Sto Lat !

” עבר או עובר ויעבור”,
At Yad-VaShem, a quotation of Isaac Bashevis Singer is written: “A world that has passed”. In the case of John-Paul II, he remains a link. This aspect is always taken into consideration.
The Catholics love to quote the words and declarations of the acting pope. They are scared when this becomes ambiguous as, for example, the fact that former pope Benedict XVI decides to write or express his opinion. There seems to be only one and unique “acting if not pending” pope…
In fact, there are chains of bishops who were called to head the Roman Catholic Church of Rome. John-Paul II had a special destiny and resumé that was deeply mirrored in the destiny and history of his Polish nation, language, culture, traditions of the Slavs, a bit to the North to Lithuania, to the East with the “Polish-like” speeches of the Wend-Sorbisch/Serbs of Germany.
And a profound clutch with German, mainly through the K. u. K. the Austrian and Hungarian empire. His father gave to the young lad the first (Christian) name that showed this respect for the Central European Empire. John-Paul II really respected humankind. Undoubtedly a gifted man, interested in literature, theater, actions, creation, fighting for the freedom of speech and soul, true faith. “Do not fear” echoes this call to liberty, responsibility. It meant to be able to overcome the cowardice of weak souls, crooked personalities, double-sided ambiguous attitudes, and “lockdown”.
He was deeply educated and fond of German philosophy, gifted for languages. But not because he could or scarcely speak some of them: he was convinced that each dialect allows a connection to all of the human beings. He was convinced that newness had to germinate. The Catholic Church had been tempted by “ruling the Reign of the Lord throughout the continents”. He visited the parts of the globe as a simple and humble witness of life, over life and conviction in the resurrection.
Still, he was also “isolated” because he could not go beyond the frontiers that imprint and continue to impact the Christian heritage in Europe. He could not match with the Orthodox who only came up to some new freedom thirty years ago by the time of the perestroika and the fall of dictatorships. He was too close and still “alien” to the spirit of the East, the original Faith born from the totality of the Pentarchy. It is aching as for now in the pangs of revolving rebirthing processes.
Wrongdoings? Of course, because the Roman local Vatican was framed and it has always been comfortable to choose carrier rather than Serving. There are chains of popes and they help each other indeed. True, the abuse of authority, sexual abuse, abuse of administrative fencing have to be corrected. They threaten the Church directly. It is more and more difficult at present.
But again, silence makes it coward and mean. Time has passed and the whole thing requires a real cleansing. John-Paul II? We met some times, also as I gave him (and to now-cardinal Dziwisz of Krakow) 12 “philakta = signs of amity, philia” that use to be given in the Greek Orthodox tradition.
He remains a model for me in one very important way: do all you can not hurt back, not to be silent because of some cowardice, but be silent and speak only in time in order to pave the way to healing. Totus Tuus!

It is time to speak… wait and see.

Le covid mène la danse

Autant le dire tout de go : çà décoiffe ! “Les coiffeurs rasent les murs et les doyens perdent leurs facultés” disait-on en France, en 1968. Cinquante ans ont passé. Nous entrons dans une vraie quarantaine : celle où l’espace est restreint géographiquement, bien balisé, traçabilisé.
Tout cela se produit de manière si inattendue. Il y a eu des accros, c’est vrai. Des gens sont morts du virus HIV-le Sida. Ils continuent de mourir de cette infection, mais depuis plus de trente ans, les choses se sont nettement améliorées.
 Tout a commencé par une histoire de chauve-souris. Qui mange des chauve-souris ? Se délecter de volatiles qui collent aux cheveux, serait-ce chercher des poux dans des esprits tordus ?

 

Partout, dans le monde, les marchés entrent en eux-mêmes, se recroquevillent jusqu’à disparaître. Qui était au courant ? On ramasse les think-tanks à la pelle. Les professionnels du conseil, de l’analyse, de la réflexion géo-politique, de la sociabilité post-moderne fondent sous des tsunamis d’irrationnalités intercontinentales. A force de renifler l’air du temps, le temps passe, a passé… Il passera et, pire encore ! on perd l’odorat ces temps derniers et c’est un syndrome planétaire.

