At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Luke 13:31-35
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
It's impossible to look over Jerusalem and not lament over her divisions. Has there ever been a time when this was not so? But Jerusalem is also the holy city. Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote,“Even those who believe that God is everywhere set aside a place for a sanctuary. For the sacred to be sensed at all moments everywhere, it must also at this moment be somewhere.”
In Christian symbolism Jerusalem is everyplace and the ultimate place. Jerusalem is the conflicted city within our hearts and the hoped for heavenly city of promise. Jerusalem is Earth herself. We lament over the world and our continual warfare and our ongoing destruction of land and seas and air. We are the holy place that kills prophets, healers, sages and innocents in the complex chaos of our passions.
In this week's meditation, poets yearn for Jerusalem from exile (meditation one). A modern lament calls Jerusalem to rise to the challenge of her prophetic power (meditation two). Finally, we enter Jesus' own response, opening his arms in love and self-sacrifice (meditation three).
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you. -Psalm 122:6
Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem, -Suzanne
Meditation One (ntroit) would that I had wings, O Jerusalem Would that I have wings that I could wend my way to Thee, O Jerusalem, from afar! I will make my own broken heart find its way amidst your broken ruins. I will fall upon my face to the ground, for I take much delight in your stones and show favor to your very dust. The air of your land is the very life of our soul. -Yehudah Halevi c1075-1141
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill. let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my hightest joy. Psalm 137:5-6
Medieval Map of the World with Jerusalem at its center, c.1250
Mosaic, Dominus Flavet Church, Mount of Olives,
Meditation Two (insight) key to Jerusalem
Who will fan and force the fire of truth to spread across the world, insisting that we are all one, that mankind is not an animal species but a fellowship of care, a covenant of brotherhood?
There is cursing in the world, scheming, and very little praying. Let Jerusalem inspire praying: an end to rage, an end to violence.
Let Jerusalem be a seat of mercy for all men. Wherever a sigh is uttered, it will evoke active compassion in Jerusalem.
Let there be no waste of history. This must be instilled in those who might be walking in the streets of Jerusalem like God's butlers in the sacred palace. Here no one is more than a guest.
Jerusalem must not be lost to pride or to vanity.
All of Jerusalem is a gate, but the key is lost in the darkness of God's silence. Let us light all the lights, let us call all the names, to find the key.
-Abraham Joshua Heschel 1907-1972 Israel: An Echo of Eternity
Meditation Three (integration) fox and hen If you have ever loved someone you could not protect, then you understand the depth of Jesus' lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone walk into them. Meanwhile, this is the most vulnerable posture in the world --wings spread, breast exposed --but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand. ...
… Jesus won't be king of the jungle in this or any other story. What he will be is a mother hen, who stands between the chicks and those who mean to do them harm. She has no fangs, no claws, no rippling muscles. All she has is her willingness to shield her babies with her own body. If the fox wants them, he will have to kill her first; which he does, as it turns out. He slides up on her one night in the yard while all the babies are asleep. When her cry wakens them, they scatter.
She dies the next day where both foxes and chickens can see her -- wings spread, breast exposed -- without a single chick beneath her feathers. It breaks her heart . . . but if you mean what you say, then this is how you stand.
-Barbara Brown Taylor Christian Century 2/25/86
The Last Word
Wherever I go, I go to Jerusalem.
- Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav 1772-1810
Come, let us enter the inner chamber of our soul, offering prayers to the Lord and crying aloud: Our Father, who art in heaven, remit and forgive our debts, for thou alone art compassionate.
Showing joyfulness of soul in the fast, let us not be of a sad countenance; for the change in our way of life during these blessed days will help us to gain holiness.
Giving wings to our soul through abstinence, let us all offer acceptable prayers to the Lord in heaven.
In a spirit of compunction, let us weep for the deliverance of our souls and sing the praises of Christ for ever.
We bless the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Consubstantial Trinity, uncreated Unity, the God of all, we exalt thee above all for ever.
Matins in Lent, Orthodox (Quoted from The Oxford Book of Prayer, George Appleton, editor)