Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Advent: Week 3 Day 4


"I rejoiced when I heard them say, Let us go to the House of the Lord.
... and now we are standing in your streets, oh Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, built as a city with compact unity: to it the tribes go up: the tribes of the Lord.

... the glory of this House will be greater than that of the former one...

Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How I longed to gather you to Myself, as a chicken gathers her young under her wing.

I, John, saw a new heavens and a new earth; the former heavens and the former earth had passed away. Then I saw the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, beautiful as a bride prepared to meet her groom...

If the Lord does not build, in vain do the laborers work...

...As the bridegroom marries his bride, so your Builder will marry you, oh Jerusalem!"

No, I did not put my Bible into the blender. Nor did I use GREP or any other computer machinery. These are just some of the thoughts which came into my mind as I pondered the mystery of this great and ancient city. How the Jews sang ritual songs as they climbed the road up the hill to the city, where they would soon enter the Temple - again, here is that word "tribe" which we are shortly to hear much more about, as we come ever closer to the final GREAT WEEK of anticipation! Ooo! (How child-like does our dear Mother Church reveal herself!)

But about Jerusalem. You will note the mix of quotes. Jesus, just before Holy Week. John, writing of that Day at the End of Time (when, please God, we shall all meet in the Inn at the End of the World! "Thou hast kept the GOOD WINE until now.") And the scraps of psalm-verses, the "Song of Ascents" (Jerusalem is built on a hilltop - it cannot be hidden!!!) and that last strange psalm line which hints of the future. Once I was writing something about Jesus and the ancient Roman title of Pontifex Maximus, and in one of those fortuitous typographical slips, I omitted the "g" and wrote "Bride-Builder" - here indeed is the truth of that error - what curious figure of speech is it called when one makes an error and learns a greater truth??? (I don't have my references here; I will have to hunt. It may be something like serendipity, but I wonder if the Greeks had a word. They always have so far.)

They certainly had one for "city". It was "polis" which gives us important words like politics and the second root in metropolis, but the English words which are quite relevant to our topic are two which do not seem related: polite and police. We have lost sight of what it means to be polite: it means to live as one lives in a CITY - that is, with an awareness of our neighbors, living according to order, to rule, to law - which means we POLICE ourselves. We follow certain restrictions which enable a greater degree of freedom. This seems paradoxical, but then (as Chesterton points out) "free speech is a paradox." (If this is not clear to you upon some quiet thought, I will go into it another time.) But I wish you to think - not, perhaps about YOUR OWN city, struggling with crime and snow and taxes - but about the concept of CITY - which is none-the-less true of suburbs than of downtown.

But to go back to the quotes: it is those two last verses which suggest to me that the "carpentry" of Jesus was predicted. I am not entirely clear about this, but somewhere I seem to recall reading that the term for His (and Joseph's) labor originally was not as restricted to wood as the English term is: it was rather more generic, and would include "building" - using stone, or other materials as needed. But then again, He had to be about his Father's business.

Let us, then, pray for the peace of Jerusalem: in the sense that God will grant light for that mountain city where He once walked - but also that the true peace found only in that perfection of God's own polis might take root in our hearts and bear fruits - in whatever town or village we live... "As we wait for that Day when the salvation promised us will be ours..."


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