On a perdu le sens commun mais tout le monde cause sur tout. Au début, un petit virus. Mais c’est quoi un virus qui se promène à l’orée d’une cité gigantesque de onze millions d’âmes ? Qui a vu le virus flâner au coin des rues ?
Non mais ! Il est où ce virus qui transforme la connexion “pal”, “friend”, “buddy”, “click & go” en une fièvre qui vient et va, s’en va ou monte, volète et puis, bon, adieu. La virtualité n’est plus ce qu’elle était. Nous nous sentions unis. Certes pas pour longtemps : dix minutes, une heure, un jour, quelques jours ou semaines, voire plus si affinités. De l’émotion ou bien du commerce. Un petit click par une touche sur clavier. Quelques mots batardisés sur un écran ou partagés en sons temporaires. Des heures, des mois, déjà des années qui s’étirent sur la planète et captent jusqu’à l’intime de vies qui s’affichent… et que l’on peut effacer, du moins on le croirait.
M’enfin ! Ce virus, qui c’est qui l’ a vu, c’te virus ? Tous sont là à jaser : “Mais j’ai personne vu !” C’est un truc à la “Caméra cachée” ! Un bluff, quoi !? On ne peut plus se faire la bise. Enfin, la bise… Certains se bécotent quatre fois, d’autre deux – sur les joues, sur la bouche, dans le cou, sur les cheveux.
“Touche pas à mon pote”… une parole prophétique qui peut se terminer à la chambre mortuaire. Mais ça fait mal là où ça a piqué.
Ne plus se toucher. La cata ! Garder ses distances ? Alors on mesure selon des repères intelligibles : la longueur d’un kangourou en Australie, d’un cerf au Canada. En Israël, ce sont les voitures qui porte le panneau “sh’mor merakhoq/שמור מרחוק = gardez vos distances”. C’est presqu’aussi vieux que le pays…
On comprend qu’un “baiser = neshikah/נשיקה” puisse se changer comme un rien, un petit rien… un petit virus invisible à l’oeil nu, en une “arme = neshek/נשק” redoutable. On croit aimer et être aimé, eh voilà qu’une bestiole passe et l’amour s’en va… pas haineux, pas agressif. Non ; il s’est transformé en un ennemi destructeur, morbide…
Cela faisait vingt ans que l’on avait développé l’internet, le monde virtuel qui peut être vrai, faux, fake, attrayant. Une touche et le monde s’est soudain planétarisé. On se rencontre par écrans, par microphone. Il n’y a plus de distance. On clique et on accroche, on décroche, on raccroche sans même se rencontrer dans la vraie vie. Un écran, des protections avec des anti-virus qui envahissent le paysage des réseaux sociaux. Pas besoin de parler. Pas de mauvaises odeurs. On a du nez pour trouver l’âme soeur ou un(e) ami(e), voire faire connaissance aujourd’hui avec des personnes que l’on n’aurait jamais vues et qui ouvrent des horizons. Actuellement, les narines se cachent derrière des loups anti-coronavirus.
Il ne manquait plus que le “masque” dans une affaire médicale qui attaque directement les poumons, la respiration. La symbolique est forte : en hébreu “neshamah/נשמה – âme, être vivant” avec pour corrollaire “neshimah/נשימה = respiration”. Si la respiration est bloquée, l’âme et le corps périssent.
Dans toutes les urgences hospitalières du monde, les médecins et personnels soignants sont épuisés.  Le temps semble suspendu mais la course au vaccin est onéreuse.
On se croirait en pleine masquarade ! Il y a comme un paradoxe en cette année juive 5780. Le calendrier est passé, en septembre 2019, des années 70 (5779) à la décennie des 80 (5780). A peine si l’on a eu le temps de s’en rendre compte. La situation était en turbulence dans tout le Proche-Orient. L’Europe était un peu en furie, souvent teintée de jaune chez des gilets français, belges ou néerlandais. En Allemagne de l’Est, des jours d’effervescence et de rejet social, racial, idéologique.
On évoque alors la bouche (“peh/פה”) puisque “quatre-vingts” s’écrit avec cette lettre qui hésite entre le “p” et le “f”. Le mot “bouche” est bref, monosyllabique. Ancien, archaïque. Car les sens sont primaires. Il faut une bouche pour manger, un nez pour respirer (“af/אף = nez, narine, puis “colère” par extension sémantique), un oeil – deux yeux pour voir (”ayn/עין”). Des mots brefs mais vitaux. Il est question de vie, de survie parfois. Il y va des paroles apparemment si grégaires de la seconde prière de l’office juif du Matin (Shaharit/שחרית) : “Béni soit-Tu…/ Qui a créé l’être humain (Adam)… et les apertures, les orifices. Si un seul venait à ne pas être fermé ou s’ouvrir, il serait impossible de rester en vie ne fût-ce qu’une heure”.
La bouche permet de parler. Elle abrite et reçoit les sons issus de la gorge, qui combinent la parole à la respiration. La décennie s’annonçait comme une ouverture sur la richesse des connexions et des traditions nées de l’oralité. Il faudra désormais mettre des masques, couvrir le nez et fermer le bec par crainte des postillons.
En latin médiéval, masca signifiait “masque, spectre, cauchemar”. On suggère que le mot viendrait de l’arabe maskharah “bouffon, moquerie”, de sakhira “être moqué, ridiculisé”. D’autres pensent que le terme est plutôt lié au vieux-français mascurer “noircir (le visage)… En occitan de Béziers, masco veut tant dire “une sorcière” qu'”un nuage noire avant que la pluie ne tombe”.
La bouche est faite pour bouger, s’exprimer, laisser passer les sons. Maintenant, elle doit être voilée, dans certaines circonstances, pour faire face au danger mortel. Du jamais-vu ! hulule–t-on en français courant.  Pourquoi interdire la burqa… On hésite aujourd’hui entre la burqa faciale unisexe et le scaphandre soft tissu ou plastique. Tout le monde se lance dans le tricot en viscose ou en tissu, c’est aussi l’une des plus archaïques étymologies du masque, “mezg = coudre, mailler [cf. to mesh en anglais”].
Et puis, on découvre l’obligation de se laver les mains. Tout le temps, de manière presque compulsive. On assiste à la démultiplication outrancière du “netilat yadayim/נטילת ידיים = lavement, purification des mains” ou des ablutions rituelles de l’Islam.
Une minuscule bestiole, un virus. Depuis des années, on sent monter à travers les continents, des turbulences sociales, économiques, morales, philosophiques. Est-ce tellement neuf ? Certains ont la délicatesse de paraître blazés. L’histoire du globe Terre s’étend sur des milliards d’années et l’être humain est récent au regard d’une telle chronologie. Alors, un virus…!  Il y a eu bien pire, bien plus tragique, dramatique au cours de ces milliards d’années. Gutenberg, c’était hier. Le digital c’est aujourd’hui mais franchement primitif. “Digit”, c’est compter sur ses doigts. Il faut maintenant les protéger et les comptes financiers internationaux sont à revoir.
Le virus ? Continuons sur les mots. Le sanscrit visam est un venin, un poison” comme le grec ios ou le latin viscum (liquide visqueux, glue)… curieusement le slavon vishnya/вишнья (cerise) comme un beau fruit qui peut être vénéneux…
L’hébreu renvoie au psaume 58, 5 : “חֲמַת-לָמוֹ, כִּדְמוּת חֲמַת-נָחָשׁ; כְּמוֹ-פֶתֶן חֵרֵשׁ, יַאְטֵם אָזְנוֹ = leur venin (khamat-lamo) ressemble au venin du serpent   comme un cobra sourd   qui se bouche l’oreille”.
Khemah est le nom allégorique de l’un des anges de justice (Exode Rabba 24).
Qui oserait parler d’injustice ? Qui oserait dire que ce virus vient corriger des comportements que l’être humain affirme maîtriser grâce à sa toute-puissance. Serait-elle donc fictive ?
On connaît ce midrach où Salomon, le roi dont la sagesse légendaire s’est étiolée au cours d’un règne où la volonté de gloire a pris le pas sur l’humilité dont il avait preuve lors de son accession au trône d’Israël. Voilà qu’un jour il regardait une minuscule fourmi qui s’était logée sur le creux de sa main. Il dit à l’insecte : “Y aurait-il quelqu’un au monde de plus grand que moi ?” – “Eh bien, oui !”, lui répondit la fourmi. “Moi, je suis plus grande que toi parce que Dieu t’a placé ici pour me porter.”
On parle de confinement en français. L’hébreu “seger/סגר” indique une fermeture alors que tout, dans les traditions sémitiques, porte à ouvrir sur ce qui est inaccessible. Encore faut-il trouver le mot de passe. La fermeture ou les murailles séparent et relient : il y a des temps pour être en contact, d’autres pour se préserver des autres. Mais le Covid-19 introduit une autre notion par sa dimension, internationale, universelle, s’attaquant à tout être humain sans distinction de condition, d’origine, de culture.
Il y a d’autres aspects. Nous assistons à une neutralisation saisissante de tous les rites habituels de la vie religieuse monothéiste. Rares sont ceux qui auraient prévu la percée surpuissante d’un virus aussi dévastateur, insaisissable, invisible. Il s’est sans doute manifesté quelque part en Chine – les choses ne sont encore que de l’ordre de l’observation – aux alentours de la fête de Souccot 2019 (vers les 13-30 octobre 2019). Il est fort probable qu’il recouvrira tous les hommes d’une chape opaque tout au long de l’année 2020. Nous ne saurions préjuger de l’apparition prochaine d’autres virus destructeurs.
Les fidèles de tous les monothéismes ont directement subi la pandémie. La convivialité communautaire, les rites ont été brutalement interrompus (embrassades, toucher les objets du culte). Plus question d’embrasser une mezuzah, un rouleau de la Torah, de faire des circoncisions, de se tenir aux côtés de fidèles auxquels on accorde toute confiance humaine. Le chrétien arrête de se tenir par la main pour une chaîne de prière, ne peut s’approcher de la communion sacramentelle au Corps et au Sang de Jésus de Nazareth. La coupe de vin devient suspecte ; la patène peut-elle transmettre l’infection…? Les doigts des célébrants comme des laïcs deviennent porteurs de léthalité. Dans les Eglises orthodoxes, il devient dangereux d’embrasser ou de toucher tout ce qui est au coeur-même de la tradition orientale. Plus question de vénérer les icônes, l’Evangéliaire, l’autel, la croix, les gestes ordinaires comme embrasser la main de l’évêque ou du prêtre pour recevoir une bénédiction (également courant dans certains milieux harédiques).

