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Sunday, June 20, 2021

The Pope takes the Road to Babylon March 5-8, 2021!

Francis Walks Among the Treasures of Iraq

by Susan Fox 

Pope Francis disembarks on the first ever papal visit to Iraq on March, 5, 2021
Pope Francis took the road to Babylon, on March 5-8, 2021, in the first ever papal visit to Iraq. He walked the path of pearls.  For the treasure of Iraq is its martyrs. 

The pope spoke where the Church bloomed with its first fruits of the third millennium. When he walked into his first public meeting  in the Syrian-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Bagdad on March 5 everyone there remembered the 48 blossoms — ordinary lay Catholics, including two young priests, a pregnant woman and two small children —  who were killed at Mass on Oct. 31, 2010.

Five ISIS terrorists stormed the cathedral during Mass and massacred these people, but wounded many others. Little 3-year-old Adam shouted at the terrorists, “Enough, enough, enough!” before he was killed. 

Adam’s cry “was the cry of all Iraqi Christians who asked not to die but to be accepted as human beings with their inherent rights,” according to Fr. Luis Escalante, who worked on the diocesan phase of  for the beautification of these martyrs. “In the 21st century, the Church of Babylon has been called to offer her children as precious pearls to the universal Church,” the priest added. 

And the pope came to receive these precious gifts, saying, “Their deaths are a powerful reminder that inciting war, hateful attitudes, violence or the shedding of blood are incompatible with authentic religious teachings.” The Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation itself had been another victim of Islamic explosives, but now it is completely restored. 

Pope Francis came to Iraq despite the Covid plague, two bombings in or near Iraq (one by Iran militias, the other by the U.S.)  and the fear his visit could worsen the Covid pandemic. The Pope endured enormous resistance and risked his life to make this historic visit.

But why did he risk his life? 

"To make sure that Christianity does not disappear from the Middle East and to support the courageous community of believers there," according to Human Rights Expert Dr. Christiaan Alting von Geusau, J.D., LL.M, president and rector of ITI Catholic University in Trumau, Austria. The West scandalously ignored the genocide of the Yazidi and Christians when the Islamic State (ISIS) took over large areas of Iraq seven years ago. (2014-2019)

Dr Christiaan Alting von Geusau, president
and rector of ITI Catholic University in 
Trumau, Austria

“The Pope put it on the map.” said Dr. Geusau “He reminded the largely ignorant media and political leaders in the West that the Christians are the original inhabitants of Iraq, Syria and the surrounding countries. Christianity was born in the Middle East and belongs there!” Other than often propagated, Christians are not alien to the Middle East, but in fact they are among its original inhabitants. What the Holy Father did was “absolutely necessary. The Catholic Church is not going to sit by and watch Christianity being rooted out of the Middle East for good,” Dr. Geusau said. 

When Pope Francis reached Qaraqosh, an ancient Christian stronghold in Northern Iraq where the city’s 50,000 population was forced out in a single night in 2014 by the advancing Islamic State, his message became forgiveness.The Kurdish troops abandoned everyone, and retreated north.Then came the Islamic state with the order to remove the population.  The Iraqi government and U.S. President Barack Obama did nothing while a humanitarian crisis unfolded the likes of which  we have not seen in modern times.  The population was forced to run into the hot desert up a mountain. If you stayed without converting to Islam you would be  killed, enslaved or taxed by the ISIS caliphate. Elderly women in walkers struggled over the mountainous terrain heading for the caves to the north. Meanwhile lack of water killed hundreds of women and children.

It was in Qaraqosh, that Pope Francis spoke of forgiveness in a partly ruined church. While much of the marble in the Church of the Immaculate Conception has been restored, evidence of the ISIS bombing was still strikingly visible. “The road to full recovery may still be long, but I ask you please do not grow discouraged,” the Pope pleaded in his address in Qaraqosh, “Forgiveness is necessary to remain in love, to remain Christian.”

Finally, on March 7 he spoke of mercy in Erbil, site of the Iranian militia bombings on Feb. 15, 2021. He reminded us that Christ is the power and the wisdom of God. (1Cor. 1:22-25) Christ revealed that wisdom not by displays of strength, but by giving his life on the cross. This was the piece de resistance of all the papal talks. The temptation is to react to the wounds of war and violence with human power and human wisdom and human anger. But Christ leads us along the paths of Providence. He invites us to rest in in His wounds. It’s the only place to find peace in the middle of such traumatic events.   

