From the first line on, the Bible uses ever-new images to express the experience that the otherworldly God is devoted to our world with the affection of a creator.
The book of proverbs depicts this by personifying wisdom. She is with God from the beginning, like a child, plays in front of Him and is His joy. At the same time she plays on earth and delights in being with the people. Thus, wisdom embodies the inner purpose of creation: God wants to be with the people, he wants a history with them. So he gives of himself what brings him joy, grants moderation and order, his wisdom. In the course of this history the eternal wisdom of God, the Logos, takes up residence with the people, in Nazareth. hak
The LORD begot me, the beginning of his works,
the forerunner of his deeds of long ago;
From of old I was formed,
at the first, before the earth.
When there were no deeps I was brought forth,
when there were no fountains or springs of water;
Before the mountains were settled into place,
before the hills, I was brought forth;
When the earth and the fields were not yet made,
nor the first clods of the world.
When he established the heavens, there was I,
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
When he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the springs of the deep;
When he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
When he fixed the foundations of earth,
then was I beside him as artisan;
I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
Playing over the whole of his earth,
having my delight with human beings.
In the same place
In many parishes it is difficult to assemble a choir for Pentecost because almost everyone drives into the country. How differently does the report in the Acts of Apostles sound.
There, many come together in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks. They celebrate that Israel has received the “instruction”, the guide for a good life. Today we can marvel that this center still exists. The joy over this brings us together. In physics this movement would be called centripetal instead of centrifugal. The Acts of Apostles calls the reference point “mighty acts of God”. ruk
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
In the Old Testament the word glory describes what is visible about God.
Jesus’ existence and his work uphold this topic – here in the form of a prayer. It summarizes his entire life. Through listening to Him, through unity with Him, the entire possible unity of man with God tangibly becomes a reality. Jesus’ prayer connects his time to all generations of faithful. Thus, it is the mission of the Church to show the glory of God in this continuity and unity. bek
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
The construction principle of heavenly Jerusalem
The city from heaven is a vision of the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” Church in her ideal form. Her deep, inseparable interwovenness with Israel is part of her essence:
Its name is Jerusalem, and the number twelve appears as the principle of her/its construction plan. The only strange thing is that “the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites” are written on the gates, while “the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” are written on the corner stones. It might be more logical the other way around. Israel as the foundation and above it the apostles. The construction principle of the vision indicates that the history of Israel still remains the sole gateway to the Church. tac
He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal. It had a massive, high wall, with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed and on which names were inscribed, the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. There were three gates facing east, three north, three south, and three west. The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The one who spoke to me held a gold measuring rod to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city was square, its length the same as also its width. He measured the city with the rod and found it fifteen hundred miles in length and width and height. He also measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits according to the standard unit of measurement the angel used. The wall was constructed of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the city wall were decorated with every precious stone; the first course of stones was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl; and the street of the city was of pure gold, transparent as glass.
I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.
Newness – Oldness
The quote: “Christ brought everything that is new”, is handed down from the Church father Irenaeus of Lyon from the second century.
If we look at this Sunday’s texts in that light, we encounter the idea of newness three times. In the second reading from the Apocalypse: “I make all things new.” In the gospel “I give you a new commandment”. And then in the conclusion prayer as a request: “Give, that your people come into to the newness of life from the oldness.” Eighty years ago Karl Prümm presented his observations of early Christianity in the antique world under the title “Christianity as an experience of newness”: It was not until this newness that everything prior, everything else, seemed old. The problem is: When this newness becomes weak and unattractive, everything else does not disappear, it just becomes normality. The transit from A to B is no highway, but a narrow path; at least free of traffic. ars
Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
In the year 47 Paul, Barnabas and other companions set out on a journey that leads them to the Jewish communities of Cyprus and Anatolia and lasts an entire year.