Face à la généralisation du gel hydro-alcoolique, comment lire ces paroles de Jésus de Nazareth : “(Après avoir dit cela), Jésus cracha à terre, il fit une boue avec sa salive. Puis il appliqua cette boue sur les yeux de l’aveugle. Et il lui dit : “Va, et lave-toi au réservoir de Siloé (qui signifie “envoyé”). Il y alla, se lava et s’en retourna voyant clair” (Jean 9, 6-7).

 

On peut parler d’une vitalité pluriséculaire et plurielle, présente dans de nombreuses religions qui plongent à une source abrahamique commune. La Révélation diffusés par des prismes divers est soudain en suspens… des siècles de pratiques rituelles sont placées entre parenthèses.
La Pâque juive, les Pâques chrétiennes de rites occidentaux et orientaux , les prières à La Mecque et le mois saint du Ramadan sont claquemurés comme on dit si joliment en wallon.
On peut parler d’une éclipse. Les gestes les plus naturels, cultivés sur des centaines d’années – deux ou quatre mille ans, c’est peu de choses à dire vrai – s’estompent de la pratique, de l’expression de la foi. Ils sont présents. Ils le seront. Pourtant, il n’est plus question de parler d’un Dieu caché (El Nistar/אל נסתר, Deus Absconditus) comme on le fit pour évoquer la période de la destruction pendant la Shoah. Certains penseurs ont réfléchi sur un “Tzimtzum/ציםצום”, comme si le Créateur s’était effacé de la présence humaine, le laissant – ou l’abandonnant- à sa cruauté inhumaine et sordide.
Ne pourrait-on parler d’une autre forme d’éclipse ? Il s’agit de ce temps où l’être humain – unique nation d’Homo Sapiens – est obligé de s’éclipser des gestes et des actions si prégnants de ses cultures et, surtout, des expressions de Foi au Dieu Unique. Celles-ci se sont distanciées au cours des siècles et des tribulations au grand large des continents.
Dieu peut-Il s’absenter ?
Ne serait-ce plutôt l’être humain qui s’éclipse de la Face divine sans prendre conscience du processus de cette distanciation… Une dérive de puissance ? Le confinement est défini comme une “(auto-)isolation” dans certaines langues. La virtualité entraîne “hors les murs”, dans un en-soi où les périls semblent incertains, irréels.
“Rien ne sera plus comme avant !”… On a l’avenir court, la mémoire chancelante et ritualisée. Le 75-ème anniversaire de la libération des camps d’Auschwitz-Birkenau ? des camps de concentration et d’extermination ? Oui, certes. Ce fut le 27 janvier dernier. En revanche, les célébrations furent stupéfiantes tant elles révélaient les intérêts géo-stratégiques, politiques, économiques de nations européennes qui avaient toutes participé à la tragédie de l’extermination, du meurtre de millions d’êtres humains.
J’avais été frappé qu’à Jérusalem aucune personne rescapée ne soit vraiment intervenue en yiddish. Quelle est la langue qui témoigne, au long des siècles, de cette proximité distante entre le monde juif pieux et/ou apikoros (dubitatif) et l’ensemble du monde chrétien ? Le yiddish passe les murailles du non-dit dans une nostalgie triste et gaie à la fois. On ne l’entendit pas à Jérusalem. A Paris, le président français fut le seul à s’y aventurer. Il prononça ces mots “Mir zeynen do/מיר זיינען דא = nous sommes là” en visitant le Mémorial de la Shoah.
La chape se poursuivit avec les célébrations amputées du 75-ème anniversaire de la fin de la deuxième guerre mondiale. Des défilés restreints pour un temps inscrit dans l’Histoire. Il a passé.
Des milliers d’Américains meurent du virus. En Russie, il fait des ravages. Partout se profile le spectre de la faillite économique. Des millions de chômeurs. Des millions d’êtres humains souffrent de famine. Les Etats croulent sous le poids de dettes qui se sont accumulées au cours du 20-ème siècle.
Partout, l’être humain fait montre de sa capacité tenace à résister au mal qui l’atteint.
“Je vous en conjure, Filles de Jérusalem, n’éveillez pas, ne réveillez pas l’Amour
avant qu’Il y prenne Son bon vouloir” (Cantique des Cantiques 3, 5).

 

A Sabbatical Good Friday

(c) Ben Gray’s wonderful picture of the light over the Edicule of the Holy Tomb

You have certainly noticed that Israeli society develops new view about what European cultures used to call “weekend”, definitely influenced by the Christian tradition. Apparently, the Christian weekend consists in a secular understanding of two non-working days, e.g.: Saturday and Sunday that may start on Friday afternoon. With regards to the Work regulations in force in most countries, the obligation to stop any activity on one day of the week has not been very constant. Until nowadays, a lot of people throughout the world would not really benefit from any day-off, and this affects them for the better part of the year. Some cultures would simply ignore the right to get some rest. Even in dire times of pandemics.

In this respect, Judaism has introduced the Shabbat day-off, with the obligation to rest, not to accomplish 37 sorts of activities for a very special reason: it is a real “imitatio Dei” – the Jew and the strangers who abide in the midst of the Jewish community have been created at the Image and Likeness of God Himself. And, when God finished His labor that was the creation and fashioning of the world and its inhabitants, he rested from all the work that He had done while continuing to develop and create it (asher bara Elohim la’asot/אשר ברא לעשות) (Gen. 2:3). When entering the seventh day eve when sun sets on the sixth day, the prayer quotes the verse of the TaNaKh that explains why all activities should be stopped. “Yom shishi : sixth day. and, thus, were achieved, the heaven and the earth and all their array (Bereishit 2:1).

God made them to the fullest of their plenitude, which is explicit in the verb “Vayechullu\ויכולו”. It does not mean that He had “finished” a task, a work. It states that the six day intense activity was a time of conceiving, constructing, shaping, breathing-in life and bringing-in a full autonomous and systematic. It could also function and be self-sufficient. This is why “asher bara la’asot – which He created in a continual process” is meaningful. Let’s say that, God could have gone for a nap or a rest, not even the supposed 24 hours of Shabbat. The whole system and their numerous living, procreating devices and creatures could have stopped. We are perfectly aware that we exist and survive day by day, generation after generation by some automatically scheduled table that requires a repair or some adjustment from time to time. This is puzzling, precisely because God has accomplished, achieved His creation work. The root comes from “KOL/kolel/klal\כל-כול-כולל-כלל = fulfill, fulfillment. wholeness, entirety”.