In Erbil, the pope reminded us the Church is sometimes not doing its missionary duty, bringing the richness of the Christian gospel to the entire world. “He (Christ) liberates us from the narrow and divisive notions of family, faith and community that divide, oppose and exclude, so that we can build a Church and a Society open to everyone and concerned for our brothers and sisters in greatest need,”

He was clearly talking about the Good Samaritan, who put aside his sectarian differences and rescued an injured Jew, who had been set upon by bandits. The injured Jew was ignored by his own countrymen — a priest and a levite — before the Samaritan came along. Jews and Samaritans endured a long standing rivalry. But it was the Samaritan who saw the man, bandaged his wounds, brought him to an inn and paid for his care until he recovered. 

The pope’s treatment of the issue of the genocide of the Yazidis showed this same Christian missionary zeal for a group of people who do not share our common Christian beliefs, but they share our humanity. Yazidis are older than Islam, and believe in a mixture of Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism.

Pope Francis vists a country still in ruins in Mosul 

“How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilisation, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people — Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, and others — forcibly displaced or killed,” the pope said in Mosul, “Today, however, we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace is more powerful than war.” 

Besides that, the pope participated in an inter-religious ceremony at Ur, the birthplace of Abraham. And he met with Ayatollah Sayyid al-Sistani, the leader of Iraq's Shiite Muslims. The pope thanked him for speaking up in defenced of the "most vulnerable 

and persecuted” during the years of ISIS violence in Iraq.

Speaking to reporters on his return trip from Iraq on March 8, Pope Francis candidly admitted that his own Catholics often think he is “one step away from heresy” when he talks about inter-religious harmony. But he feels “restless for fraternity” with non-Christians. The Catholic Church does teach that God is the Father of mankind. That means that every human being can hunger and thirst for the one true God and find Him in his own circumstances of life. Whether they recognise Him or not the grace of their salvation comes through Christ, through His Catholic Church. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Good Shepherd Who Pastures His Flock Among the Lilies

The Relationship between Song of Songs and John's Writings 

My beloved is mine, and I am his; He

pastures his flock among the lilies (Songs 2:6 NASB).

By Lawrence Fox


Bible commentaries and concordances seldom (if ever) identify direct connections between the Song of Songs and the New Testament. Some commentators see allusions between the Songs and the good shepherd Psalm (23), the wedding Psalm (45), and the wilderness Psalm (63) which includes the language, “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.” The author of the Song of Songs writes, “On my bed night after night I sought him Whom my soul loves” (Song 3:1; 5:2). This post proposes that certain language and forms within the Song of Songs also appear in the writings of John the Evangelist, also known as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Such a proposal is not something new. See end note [1]. This post looks at two passages in the Gospel of John and two passages in the Book or Revelation which seem to reflect a re-reading of the Song of Songs by the beloved disciple (Cf. Jn 1:3;10:1-30; Rev 1:12-16;3:20). But before jumping directly into such matters, this post considers the manner in which the Song of Songs introduces a paradigm shift  within the theme of spousal love which opens and closes Scripture. 

Genre of Love and History

    The author of the Song of Songs composes a genre of love using language and images which run across a major part of Israel’s history. There is the image of the tower of David (Songs 4:4; 7:5), the image of a column of smoke rising up from the desert (Songs 3:6), the language about the catching of foxes, the little foxes (Song 2:15), the abundance of wine, milk, and honey (Songs 5:1), the tension of watchmen around the city (Song 3:3; 5:7), the image of a dazzling masculine shepherd who is ‘ruddy’ (Song 5:10), the motion of hands dripping with myrrh and fingers with flowing myrrh, (Song 5:5), the command “Go forth, O daughters of Zion” (Song 3:11), and the prophetic language “My own vineyard I have not cared for” (Song 1:6). These are only a few such examples. I leave it to the reader to associate such things within various other Old Testament texts. Memory is an essential part of inspired revelation. The Song of Songs is the language of memory. It is also the language of spousal love. 

