude of the true Jews throughout history - deals with "idols" as being "items or objects" and they would systematically avoid or refuse to get involved in any sort of God-negating rites, actions or objects ("pagan, heathen" would fit in fact, but are not so clear at present). They had the same as we can see today: "harmless" things that can even seem ridiculous and so. Why are they considered as "idolatry"?

I had a professor of Talmud. He was a prisoner of war in Germany, a famous rabbi. He worked there in a farm. The family was in fact very nice with him and wanted him to get food and share the same conditions of life as they had. The boss used to give him huge sandwiches with pork sausages and ham. He used to take them, but once alone, he would always throw them away, considering that he was not entitled to trespass the commandment for different reasons: pork is forbidden (still in abnormal conditions is it possible or not to go beyond the commandment?). He also considered that his conditions of life were hideously abnormal. He could not morally accept the conditions of non-protest against evil shown by his "hosting" family. Today, his rejection of all sorts of compromise would be considered as an exploit. It is a usual matter for any Jew as also for true Christians.

We all have friends and acquaintances who would consider that there is no harm - and definitely no trespass, sin" in praying through "nature", stones, bracelets, metallic stuff. Crosses are not explained - it is easier to wear them as earrings or bangles. Saint Paul stated that such rituals given to objects, material items were comparable to hallowing Evil or Satan (1 Corinthians 10: 19-22).

Worshiping Astarte, Ishtar (cf. the difference with Esther) corresponds to "give reverence to false gods", e.g. to some forms that we create and that, in return, seize our existences and souls with much reality. In fact, these elements are "covered, veiled, dressed up or disguised" in the shape of some versatile and temporary rule of our preferences. This makes idolatry terribly real; It has nothing to do with some odd or empty cult.

This is why Jews and Christians of the Antiquity could not consider idolatry as a "simple sin". It is possible to say that we live at the present in a time of "post-heralding"; this means that from before the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem till the attempt to eradicate the Jewish - mostly European - Jewish communities during the period of the Shoah, monotheism (without including Islam) has been proclaimed by the Jews and then by both the Jews and the Christian all throughout the world till the end of the second world war.

We can consider that this long period was marked by the announcement of the Reign of God, the attempt to spread God's commandments everywhere. It is basically possible to state that the Word of God has reached all the earth and all the nations of the planet, even if there are levels of impact and acculturation. The term "proselytism" is too special and refers to some specific attitudes of the Christian "Churches or groups". Originally, it was part of the Jewish attitude and it may show up again with the creation of a free Jewish body. Still "heralding" refers to something else: the coming of prophet Elijah to proclaim the presence of the coming messiah in glory who should arrive at the top of the Mount of Olives at the end of times. In this view, "heralding" is only starting. Until now, between two major destructions or exterminations that profoundly affected the Jewish community, the Gospel has reached a climax, but "evangelization and or proclamation of the King through the Jewish tradition" has only come to a first step. We are at the dawn of a true discovery of faith. Indeed we are anew and constantly facing the challenge of "combating idolatry" as described above.

Idolatry is the major issue. We seem to come back to the old times of Antiquity. The dramatic change that happened is that "monotheists" who would never accept any sort of compromise with idolatry or would be totally aware of what idolatry truly are confused at the present and cannot make a clear distinction between good and evil, temptation and spiritual righteousness. It is indeed a special blessing to keep the right way. Indeed, Jewish and Christian faiths are at stake while facing the realm of Satan. It does not mean that each individual should be cursed or hurt or affected. Loving-kindness is at the core of redemption. It means that societies are aching and cannot support their members to smoothly continue marching in.

The response is thus to try to understand that Purim is, in the time of the first Land of Israel harvest of spring, the first response to "answer to God in a positive way". It make Kippurim (Ransoming, atonement) as, similar, identical to (ke- ) a good lot granted by God. This covers all kinds of understanding and widens our scope.

av aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

March 15/2, 2009 - 19 deAdar 5769 - כ' דאדר תשס"ט

היכל הספר-מגילה