“Vaykhullu” has another meaning linked to what shows fulfillment according to the Jewish tradition. God “achieved” His work on the sixth day in the sense that it was “total and one, unique”. So God shaped the universe, heaven and earth, with the substance of being a “bride – kallah\כלה” in two ways. Firstly, to be like a crown that ornaments the nature of the worlds as in Isaiah 49:18. Secondly, the perfect crown is figured out as the bride because she allows the bridegroom to continue this systematic action of creativity based on uniqueness and love. “The bride/kallah is to be found perfect in the house of her father-in-law” (Pessahim 87a). Kallah is also the name of the Great Assembly of the students who, like those in Babylon, study the Torah during the months of Adar and Ellul. God’s Presence is spicy as the k’lah/uchla – the full measure of spices (Bava Betza III.62b).

 

This is why the sixth day is so meaningful for the Jewish tradition. It realizes to the whole what was already unique and one, singular on the first day, “yom echad\יום אחד – day one” and not “yom rishon\יום ראשון” as we have it today for our weekly delays. In Hebrew (as in all Semitic languages), days are named by numbers from one to six. Modern Hebrew lined the initial creation day on the second, “rishon = first” sounds more coherent. And we have been launched in the whirling development of time in space. We may consider the biblical account of the 6 day creation as a tale. Still, it is certainly the best way to describe what happened in the realm of God’s big bang. The seventh day or “yom hashevi’i – Shabbat” implements and clarifies additional features of a “creative launching process”. As if the “day one/yom echad” might, in the future, appear as the one and eighth day in terms of symbolic existence. Biblical Greek (Septuagint) and Latin (Vulgata) are of course based on the Hebrew day compute. There is no Sun-day, Moon-day, Fri-day (Frijadagur – (Freyja/Venus) wooing day) or Satur(ne)-day) = Laugardagur in Icelandic: “laundrying, washing, bathing day –Dan. Lørdag”. Christianity – this is barely known even by the believers – has kept until now the Hebrew weekly compute to define the days and the hours for the prayers.

Thus, Friday (Gr. Paraskevi/παρασκευη; Rus. Piatnitsa-Пятница/5th day) is of major importance in Christianity since the very foundation of the faith that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. Good Friday is Gr. Megali Paraskevi- μεγαλη παρασκευη/Great Friday (“Sad” in Arabic) Germ. Karfreitag (Lamentation day) or Slavonic Strasnoi Piatok/stranaia Piatnitsa6срастной Пяток-страстная пятница” (Passion Friday/5th day), Scand. Long Friday. Jesus died at the some hours before the beginning of the Great Feast (Pesach). The Greek word is in the LXX as “the day of preparation to the Shabbat” is referred as Friday in all the Gospel (Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:14 (Nisan 14 = Pesach).

It means that the Yom shishi took place in a full Jewish and ritual context, still under control of a foreign occupation Roman Empire governor, soldiers coming from all possible nations of that huge empire. The whole account of Jesus judgment is fascinating because it shows the acuity of Jesus’ words or silence in facing two heads of questionable institutions. Pontius Pilatus condemned him by fear then played the innocent. He sent Jesus to Caiaphas, the high priest but the Sanhedrin could hardly be decisional in the situation of occupation. The context is mostly biased in a unique messianic context. It is impossible to make any comparison with Shabtai Tzvi destiny or other false messiahs. In the case of Good Friday, it does correspond to the bridal end day of the creation of the world and the preparation to resting… thus not dying, but being prolonged over the apparent stop, cease. The women had brought the spices (cf. k’lah) for his embalming (Luke 23:55).

It is quite impossible for the Jewish communities to positively consider in the present any link between Yom shishi/Friday – entrance of the Shabbat and Good Friday. Ecumenical movements showed after World War II with strong interests for the ties that do exist and cannot be cancelled or denied between Judaism and Christianity. In this field, we are lying in some cradle of understanding, at some blurred dawn of a possible encounter that cannot be escaped. It will require centuries of patience and a lot of mutual humbleness.

The split between Judaism and Christianity does show with persistence and violence (bedin: with violence and unwillingly) hesitating between friendship, total ignorance or dreamy love and peace utopia. The recent change that Pope Benedict XVI decided with regards to the classical Good Friday Tridentine prayer mainly tends to ban the reading of the prayer as printed in the old books printed in Latin because it is the standard language of the Roman Church. Pope John XXIII had suppressed the words “Let us pray for the perfidious Jews (pro perfidis Judaeis)” in 1960.

Now, the version of the prayer said on Good Friday in the Roman Catholic Church after the final publication of the text in 1970 (Pope Paul VI) is thus: “1. Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of His Name and in faithfulness to His covenant. 2. Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption…”

This change only concerns and is only observed by the Latin rite part of the Roman Church. The Oriental Churches have not revised any text. It would have presupposed the union of the Orthodox Churches and their agreement that was not possible for political and mostly theological positions. The new authorized Catholic Tridentine text states: “1. Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men. 2. Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen” (Vatican, 2008).

There are positive expressions scattered in many Latin rite prayers (e.g. “the Israelite dignity” for Easter). All suggest that the Jews should confess and recognize the Savior. Thus, all the Churches call the Jews to convert to the Christian Creed. In this matter, we cannot be blind or keep arguing that this has been canceled. Some Churches would stop baptizing because they are afraid of Israeli or Muslim protests. Fear has nothing to do with faith, freedom of conscience, respect of the souls. Israel still bears, for a long time, the wounds and scars of the nails of the Cross.

This special year is like a Sabbatical year for paschal celebrations. It questions the rituals, the way we meet the days when the Lord is to come, is present indeed. Because, whenever we serve the Services and the Liturgies, He is in our midst. And the virus overshadows both our desire to confess true faith and still our natural tendencies to keep away, distanced from those who do share our own beliefs. The pandemic obstructs clergy people and laity, may stop them stiff in their places, their mental certitudes.

Good Friday remains the full day of silence, from life and moves, words and speech. In the mouth of Jesus of Nazareth, it end with “all is full, achieved, accomplished – tam/תם”. We are granted the privilege of a surplus in the development of redemption. In the Byzantine tradition, we have longed after the coming of the bridegroom during the first days of the Passion Week. May we be given the seal of communion in the Messiah.

Yom shishi – Friday as Good Friday is and remains a bridal day, a day of preparation to rejoicing and faith. Every Friday, Jews enter the time of rest, repose, calm and peace. This remains for all a day of fulfillment.

Statement Regarding The Church Of The Holy Sepulchre (Local Church Leaders)

I share this declaration of the Heads of the three main Church jurisdictions who are responsible for the management of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher/of the Resurrection in Jerusalem.