In Antioch in Pisidia, an aspiring Roman colony of veterans, they tell the story of Jesus during the celebration of Shabbat in the synagogue. They explain the entire Jewish history in the light of this story. This rouses interest and excitement. On the following Shabbat an argument breaks out in the synagogue about this interpretation and they finally say: “… we now turn to the gentiles”. Thus, Paul takes a far-reaching step after the rejection in Antioch. But he does not leave Judaism. So, he argues with two quotes of the prophet Isaiah that he combines in the manner of a rabbi: “I have made you a light to the Gentiles.” And “that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.” He does not create a new religious group, but he wants to realize the calling Israel has for the world. And, like Jesus did before him, he simply takes those who allow themselves to be won over for it. Fortunately us as gentiles. acb
They continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats. Many Jews and worshipers who were converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to remain faithful to the grace of God.
On the following Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said. Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this and glorified the word of the Lord. All who were destined for eternal life came to believe, and the word of the Lord continued to spread through the whole region. The Jews, however, incited the women of prominence who were worshipers and the leading men of the city, stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their territory. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the holy Spirit.
Recognize the same hand?
During the five weeks between Easter and Pentecost, contrary to usual practice, only texts from the New Testament are read at mass. Peter does not adhere to this distinction when he is summoned by the high council with other apostles, and proclaims what will not let him remain silent:
“The God of our ancestors raised Jesus”. The new name “who raised Jesus” is added to God’s well-known name “who led Israel out of Egypt”. Who recognized it? “We are witnesses of these things, as is the holy Spirit”, says Peter. Pope em. Benedict XVI. wrote recently, and here too was met more with malice than approval: “Even today God has his witnesses (martyres) in the world. We only have to be awake to see them and to hear them.” ars
When they had brought the apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders to stop teaching in that name. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the holy Spirit that God has given to those who obey him.”
Then they had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
As loud as a trumpet
Christians are the most persecuted community of faith worldwide. The Book of Revelations was written under similar conditions.
Its author John comes to the aid of the oppressed seven communities of Anatolia from his exile. He describes these communities as lampstands. With this picture he expresses: These communities show that Holy Friday did not silence Jesus’ message. Together these Christians have conquered fear. “Do not be afraid”, became reality with them. They shine less through their words than through their new way of life in community. They know that they are responsible for each other; former slaves and masters meet each other as brothers and sisters, which was desired by many prophets. Their life proclaims “as loud as a trumpet”, that the murdered Jesus is in reality “the one who lives”. ruk
I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus. I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, which said, “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest. When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld. Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.
The tricky business of seeing
“He saw and believed.” What is so special about that? When I see a car driving on the street, what is there to believe?
And when I look into an empty burial cave, like the sprinter John, what is there to believe? He sees that it is empty. Mary of Magdala had already seen and said that before him. One could have photographed the newborn boy Jesus, if it had been technologically possible already. And also Jesus, who died on the cross. And what could have been caught on film Easter? The disciples, who had fled in all directions, who – albeit hesitantly and falteringly – came together again in Jerusalem. At first fearful, they locked all the doors of the room. But then without fear: because they experienced that the murdered Jesus was alive in their midst, if invisible. They witnessed, saw, what happened to them, and believed that it was Jesus, raised by God, who brought this about in them. bek
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
Disturbing the Peace
Before the king of Israel is nailed to the cross, he enters the town ceremoniously. He is riding, so he can appear as a king.
However, on a donkey, so he cannot be mistaken for one of the great men of the world. When he was born, heavenly choirs sang of peace on earth, now his disciples on earth sing of the heavenly king’s arrival to Jerusalem, who brings this peace. It does not stay peaceful though. The pious ones accurately recognize that the Messiah disturbs the religious peace. The image of the crying stones shows: God’s loyalty is stronger. tac
He proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples. He said, “Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. And if anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will answer, ‘The Master has need of it.’” So those who had been sent went off and found everything just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?” They answered, “The Master has need of it.” So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount. As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”