• Holy Week: Chapter 3: Tuesday in Holy Week

    by  • 6 April 2020 • Extract, Holy Week, Religion, The Christian Community • 0 Comments

    Here at Floris Books, we want to do all we can to support our community during these difficult times. To that end, we’re sharing a new chapter of Emil Bock’s Holy Week: A Spiritual Guide from Palm Sunday to Easter for every day of the 2020 Easter Holy Week. Check back each day for the latest entry.

    Holy Week will guide you from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. It will help bring the events of Easter alive, and provides opportunities for prayer and contemplation. Each day is accompanied by a gospel reading.

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    Luke 21:5–38

    Apocalyptic words

    (5) Some were speaking about the Temple, how beautifully adorned it was with precious stones and gift-offerings. (6) Then he said, ‘You are only considering what you can see with eyes. But there will come times when not one stone will be left upon another; everything will become subject to destruction.’

    (7) And they asked him, ‘Master, when will this be? And by what sign shall we know that it is coming close?’ (8) He said, ‘Take care that no one leads you onto a wrong path. Many will come and, speaking in my name, will say: I am! and: The time has come! Do not follow them. (9) Then you will hear noise and tumult of war and revolution: Let it not give rise to fear in you. It is necessary for all this to happen. But the ultimate aim is yet far off.’

    (10) And he went on: ‘One part of humanity will rise against the other, and one kingdom against another. (11) There will be great earthquakes, epidemics and famines in many places; great and alarming phenomena will be seen in the sky. (12) But before this you will be seized and persecuted; you will be handed over to the teaching authorities and the prisons, and you will be dragged before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. (13) Then it will be for you to bear witness. (14) But imprint it on your hearts that you shall not be anxious about how to defend yourselves. (15) From me you will receive both the words and the wisdom which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or even contradict. (16) And you will also be betrayed by parents and brothers, relatives and friends. Some of you will be put to death, (17) and you will be hated by everyone for my name’s sake. (18) But not a hair of your head shall be lost. (19) Through patient power of endurance you will then truly find yourselves.

    (20) ‘So when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time of its destruction has come. (21) Then all who are in Judea should flee to the mountains, and those who are in the town should leave, and those who are in the open country should not enter the town. (22) For then the days of higher justice have come, and everything written in the scriptures will be fulfilled. (23) Woe to those who are pregnant and the mothers who are breast-feeding when that time comes! For the distress of a grievous destiny is coming upon the earth, cosmic wrath will be discharged upon this people. (24) Many will fall by the edge of the sword and be dragged away into slavery among all the peoples of the world. And Jerusalem will be overrun and trampled upon by the heathen peoples until the time of the heathen peoples, too, is fulfilled.

    (25) ‘And signs will appear in sun, moon and stars, and there will be distress among the peoples of the earth and helplessness in the face of the surging sea and its mighty waves. (26) And human beings will lose their heads for fear and expectation of what is breaking in upon the whole earth. And even the forces of the heavens will be shaken. (27) Then the Son of Man will appear to seeing souls in the clouds of the sphere of life, borne up by the might of the World Powers, radiant with the glory of revelation. (28) And when all this begins to happen, straighten yourselves, stand upright and raise your heads, for then your redemption is drawing near.’

    (29) And he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the other trees; (30) when they begin to come into leaf, you know from that that summer is near. (31) So also, when you see all that begin to happen, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. (32) Yes, I tell you, even before the time of people living now shall have come to an end, all that will begin to happen. (33) The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

    (34) ‘Take care that your hearts do not become unresponsive through dissipation and intoxication and the cares of material existence; otherwise the breaking of the Day will come upon you suddenly like a snare. (35) For that Day will come upon all who live on the earth. (36) So be of wakeful spirit at all times, school your souls in prayer, so that you may become strong to live through all that is coming without being harmed, and to be able to stand before the revelation of the Son of Man.’

    (37) He spent the days teaching in the Temple, but at night he left the town and stayed on the Mount of Olives. (38) And already early in the morning all the people flocked to him to hear him in the Temple.