They call to act with care and a real sense of responsibility with regard to the pandemic of coronavirus that is more than a threat, but an invisible “on-air” potential killer.

It is an important period of the liturgical cycle that leads to the Feast of Easter and Passkha (Western rites of the Catholics and the Eastern-rite Byzantine and Oriental Orthodox). It is a real hapax in the course of human and spiritual experience. This Saturday of the Vespers of the Sunday of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Great Lent), the communities have served in their allotted places. Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem led the Vespers at 2PM this afternoon.

One thing: again and again, in the course of the decade, the traditional Churches of Jerusalem have to comply (obey) with the rulings and decisions issued by the State of Israel for their own benefit and care. As usual, they do not mention the State in their “statement”. Now for years, they depend on the local Kishleh Police Head Quarters located at Jaffa Gate because of their non-recognition of the State and quarreling with the Israeli government. None of them would either behave in this way with the King of Jordan and the Jordanian government.

The local Churches are local if they confirm their attitudes and morals with the existing legal bodies of the countries where they are. It is a very old “Christian” commandment” expressed by Saint Paul of Tarsus (Romans 13:2). They do not serve in “a country, a place, a city, a town, a village” because the Mystery of the Church is based on the incarnation of the Lord and it has been heralded throughout the centuries by the air of the Holy Spirit and human persons to each place everywhere in the world. Therefore, recognition of who the authorities are is a must, an obligation and a matter of authenticity of faith.

During the Second Intifada, the Israeli Authorities had required that the gas masks should be distributed to all the inhabitants of the country of Israel and/or Arab Palestinian Authority. The Churches did not comply with this ruling. They can not ask for protection – and the State of Israel does protect all the Churches as the Mosques and the Synagogues – and not accept to participate in the reality of the State and its legacy.

May I also take the liberty to say that those foreign press correspondents in Jerusalem or other locations in Israel) have the right to feel compassionate with their home countries, but they cannot give the impression that, since they are locked down in the Old City, they are mainly connected, spiritually, first and mostly with their offshore place of origin. They do witness for the local reality in these days of hardships, i.e. in Jerusalem and not in the Scilly Islands…

May we show that we are humans and humane beings and called to live by the grace of the Lord.

Statement regarding the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Jerusalem, 20 March 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our world is currently experiencing a time of crisis and emergency, whereas many countries and nations are combatting the spread of COVID-19. In many places around the globe, the infection is spreading rapidly and the victims are consistently increasing. The World Health Organization has declared the situation as a global pandemic.
In front of this dangerous situation, governments worldwide mobilized to resist and restrain the spread of this virus. In many places, severe measures were adopted which resulted in restrictions of movement of persons maintaining operative only crucial facilities.
This dangerous situation has not passed over the Holy Land and the Holy City of Jerusalem in which all Sons of Abraham Jews, Christians and Muslims are raising their prayers to God Almighty. We are called to live this time in faith and confidence in the Lord’s mercy and His care for all His creatures.
At the same time, we are called to adhere to the instructions of the competent civil authorities enacted to ensure the safety and well-being of the entire population.
Therefore, we the Heads of the Churches in charge of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem urge everyone to abide fully by the provisions for the public health, as they are published from time to time.
The communities living within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre will continue the ordinary life of the Church in conformity with the instructions for the public health. We will be united spiritually in our aim to preserve the centuries’ long tradition of ongoing prayers in the Church even in these sad times when pilgrims cannot reach Jerusalem and local faithful are compelled to remain at their homes.
Accordingly, while maintaining the Church open we urge the worshipers to:
– Refrain from any gatherings of more than 10 people in the same place and at the same time in the Basilica.
– Keep a minimum distance of 2 meters between each person.
– Avoid any act of devotion that might include physical contact such as touching and kissing the stones, touching icons, vestments and the personnel in the Basilica.
– To abide always by the instructions of the authorities.
The Holy Sepulchre is the ultimate place of hope. Hope that faith will defeat doubt, the light will defeat darkness and life will triumph over death. From this Holy Place and in this time of spiritual preparation for Easter and of the global crisis we join our prayers to those of faithful of all religions, asking for the end of this pandemic. We pray for all those afflicted by the virus around the world and express our sympathy and gratitude to those who assist and take care of the victims.

Theophilus III
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem

Francesco Patton
Custos of the Holy Land

Nourhan Manougian
Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem

ילם: Maier Yagod (photo)

מדפו של העיתונאי ניר חסון בפייסבוק. הוא כתב בעברית ככה –

הודעה מיוחדת מצד ראשי העדות הנוצריות המחזיקות את כנסיית הקבר, הפטריאך היווני תיאופילוס השלישי, הקוסטוס הקתולי, פרנצ’סקו פאטון, והפטריארך הארמני נורהאן מנוגיאן :
“הקבר הקדוש הוא המקום האולטימטיבי של התקווה, תקווה שאמונה תביס את הספקות, שהאור יביס את החשיכה ושהחיים ינצחו את המוות”. קוראים למאמינים לציית להוראות משרד הבריאות וכן להימנע מנגיעה או נישוק האבנים, האיקונות או הסמלים בכנסייה. הם נערכים לאירועי הפסחא נטולי מאמינים.
בתמונה שער יפו הנעול אתמול (היום הוא כבר נפתח),

Des évêques auxiliaires pour l’Eglise orthodoxe russe en Europe occidentale

Le 11 mars 2020, dans sa session habituelle, le Saint Synode du Patriarcat de Moscou a annoncé qu’il confirmait l’élection de l’archimandrite Symeon (Cossec) du Monastère Saint-Silouane et de l’higoumène Elisée (Germain), recteur de la paroisse de la Saint-Trinité d’expression française – dite “la Crypte” qui a été votée le 26 février dernier par l’assemblée de l’Archevêché. C’est un moment novateur pour l’ensemble des Eglises orthodoxes qui vivent en Europe, notamment en Europe occidentale. Cela marque une évolution sur cent ans. Les deux Ecoles théologiques de Paris voient un embryon qui a poussé longtemps et face à diverses tribulations, en Europe et en langue française. Les deux nouveaux évêques ont été choisis selon le Tomos/Gramota de l’Archevêché à l’Institut Saint-Serge, là même où ils furent élus par la nouvelle structure ecclésiale rattachée à la Mère Eglise historique de Moscou.Paris restera toujours une capitale de rencontres des idées, des traditions, des mouvements de populations ,de cultures diverses, de différentes traditions religieuses. La réflexion continue dans diverses directions, avec des personnes qui cherchent à s’inscrire dans la recherche d’une Eglise de tradition russe. C’est la voie que les deux nouveaux évêques ont exprimée, l’ayant choisie comme source de leur direction spirituelle sur un chemin en terre de tradition chrétienne occidentale. Ils ouvrent une voie pour que se poursuivent des routes très contrastées : il y a Saint Silouane l’Athonite, le Père Sophrony (récemment canonisé par Constantinople), les allers-retours entre l’Institut Saint-Serge et l’Institut Saint-Denis passé ensuite à l’ECOF – les études sur les Liturgies développées par Mgr Jean (Eugraph) Kovalevsky en français.