Memory and Spousal Love 

    The opening chapter of Sacred Scripture describes the natural union of one man (groom) and one woman (bride) in the garden (Cf. Genesis 1-3). The prophetic chapters present the language of spousal love between the Lord God and His People (Cf. Ex 6:7; Jer 24:7; 30:22; Is 51:16; Ez 36:28 and etc). The closing epistles and apocalyptic literature of the New Testament portrays Jesus Christ as groom and the Church as Bride (Cf. Jn 2:1; 3:29; 1 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-33; Rev 19:6-9; 22:17). Students of Sacred Scripture correctly observe the manner in which the language of spousal love increases as salvation history moves closer towards the “Incarnation” in the “fullness of time” (Cf. Jn 1:14; Gal 4:4,5). The Word of the Lord comes to the people of God, “For as a young man marries a young woman, so your sons will marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you” (Is 62:5 BSB). And again, “Then I passed by and saw you, and you were indeed old enough for love. So I spread My cloak over you and covered your nakedness. I pledged Myself to you, entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine, declares the Lord GOD . . .” (Ez 16:8-12). In the last chapter of the Book of Revelation, the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come” and “Come Lord Jesus” (Rev 21:17, 21). Human love becomes more and more drawn into divine love. Based upon what has been said, can the Song of Songs remain simply an “inspired” erotic dialogue between an unnamed Shulammite woman and a dazzling and ruddy human shepherd? I don’t think so. Neither do the Rabbis in the Midrash Rabbah, or the Church Fathers Origen (184-253 AD) in his two homilies on the Song of Songs, and St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan (340-397 AD) in his text, On Isaac and the Soul, and St. Bernhard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) in his Sermons on the Song of Songs. The language of the Songs both hides while anticipating a future glorious and everlasting nuptial union.

Kiss Me with the Kisses of Your Mouth 


    Salvation History identifies the Lord God seeking to dwell amongst His people in a more manifest manner. “Behold, I am going to do something new, Now it will spring up; Will you not be aware of it?” (Is 43:19). The voice of God in the Garden (Cf. Gen 3:8), later becomes the more intimate sharing of His “Sacred Name” which emanates from a burning bush on Mount Sinai. “I AM WHO AM” (Ex3:14). 

This “Sacred Name” descends and indwells the Ark of the Covenant. “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Ex 40:34). A large stone temple in Jerusalem is constructed as a resting place for that “Sacred Name.” But will God indeed dwell on the earth? “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kg 8:27). The Ark is placed in an area marked off as the “Holy of Holies.” A long prayer is recited and the glory of God enters Holy of Holies built by human hands in the days of King Solomon. “And it happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD” (1 Kg 8:10). 

    With each divine manifestation there remains a degree of separation. The first man and woman are forced to leave the garden (Cf. Gen 3:24). The people of God dare not touch the Holy Mountain. “Then speak at Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but do not have God speak to us, or we will die’” (Ex 20:19; Heb 12:18). The majority of the people of God remain physically excluded from the Holy of Holies. “But into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance” (Heb 9:7; Ex 30:10; Lev 16:2,3,11,12, 15, 34; Num 15:25). Prior to Judah’s exile into Babylon, God’s unique presence leaves the temple built by human hands. “Then the Glory of the Lord rose from the threshold of the Temple, moved to the place over the Cherub angels, and stopped there” (Ezek 10:18). His leaving of the temple gives rise to a new longing. The author of the Song of Songs dares to speak about a corporeal desire and encounter with God, “Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth” (Songs 1:1). He dares to speak about a face-to-face union with God which does not bring death (Cf. Ex 33:20). The language “Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth” is more affective than Solomon’s rhetoric, “But will God really dwell with mankind on the earth . . . how much less this house which I have built!” (2 Chron 6:18). The author pushes the envelope of revelation, “Will God really dwell with mankind on earth with no separations.”

Kiss, Face to Face, and Worship

    If one digs into the Hebrew root forms of the words “mouth” and “kisses” there is room to consider a face-to-face encounter between the human and the divine. This encounter precedes and anticipates beatific vision. God informs Elijah the prophet, “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth (Hebrew | peh) that has not kissed (Hebrew | nashaq) him” (1Kg 19:18). 