    Tuesday in Holy Week

    In the early morning Jesus enters the city with his disciples once more. The waves of acclamation and enthusiasm have long since died away. Jesus is already involved in the tension of his coming decision, but he will be obedient to the Law up to the last moment and fulfil the sacred customs of preparation for the Passover. There is the feeling that he himself is the sacrifice to be offered. The people’s hatred is already surging up to him as flames that will consume the sacrifice. From day to day the powerful sense of his spiritual presence in the city has increased. The more silent the crowds, the more majestically his sovereign will shines in his countenance. Now the day of Mars has been reached and the conflict flares up in earnest. The crowd is silent; their leaders are full of anxiety; their fear produces the hatred which leads to the attack. Every hostile group sends out assailants. One after another they accost him with their crafty questions. What would otherwise be a blow in the face or a dagger-thrust takes on the guise of questioning.

    First of all the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin approach: the high priests, scribes and elders. They ask Jesus what authority he has for his actions; He is required to legalize himself. Then come the others, the Pharisees and the Herodians, and put the insidious question: ‘Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar?’ The Sadducees follow. They ask Jesus’ opinion concerning the resurrection of the dead. Finally, a single question, intending to expose him before all the people, asks which commandment he considers the most important of all.

    These attacks, marking the outbreak of hostilities, are the best proof of how strongly the being of Christ was making itself felt. Just as dogs bark and bite only when they are afraid, so these ostensible questions, which are really arrows of hate, are the outcome of fear.

    Jesus answers each of the four questions. He is not satisfied, however, with parrying the blows aimed at him; he accepts battle and fights back with weapons of the spirit. He uses powerful pictures. During the three previous years he has spoken to the people in poetic parables, and to the disciples in parables of deep mystery. To his opponents he now speaks parables of conflict. He tells the parable of the husbandmen to whom the vineyard has been entrusted; how they afterwards refuse to surrender the harvest, slay the owner’s messengers, and finally even his son. The opponents realize that they themselves are meant. In fact, Jesus is telling his enemies that they will slay him. His parable is a last endeavour to reach the souls of his enemies. Perhaps it may yet bring them to an awakening; perhaps even now they may be shocked into self-knowledge.

    The parable of the royal marriage feast follows. Guests are called to the marriage, and they all excuse themselves from attending. Then the invitation is passed on to strangers, to people who seem to have no occasion for coming. Because the duly licensed and established seekers after God have proved to be hypocrites, God finally summons people whom one would not credit with seeking the divine. This is a direct thrust at his opponents, who are the privileged religious people by ancient tradition. But when the fate of those wearing no wedding garment is described, a stern mirror is held up before the whole of humanity. The parable of the king’s marriage feast is the strongest thrust dealt on the Mars day of Passion Week, directed ultimately to all people.

    The Christ goes further; he now questions back. ‘Whose son is the Messiah?’ he asks. They answer: ‘The son of David.’ Christ cites the words of Psalm 110, well known to them, to show that David describes the Messiah as his Lord. He asks: ‘How then can David, inspired by the Spirit, call him his Lord … Since David calls him his Lord, how then can he be his son?’ Christ exposes the superficial piety of his questioners; they are looking only at the earthly. The first step towards grasping the divine is to see that the Messiah is a Son of God and not a son of men. Christ is showing them at this moment what they should recognize in him, but they do not recognize it.

    And so it comes to the fourth counterblow. This is the ninefold woe, the denunciation of the Pharisees which is followed by the lament over Jerusalem, as over a world doomed to destruction. At the beginning of his work, in the trusted circle of the disciples, Jesus once pronounced the nine beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, the ninefold ideal of Spirit Man. Now at the close of his earthly path he sets the ninefold shadow over against the ninefold light. The denunciations are a combative unmasking of those who are inimical to God, just as the beatitudes were a revelation of man’s ninefold relation to God. In the lamentation over Jerusalem there is the reverse of the promise of the ‘city set upon a hill,’ which in the Sermon on the Mount calls up for the first time the picture of the heavenly Jerusalem.

    As the day begins to decline, Jesus leaves the city with his disciples, as was his custom. He climbs the hill of Gethsemane beyond the vale of Kidron, and enters the garden which had been the scene of so much intimate teaching; but he does not continue towards Bethphage and Bethany. At the top of the Mount of Olives, where a wonderful peace surrounds them, he makes the disciples rest. Still imbued with the conflict which has been waged all day, he begins to speak to his disciples in the open air for the last time. And the words with which he instructs them are no less powerful than those he has spoken in the spiritual fight with his opponents. The courageous deeds which have been accomplished by the soul during the day call up an echo from the gods. The Christ can make revelations to his disciples as never before. What he gives on this evening, sometimes known as the Little Apocalypse, opens vast horizons of the future.