De nombreuses personnalités se croisent sur ce chemin : le métropolite Euloge, ses successeurs, Vladimir Lossky, Olivier Clément, mais aussi Saint Jean de Changhai et de San Francisco, La troïka des théologiens russes (PP. A. Schmemann, Meyendroff et B. Bobrinskoy), les membres des familles de l’émigration russe : le père Pierre Struve (paroisse francophone), le père Lev Gillet, Nikita Struve et YMCA-Presse. Il faut aussi mentionner le père Louis Bouyer et Elisabeth Behr-Sigel venus du protestantisme vers le catholicisme et l’orthodoxie. Ou encore, le père Irénée-Henri Dalmais, dominicain, grand expert des traditions orientales.
Ceci pour dire que l’actuel Archevêché, dans sa nouvelle existence, est un espace large, ouvert sur une grande diversité. Il peut s’égarer à cause de sa situation singulière. Son clergé suit la tradition slave et russe tout en étant traversé par des orientations multiples. C’est une chose que de suivre un archvêque qui a tenu à suivre la voie de la réunification avec l’Eglise-Mère de l’actuel patriarcat de Moscou. Le projet est un peu autre : s’ouvrir à l’avenir en marchant avec les juridictions qui composent le patriarcat de Moscou tout en tenant ferme dans les choix proposés en héritage du Concile de Moscou de 1917-18.

Ceci signifie aussi que l’Archevêché marche de concert avec l’Exarchat moscovite en Europe occidentale et ses diverses “structures ecclésiales” locales située en Europe. Ce même 11 mars, le Saint Synode du patriarcat de Moscou, suite à la demande du métropolite Antoine de Chersonèse, a désigné comme évêque auxiliaire (donc à une tâche identique à celles des évêques Syméon et Elisée) Mgr Alexis comme évêque de Coffa et administrateur du diocèse de Vienne et d’Autriche, à titre temporaire.
Ceci permet de suivre l’évolution de l’Eglise orthodoxe russe dans le vaste espace de la chrétienté occidentale.

AXIOI ! Достойны! Αξιοι! Ad multos!

Source sur la nomination de Mgr Alexis de Caffa comme évêque membre de l’Exarchat de Chersonèse d’Europe occidentale du patriarcat de Moscou en qualité d’administrateur du diocèse de Vienne et d’Autriche :

Cathédrale russe Sainte-Trinité/Свято-Троицкий собор в Париже

 

Le Saint-Synode a nommé Mgr Alexis de Veliki Oustioug évêque auxiliaire du diocèse de Chersonèse.
Le 11 mars 2020 le Saint-Synode de l’Église Orthodoxe Russe a examiné le rapport de Son Éminence Antoine, métropolite de Chersonèse et d’Europe occidentale, Exarque du Patriarche en Europe occidentale, dans lequel le hiérarque avait demandé la nomination d’un évêque auxiliaire pour le diocèse de Chersonèse.
Les membres du Synode ont décidé de nommer Son Excellence Alexis, évêque de Veliki Oustioug et de Tot’ma, évêque auxiliaire du diocèse de Chersonèse, avec le titre “évêque de Caffa” (acte №11).
De même le Saint-Synode a désigné Mgr Alexis, évêque de Caffa, comme administrateur du diocèse de Vienne et d’Autriche à titre temporaire (acte №13).

– – –

Священный Синод избрал викарного архиерея Корсунской епархии

11 марта 2020 года, в ходе заседания Священного Синода Русской Православной Церкви, было рассмотрено прошение митрополита Корсунского и Западноевропейского Антония, Патриаршего экзарха Западной Европы, о назначении ему викарного епископа.
Участники заседания постановили викарием Корсунской епархии с титулом «Кафский» избрать Преосвященного Алексия, епископа Великоустюжского и Тотемского (журнал № 11).
Решением Священного Синода епископу Кафскому Алексию также поручено временное управление Венско-Австрийской епархией (журнал № 13).

 

LANGUAGE AND CHURCH PROPHECY

LANGUAGE AND CHURCH PROPHECY

Languages, sounds that make sense and are built in sequences of reasonable and expressive words or phrases, are at the very core of our connection to God and divine things.

In the real world, people would love Jewishness so far they have no price to pay, especially the fundamental “estrangement/Entfremdung” that distinguishes Jews from the Gentiles. This remains a irreductible feature of some indicle mental and spiritual split among all possible creed and beliefs in revelation processes.

I want to point this out and underscore that Jews are not to be Gentiles and that Gentiles are not to be Jews. This makes Jesus’ life an everlasting question that challenges reality, thus: “… that He might reconcile both (Israel and the Gentiles/Nations) to God in one body through the Cross, thereby putting to death the enmity’ (Ephesians 2:14-17sq.).

This makes prophecy at the heart of all monotheistic life and traditions. Either we can show that the world has been united or we are liars. Prophecy introduces all believers to the veracity of their faith.

Language is at the core of human faith or answering to God. Over now more than forty decades, I have been working to define what we could call “Theo-Linguistics” or the specific theological and human/Divine connection that exists in the dynamics of God’s Presence in our societies.

Human beings became “sapiens” with understanding, knowledge, wisdom and capacity to distinguish between things and ideas because they are able to speak. Thus,  they turned to be “loquens” (able to speak). The capacity to utter sounds and words and to articulate them in a meaningful way allowed the humans to say and unveil God. It is a specific prophetic move.

Subsequently,  the “homo loquens” has been placed in the world with the task and the plight to connect with other humans by means of transmission, education as given and shown by the Jewish daily words of the “Shema Israel/שמע ישראל – Hearken, Israel”: “You shall repeat the Unicity of God to your children and you will tell them/discuss/speak of these words, while, sitting, walking on the roads, when lying down and getting up”; The move is thus connected to “living memory”, i.e. “generation to generation”. The Jesuit priest Pierre Theilhard de Chardin has written that articulated language and cognitive speech are a part of heredity by matching the chromosomic heritage to the realm of conscience/consciousness defined as “noospheric” (“nous” = conscience) part to rational brains.

Jesus of Nazareth follows the same generating dynamics of linguistic creation as current in the Jewish tradition. When He says: “I give you a new commandment” (John 13:34), He refers to the basic Jewish blessing: “Blessed are You Lord, Our God King of the Universe/ Who makes new/renews (מחדש / “me’hadesh”) the actions/doings/works of what “was/came first/as at the head (of the process of the visibility of creation). /ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם מחדש מעשי בראשית /”.

This is why “language” does not belong to human beings. We know that languages evolve, speech changes from generation to generation. Still, we hardly accept that speech articulates coherent sounds as a part of our conscience. Language acts as the vector and unique medium to describe the unity of humankind in its relation to God.