Mouth and kiss identifies a face-to-face encounter with God in worship. The inspired author of the Songs seeks a face-to-face encounter with the living God. This encounter may be in the temple. It may also be in a river, a mountain, a wedding, a vineyard, in one's own home, during a last supper, or in a trial which leads to death. Man’s final end is to behold the essence of God face to face. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then (Koine | prosopon pros prosopon) face-to-face” (1 Cor 13:12). See end note [2]. Desire along with disappointment is addressed by the Lord God, “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?” (Is 5:4). The answer dares to be spoken, “Assume flesh and blood.” Human beings were created with a rational and sensual nature which possesses the power to sense corporeal reality while abstracting and contemplating the invisible. The invisible God assumes the visible through the Incarnation as a means of drawing human nature back towards spousal love in beatitude. The beloved disciple writes, “And the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). Not only did men and women see the Word made flesh but touched Him as well, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life” (1 Jn 1:1). With these things in mind, this post now considers the manner in which the genre of love in the Song of Songs reaches the writing of John, the beloved disciple. Again this is not a new idea. See note [1].

My Beloved is Dazzling and Ruddy

    The Shulammite woman in the Song of Songs provides a step-by-step description of the one whom she loves. Her language is placed side-by-side with John’s description of the Son of Man as found in the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse):

Song of Song

Book of Revelation

Cant 5:10  My beloved is dazzling and ruddy

Rev 1:13 Someone like the son of man.

Cant 5:11 His head is pure gold, locks are wavy black

Rev 1:14 His head and hair like white (leukos) 
Note: Dazzling is translated as white in LXX.

Cant 5:12 His eyes like doves

Rev 1:14  His eyes like blazing fire (pyr)

Red (adom) is translated as (pyrros) in LXX with the root being fire. The word ruddy is translated as reddish like fire.  

Cant 5:13 His cheeks are like gardens . . . his lips like lilies

Rev 1:15 His feet like bronze

Cant 5:14 Hands cylinders . . . belly plate of ivory

Rev 1:15 His voice like the sound of rushing waters

Cant 5: 15 His legs columns of alabaster . . his appearance like Lebanon

Rev 1: 16 His right hand he held seven stars

Cant 5:16 His mouth is sweet all of him is desirable, this is my beloved

Rev 1:16 His mouth came a double edge-sword

Cant 5:10  My beloved is dazzling . . .

Rev 1: 16 His face like the sun shining in all brilliance

Divine and Human Nature

    This language in the Songs, “My beloved is dazzling and ruddy” is significant since David (a type of the Messiah) is identified in the Book of Samuel as being handsome and ruddy (reddish). Jesus’ human nature is “ruddy.” He is the Son of David. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Lk 18:38). Jesus Christ is Son of God (Cf. Mk 1:1; Lk 1:32). Jesus’ divine nature is “dazzling.” When Samuel encounters the young David he observes: “So Jesse sent for his youngest son and brought him in. He was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance” (1 Sam 16:12). 

Three of the Gospel authors describe the appearance of Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration as dazzling (white): “His clothes became radiantly white, brighter than any launderer on earth could bleach them” (Mk 9:3) and “And his appearance was like lightning (Koine | astrapé), and his clothing white as snow” (Matt 28:3), and finally “And as He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became radiantly white” (Lk 9:29). Jesus Christ (the Incarnated Word of God) is both “dazzling and ruddy.” He is also a shepherd who fulfills the language unlike no other, “My beloved is for me and I am for him, the Shepherd within the lilies” (Songs 2:16; 6:3). See also end note [4].

Good Shepherd Among the Lillies

    John the evangelists identifies Jesus Christ as both the “Good Shepherd” and as one walking within the portico of Solomon. In the Old Testament, there is a description of two columns dedicated to Solomon and both having a lily design, “the capitals which were on the top of the pillars in the porch were of lily (Hebrew | shushan) design . . . the set up the right pillar and named it Jachin, and he set up the left pillar and named it Boaz. On the top of the pillars was the lily design. So the work of the pillars was finished . . . He also he made the Sea of cast metal ten cubits from brim to brim . . . and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like a lily blossom . . .” (1 Kg 7: 15-26). It seems the lily motif runs within various features of the first temple. The expression “lily” is used (also) quite frequently in the Songs (2:1,16; 4:5; 5:13; 6:2,3; 7:2). 