    So it is always in life. If real deeds have ripened during the day, then evening and night call down a heavenly echo. The results of a day do not only lie in what has been directly achieved. When the activities of the day have knocked on the doors of the spiritual world, then with night descending the gates of another world can open. Genuine inner strength employed during the day is met by a spiritual response.

    The present moment becomes translucent. All through the day the disciples have been with Christ near the Temple. He has shown them that it is all doomed to destruction. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was a spiritual necessity and if it had not come to pass four decades later through the Roman army, it would have had to be brought about in some other way. As the vision of the downfall of the Temple rises before the disciples, a great cosmic catastrophe seems to shine through it. It is the downfall of a whole world that the Christ sets before their souls. The division, manifest all day between the hostile opponents and the little band striving for discipleship — this too becomes translucent. The history of the world will bring nothing less than a great dividing of humankind. Some strive towards the divine; others strive against it. And no matter how imposing what is accomplished on earth by the antagonists, it is only the outcome of a hidden fear. That which silently germinates in the little group seeking union with the divine will bear in itself the future of the world.

    Jesus continues the apocalyptic discourse, and gives the disciples the most intimate parables that he can possibly give them, the two parables of the Second Coming. He had already spoken of the Son of Man coming in the clouds, while all around the universal storm is raging. He had pointed to a future where a new revelation of Christ must force a way for itself amidst hurricanes of destruction. Now, in the two parables of the ten virgins and the talents, he shows the disciples what people must do to prepare themselves for the return of the Christ. Some day the bridegroom of the soul will come; some day the one who entrusted the talents to his servants when he went away, will come again to claim the reckoning. Down below in the Temple the ‘woe,’ ‘woe,’ sounded as anti-beatitudes; now the day ends with another Sermon on the Mount, one even more sublime. With this final and most intimate teaching Christ arms the disciples with equipment of courage for millennia ahead. The parables of the Second Coming, and in particular the concluding vision of the division of humanity into sheep and goats, are to serve the disciples as provision on the road for many incarnations.

    The words of the Tuesday in Holy Week, taken together, are wonderfully relevant to every battle of light with darkness, every struggle for Christian discipleship in conflict with Christ’s enemies. Goethe’s statement that world history is nothing but a continuous fight of belief against unbelief touches the truth that is given in all detail during the Tuesday of Holy Week. All opposition to Christ and hostility to the spirit has its root in unbelief, in deeply hidden weakness and fear. Discipleship of Christ means courage and strength. The battle is not necessarily fought by one group of men against another. It must be carried on within ourselves. In each human soul fear and courage, opposition to Christ and discipleship of Christ, are mingled.

    The fighting parables directed against Christ’s opponents make it clear that fear is always at the root of enmity to the spirit. The egotism of the husbandmen of the vineyard, who are unwilling to surrender the fruits of the harvest, is the offspring of inner weakness and fear — as is every egotism. When a man learns to leave and sacrifice all because he realizes that all he can ever possess is the property of God, the first seed of courage is born.

    The denunciations uttered by Christ are an ever plainer unmasking of unbelief. They begin at once with words which tear away the mask not only of denial of the spirit, but of every kind of dragooning of human souls: ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of the heavens against men. You cannot find entrance yourselves, and so you want to bar the entrance to those who can find it.’ (Matt.23:13).

    To work upon one’s own soul demands the greatest courage. The wedding garment is the soul become radiant through purification and prayer. The oil in the lamps is a picture of the forces of the soul to be won by struggle. The talents increased by personal effort are the spiritual organs in man brought to further development.

    In his answer concerning the tribute money Jesus shows that true courage attained through constant inner effort is able to hold the balance between earthly duties and spiritual ideals, and in so doing gains sovereignty over all earthly conditions. Even if, as at that time, a monster occupies the throne, he is able to say ‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things which are God’s.’

    In the concluding vision of the dividing of humanity, the true quality of inner courage is described: ‘Yes, I say to you, what you did for the least of my brothers, that you did for me.’ The true path to the spirit shows itself in the power to love. Love is the opposite of fear. All genuine inner development begins with inner courage and finds its goal in love. True love of men is identical with love for Christ himself, so his words of spiritual battle end in words of love.

    Continue to Chapter 4: Wednesday in Holy Week

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