Subsequently, phrases, ideas, thoughts and reflection are part of a miracle that has constantly been renewed throughout history, i.e. in the process of a significant generational transmission system.

Please go to your X-ray specialist and get a clear image of your throat. Rav Zalman of Lyadi expressed the matter in his “Tanya-תניא/Teaching”. He underscored the miracle that allows the humans to speak because there is no physiological reason for the humans to have a coherent speech, lexicons and languages.

The oral cavity, the vocal cords, the muscle of the tongue, the palate, the lips, the mouth, the pharynx, the uvula and the lungs combine ex nihilo and without physical reason and create coherent sounds and phrases. This action is so “bizarre” at first that the rabbi considered that it substantiates the Divine Presence and Utterances of the One God, Creator of heaven and Earth. God speaks through the medium of the humans who are enabled to respond to Him.

This refers to the distinction between “stiff” and “on the move” linguistic capacities. It allows to define prophecy in society as a consequence of the fact that all  societies have been granted language abilities.

As defined in the Talmud, “prophecy/נביאות – נביאותא – nevi’ut (Hebrew), nevi’uta (Aramaic)” proceeds from a passive form of a verb “to blaze, burst, blow, inspire”. To begin with, the radical seems to be “ba/בא = to go, come, walk, move, enter, approach”. There is more with the radical “lavah/labbah-libbah (לבה-ליבה )” connected with the notion of “to be bright (lavan/לבן =white, bright (cf. the Transfiguration), to blow ablaze and enkindle”.

The passive form of the word for “prophecy” makes clear that the humans can be “inspired”. Indeed, the passive form underlines that God, and God Alone, is the acting Person. The human beings receive His Presence. They cannot and dare not be in place of God, which appears to be a constant temptation. This is why the passive form is used in the Oriental rites (for example for the Holy Baptism: “the servant of God … is baptized” compared with the Latin form where the priest says “I baptize you…”).

One of the constant temptations of all believers in all religions is to take the place of the divinity. It is quite impossible in the case of monotheism, i.e. when confessing the Only One God, Creator of heaven and Earth. It is totally impossible precisely because of prophecy.

As defined in the Talmudic Treaties Megillah and Baba Kamma -mainly but the matter is of course discussed in other treaties -, “prophecy” bursts out into the brains, minds. Prophecy rushes into space and time at specific “instants”. Prophecy substantiates predictable and expected “divine actions and revealed elements”. On the other hand, it does not mean that these elements can be understood or accepted by the time they pass from hidden to seemingly clear factors.

The spirit of prophecy relies upon the veracity of existing elements that dominate time, history, space, culture, tradition and speech. Prophecy enkindles fires or generates fights and remains  uncontrolled. This is why, for instance, Prophet Jeremiah’s ministry is “unpopular”. The Prophet declared: “I said, I will not memorize and make mention of Him, nor speak anymore of His Name. But His Word was in my heart like a fire/והיה בלבי כאש/vehayah belibbi ke’esh…” (Jeremiah 20:9).

Talmud Baba Kamma VI,4 (59b) states: “If another (third person) came – after one brought the wood and another (one brought) the light – and blew the wood ablaze, he who fanned the flame is responsible”. The scene is comparable to the Transfiguration and the discussion between Jesus and Simon-Peter about the building of three tents.  The disciple, as the prophet, is responsible for a move, a new feature, a new project or inspiration that he feel compelled to materialize and that he still cannot control or understand to the full.

Transfiguration is the typical example for a correct in-depth apprehension of “prophecy”. The scene is a “on-burning flash or fire of total accomplishment”. Thus, it does not close history. It disclose a time of plenitude that is beyond speech.

Prophecy is so bright, radiant and full of light that it overshadows reality and converts, metamorphoses the whole of utterances (speech) and environments (space).

Subsequently, it is interesting to mention the statement of Talmud Sanhedrin 35a: “Although they (= the scribes) record the word of the mouth (= judgements), the heart (= impressiveness of the arguments that led to the judgments), once forgotten, remains forgotten (= they get empty, meaningless)”.

Whether recorded or forgotten, wiped out or retained and maintained, all things are vivid or dead as they participate in God’s brightness. The pretence of the believers has to be overcome: as all the disciples did – both in Judaism and Christianity – there is a moment when the faithful need to flee, run away, sleep and… they would be kilely to drift away from the Word of God.

Things are even more serious with regards to Jesus Christ as the Son of the Living God. From before the creation of the world (Pessahim 54a, Nedarim 39b and John 8:58) to past, present and future history, He was born, spoke, suffered, resurrected and lives forever. He also appeared in “flashes” to share both the words and His Body. This is why all prophecies came to fulfillment. Others would can hardly be accepted as such by those who confess their faith in such an achievement. We ought to read the sequence on the “Road in Emmaus”, thus Saint Luke 24: 13-27. The disciples were “thick-minded”, which means that their minds and spirits had been blurred. Walking along with the Lord was the short journey to revelation that got substantiated by the sort of Artoklasis or breaking, sharing of the bread… then disappeared, both the Lord and the portion of the loaf or ailment.

The desperate disciples told Jesus: “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and the people” (v. 19). Jesus replied: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the Prophets have spoken!… And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” (v.25-26).

Aramaic “haw ‘harirei râynâ wayeq’rei libbâ/ܚܰܣܺܝܪܰܝ ܪܶܥܝܳܢܳܐ ܘܝܰܩܺܝܪܰܝ ܠܶܒ݁ܳܐ ܐܳܘ ” expresses “the refusal/(self-) prohibition to fathom new concepts and “slow of heart = the impossibility to open up to brightness by enhancing their own burden”. Greek “anoétoi/ἀνόητο” underscores the disciples’ absence of liability to accept a reality that did challenge their conscience.

In this view, it is possible to trace back to the link between “prophecy and speech”. The German-speaking Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote an opus entitled “Der Glaube Christi = The Faith of Christ”. It is a part of his general work “Herrlichkeit/the Glory”. He stated: “The capacity of “speaking” means that human beings (“der Mensch”) are enabled to freely showing and sharing their personal intimacy to the others through the tangible signs of sounds”.

This is why speech and languages aim at creating and constantly renewing things that are clearly stored into the past and continuously sow renewed seeds of life for each generation and the future. The genius of the Semitic tongues consists in focusing on the past and never be fossilized by words. Hans Urs von Balthasar gave another insightful concept: speech and language are transcendent and flash through time and space to a goal that never ends in itself: it designs, intends and purposes endless Life.

It is qui significant to stress, in particular in our generation that witnesses so many forms of spiritual renewals, to consider the language of faith as at the utmost mirroring “the one, holy, Catholic (Kath’olon/καθ’ολον = open to all, totality, pleroma) and Orthodox/ορθοδοξος (true, authentic faith/real Glory) and apostolic/αποστολικος (as the Word reaches out to the ends of the world/universe)”.

This why the language of Liturgy tends to accomplishing and substantiating, inside of the non-religious, secular or secularized/heathen and/or Gentile world, the reality of what has been uttered and promised in words, duly shared in a holy and sacred space.