The first temple was destroyed and rebuilt under the guidance of Ezra and Nehemiah. Its grandeur could not reach the wealth of the first temple. King Herod the Great (72-4 BC) began the re-furbishing of the second temple in Jerusalem. The effort took so it seems 46 years. “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and yet You will raise it up in three days?” (Jn 2:20). Part of the Herod’s efforts included the construction of porches alone the entire interior wall of the temple. Such things were called porches, porticoes (cloisters). It seems that along the southern interior wall, the porticoes consisted of four rows of Corinthian columns made of white marble; and there were 162 columns in all. The smaller eastern cloister was also constructed with Corinthian columns and became known as “Solomon's Porch” (John 10. 23; Acts 3: 11, 12). The tops of the Corinthian columns would have the flower design much like lilies. Archeologists have found “lily” mosaics associated with second temple construction. See end note [3].

Beloved, Shepherd, and Porticoes

    In the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus Christ identifies himself as the “Sheep Gate” and the “Good Shepherd” (cf. Jn 10:1-16). The beloved disciple then goes on to observe, “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon” (Jn 10:23). In essence, the beloved disciple observes the Good Shepherd moving among the lilies of Solomon’s Portico. 

The beloved disciple captures the sentiment in the Songs, “My beloved is for me and I am for him, the Shepherd within the lilies” (Songs 2:16; 6:3). It is a virginal love. John is a eunuch for the Kingdom of God (Cf. Math 19:12). It is in the Book of Revelation that this virginal love appears again: “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they are virgins (Koine | parthenoi). They follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev 14:4). This next example deals with an observed repetition of terms dealing with searching, seeing, and finding both within the Songs and John’s Gospel. 

Seek and Find 


    In the Songs, the Shulammite woman is restless, “Upon my bed in the nights, I sought him whom my soul loved, I sought him and did not find him. I should wake . . .I searched but did not find him . . . The guards found me . . . they saw the one my soul loves. I found him and I will not let him go” (Songs 3:1-4). A similar pattern of seeing, search, and finding exists within the first chapter of the Gospel of John, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him . . . John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him . . . ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying . . . Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ) . . . The next day and He found Philip . . . Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him. Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him . . . Jesus answered . . . under the fig tree, I saw you.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, . . . you will see the heavens opened . . .” (John 1:29-51). This the fourth next example considers the use of the terms “door,” “voice,” “knock (or call),” and “open” in both the Song of Songs and John’s  Book of Revelation.

Neither Hot or Cold

    The Shulammite woman is sleeping and she hears the voice of her beloved. She hesitates and delays coming to the door. “I was sleeping but my heart was awake, the voice of my beloved, knocking (Hebrew |ḏō-w-p̄êq), open to me my sister . . . I had put off my garment; how can I put them on? I washed my feet: how can I soil them?” (Song 5:2, 3). The voice at the door is inviting the beloved to come to his garden, “Eat, O friends, and drink; drink freely, O beloved” (Songs 5:1). In the Book of Revelation, Jesus Christ states, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock (Koine | krouō); if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev 3:20). The immediate context of Jesus’ language is the situation of persons being neither hot or cold, “I know your deeds, that you are neither hot or cold. I wish you your were one or the other” (Rev 3:15). The Shulammite woman’s hesitation prevents the beloved from entering the room or more correctly from her going out and sharing in his feast. She searches for him only to be ruffed by the city guards. There are other tempting allusions between the Song of Songs and the Gospel of John including the events surrounding the anointing of Jesus' head and feet, and Mary Magdalene’s behavior when reaching the empty tomb: seeing the angels, going back to find the apostles, and her encounter with the risen Christ. Such things are for another day. 

Final Thoughts

    Jesus Christ told the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that everything in Moses and the Prophets was written about Him (Cf. Lk 24:44). For many people it seems that no such re-reading exists between the Song of Songs and the Jesus Christ except by way of allegory. This is partly due to the reduction of the Song of Songs to an “erotic” dialogue between a Shulammite and a dazzling and ruddy shepherd. This post proposes that since the Holy Spirit is the author of all inspired text, there can exist a re-reading of the Songs especially when placed within the whole of Salvation History -- which opens and closes with spousal love. The author of the Gospel of John is identified as the disciple whom Jesus loves. He captures the essence of spousal love between God and Man in the person of Jesus Christ. The beloved disciple identifies Jesus’ first miracle as being performed within the circumstances of a wedding in Cana (Jn 2:1-11). This was not a coincidence. The beloved disciple remembers the language of John the Baptist (a prophet) identifying Jesus as bridegroom. “The one having the bride is the bridegroom; and the friend of the bridegroom . . . Therefore, this joy of mine is fulfilled (Jn 3:29). The beloved disciple understands that in marriage both spouses gain an extended family, “Woman behold your son . . . behold your mother” (Jn 19:21), and again “In my Father’s house there are many rooms . . . I go to prepare a place for you” (Jn 14:1-3). The Song of Songs and the writings of John (the beloved disciple) were inspired by the same Holy Spirit. It seems reasonable there would exist a correlation between all three authors which is more than allegorical. 

