This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
BENETTON AD WITHDRAWN: POPE NEVER KISSED MULLAH
22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26People will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. 27But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practises abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
22Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.
The city of God, which is the holy community of human beings, welcomes all that tends to justice (kings of the earth), beauty and usefulness (the honor of the nations) but nothing evil will be there. Some may be surprised to find their names written in the Lamb’s book of life. The imagery is paradisial, derived from mainly biblical sources. The Tree of life, for example, is found in Genesis, but also in many other mythologies. It is made specifically Christian in that it is a symbol not only of the fruitfulness of divine life but also of its compassion. (for the healing of the nations). The citizens shall “see God’s face”- the fear of God, which meant no mortal could look upon God’s face and live, has been abolished; only the love of God remains. The throne of God is the throne of the Lamb who has suffered for the rescue of humanity. There is a Hasidic parable in which Satan begs permission to stay on earth to contemplate the beauty of God’s name on the foreheads of human beings. All of these attributes already belong to the holy community in this life, but in the life to come they are its sole reality.
For this author the symbol of ultimate good is God’s community with his people. This serves to distinguish the Christian hope from all others.
18At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ 2He called a child, whom he put among them, 3and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
6 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes!
8 ‘If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.
We have tried in modern society to wean children from the trustfulness which Jesus saw as their chief quality. “Unless you change and become like children” is the same as “unless you are born from above” in John’s Gospel: it indicates a new beginning as a child of God. Such “children” are easily “abused or brought down” by malicious people. Jesus’ original curse may have been on them. But the word also refers to the deliberate destruction of a disciple’s trust in Jesus. Jesus’ words warn the disciple that her trust in him will come under attack. In verse 8 however the focus is upon those aspects of a disciple’s character which may cause her to stumble. In dealing with these aspects of the self, the disciple must be utterly ruthless. (Rumour suggests that Origen, misunderstanding these words, tried to castrate himself).
This ruthlessness is foreign to most forms of modern psychotherapy and faith. My own experience, for what it’s worth, suggests that it may well be essential.