End Notes:

[1] Reference the Article by Andrew R. Evans titled, “Allusions to the Song of Songs in John’s Gospel and Revelation.” (Foundations 64, May 2013, 38-63). Reference also www.andysstudy.org

[2] John’s 2nd Letter and 3rd Letter keep true to the original Hebrew: “mouth-to-mouth” equals “face-to-face.” He writes, “But I hope to come to you and speak mouth (Koine | stoma) to mouth (stoma), so that your joy may be made complete.” (2 Jn 1:12; 3 Jn 1:13). This explains how God could speak to Moses face-to-face and later read (hear) Moses asking God, “Show me your glory” (Ex 33:18-23). 

[3] Around the entire interior of the temple were porticoes or cloisters. The finest were those on the south. They consisted of four rows of Corinthian columns of white marble; and there were 162 columns in all. The ceilings were of carved wood (Antiquities by Josephus. 15. 11, § 5; "B. J." v. 5, § 2). The eastern cloister was known as "Solomon's Porch" (John 10. 23; Acts 3. 11, v. 12). Reference Temple of Herod by the Executive Committee of the Jewish Encyclopedia Editorial Board. George A. Barton, https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14304-temple-of-herod#anchor3.

[4] Jesus Christ identifies Himself as the good shepherd. In this way, He fulfills the words of the prophets, “He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart” (Cf. Is 40:11, Ps 23:1; Ez 34:2, 11-14; Jer 23:3). He fulfills the language in the Song of Songs, “My beloved is for me and I am for him, the Shepherd within the lilies” (Songs 2:16; 6:3). 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Mary is the New Garden Planted by God

Hail Mary, Full of Grace! (Luke 1:28)

by Lawrence Fox 

December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, is a feast which speaks about the manner in which God predestined, called, justified, and glorified -- by grace -- Mary, the Virgin Mother of the Word Incarnate. 

All grace comes through the merits of Jesus Christ, whether before or after His life, death, and resurrection, as observed in the life of those sanctified in the past.  Mary was -- from the first moment of her conception -- God's planted garden prepared for the New Adam.   

"The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed." (Gen 2:8)
It was a garden created in justice to receive the old man, Adam, who was formed by God in original justice -- without sin and death. Here in Eden, Adam's intellect and will ruled his passions.  

The new Adam "although He existed in the form of God" (cf. Phil 2:6-11) assumed human flesh -- taking the form of a bond-servant -- in the "New Garden," Mary. She was also planted by God's grace in original justice without sin and death. 

This Mary -- "the New Garden" -- was predestined, called, justified, and glorified by God through the anticipating merits of Christ Jesus (Cf. Rom 8:30) -- all things have been created through Him and for Him. ( cf. Col 1:16).
This "New Garden" -- prepared by God and predestined from all eternity for the "new Adam" -- was the Virgin Mary,  whom the Angel Gabriel identified in the vocative (addressing her by her new name, Full of Grace) as "having been graced one" (perfect passive feminine vocative "kecharitōmenē" because her state of grace was already done and continues to be.) She is the one who found grace before God ("heures gar charin para  tō Theō") (cf. Lk 1:28-30).
Similarly, Stephen the Martyr showed that King David "found grace before God" and desired to build a dwelling place for the Living God, which prefigured Christ's desire to build a temple in which He would dwell amongst men. Such a temple was Mary, Mother of God.  (cf. Acts 7:46). 

When all was spoken by the angel, Mary (the New Garden planted by God) spoke the words of desire to become the dwelling place of God's Eternal Word, "May it become (Optative form expressing desire "genoito") to me according to your message" (cf. Lk 1:38). This was a passionate acceptance. Mary desired to become the Mother of God with all her heart.
And by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Immaculate Conception leads directly to the Incarnation.

Happy Feast Day!