I was once asked by a Greek priest to teach him some Talmud. His explanation on why he wanted to have some Talmud is pretty much at the heart of the problem of “preferred election”. He could get to the Jews and thought that by the means of the Talmud, he would be able to discuss with them and convince them that only the Greek Gospel could bring him “salvation”.

He was right to think of the Talmud, i.e. the non-closed and unending open corpus of Divine Revelation that unveils and gives correct interpretation of the Hebrew Bible or TaNaCH (Law-Prophets-Writings). He did admit with much honesty that he considered Greek as being the final language of the Good Tidings of Jesus as Messiah and Christos.

Thus, the Jews do not stubbornly reject any Greek Gospel or even the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. Above all, there is a real matter of “theo-linguistic approach”. Can a language replace another tongue for the sake of God’s revelation?

It is a question that deals with “prophecy”.Language allows conscience and awareness of what faith is enabled or not to admit or to proclaim.

It is known that the Song of the passing of the Red Sea in the Book of Exodus (ch. 15) is written in the imperfect tense. Hebrew focuses on the past to overlap all tenses and only target things that will happen in the future. This prophetic aspect is not shown at first in the tongues of the Gentiles. When the Jews translated the Bible into Greek (Septuagint), their translation could only be prophetic because of the existing tradition of the Oral Law that remained in Hebrew and Aramaic. This aspect is usually not taken into account because the Aramaic texts seemingly would not directly concern the Greek New Testament tradition.

Again, Hebrew is the paternal language, the language that carries out God’s speech and Commandments. It is definitely the language that fully includes all the algorithms, i.e.  the set of unambiguous specifications of how to solve a numerous and different layers of features that can lead to discover  the Father, the Son and the Spirit, just as Jesus could explain that to the disciples on the Road in Emmaus.

Hebrew is not national, nationalistic. It is not ethnic, genetic, in-born. It is not a privilege. In his well-known book on the Semitic languages, Ernest Renan stated that “Hebrew is a language with a few letters, but they are letters of fire”. Indeed, it is a language of full prophecy.

Prophecy is galvanized because of the revival of the Hebrew language. It is prophetic at the present because it gathers in Jews from all the Nations (cf. Tobias ch. 13). It reinvigorates Jewishness and the Children of Israel “to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the service of God and the promises”. It should be noted that the verse is linked to the person of the Messiah: “to whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came who is over all, the eternal blessed God. Amen.” (Romans 9:4-5).

This is why the Church hardly can accept the use of Hebrew as a full liturgical and theo-linguistic medium. Its use has been only considered for the conversion of the Jews and the missions to the Jews. The prophetic aspect of the Hebrew speech for the performance of the the Holy Sacraments is hardly envisioned as showing a divine and human passing over to the continuously revealing process of the Church newness.

Interestingly, the translation into Hebrew of the Divine Liturgy, made in 1841 by the former Talmudist V. Levinson for the Jerusalem Russian Ecclesiastical Mission of the then-Synod of Moscow include very Talmudic phrases and expressions, which show how the words of the Liturgy deeply relate to a Semitic substrate. The liturgical texts show the profound imprinting of Jewish prophecy for the Eastern Orthodox Eucharist.

Rejection and mutual exclusion have prevailed throughout the history of the Church and its many jurisdictions. We know that the Russian Church tended to focus on Slavonic an to get astray from Greek, Latin and Hebrew.

We face powerful movements of nationalistic splitting pretence to capture the Word of God. On the other hand, the revival of Hebrew is comparable to a true part of resurrection. The scriptural Hebrew language became a part of the overall universal linguistic heritage of all the Nations, and in it there is “no Jew no Greek (pagan, heathen)” but the utterance of the One Father in the chromatic and life-giving letters . This is why it is not possible to supersede this heritage or to capture it. It universal and beyond all and each nations because as all tongues it uncover Divine and human speech capacities that overshadows all historic past, present and future generations.

Therefore, it underscores the breach that exists as a mental and permanent fence that blurs Jews and Nations in a irrepressible framework that feels drawn to ever-longing oneness. Apparently, “Jewishness” has been disappropriated the way it is possible (not necessarily licit) to explain the Scripture and the Hebrew words outside of the realm of Judaism, mainly because of the Christian Church commentaries. Islam also proceeded in a very similar way since the very beginning of Hijri and the revelation of the Quran and the Hadiths.

It questions the Church in her totality as to give real substance to the unity of all souls and creatures.

The question remains whether “all the house of Israel” (Acts of the Apostles 2:36; cf. 2 Samuel 6:5) is enabled to walk ahead of history with a spirit of reviving prophecy for the Coming of the Messiah in glory (Talmud Sukkot 52a-b, Symbole of Nicaea).

Orthodoxy, Great Lent and Coronavirus

Things can be very difficult in Church life. The Coronavirus epidemy-pandemic disease (at this point it is a pandemic threat and reality) is really going viral. The Hong-Kong Catholic Church and now some Catholic Churches throughout the world, in particular in Italy, Germany… maybe France in the near future required to stop to celebrate the Mass and distribute the Holy Communion inside of the parishes and cathedral where huge crowds use to gather. Individuals may catch the Covid 19 virus that spread very quickly right now though it decreases in China where it started in Wuhan.

On February 23rd, 2020, metropolitan Sergey who heads the Moscow Exarchate in South-Asia based in Singapore asked that molebens (thanksgiving services) be served for the victims of the epidemy in Asia. I had written a long note on this on February 12 last, urging the Orthodox Churches to pray for those who caught the virus, suffer and have to stay at home, isolated. There are places where this becomes a real economic problem. China is going through hell, but also the passengers of some cruiser ships.

We see that the virus attacks all the continents (Australia, New Zealand, Africa where figures are not given for the moment).

The virus entered Northern Makedonia, Greece, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal. This means that it threatens wide segments of different national societies in these countries.

In this period of Great Lent and the upcoming of the Sunday of Atonement (Forgiveness) in the Orthodox Churches, the threat should be handled with much care.

I post here the first announcement made by an Orthodox rector, Fr. Johannes Johansen, who serves in Norway. He is pragmatic and definitely reacts as a Scandinavian? Here is his text in English (footnote in Norwegian [1]) :

“The Coronavirus concerns all of us.

We need to reduce to the minimum the possibilities of being infected and to protect us by ability.

In Church, we shall avoid the contact (Hand-shaking, Kissing the hands, clamp, etc) also refrain from kissing icons and holy objects, but just bow us in the church. We take the opportunity now, as Great Lent starts, to abstain from “Church coffee” after the liturgies. As regards the Holy Communion: we will use a spoon for each person who will communicate, so that it will not be possible to get contaminated by receiving the Holy Gifts.

Along with these practical measures, we will strengthen our spiritual life by making the sign of the cross over ourselves and the children, daily drink holy water and possibly eat a piece of the prosphora (antidoron) that we have received in church, and ask for God’s protection and the saints.”

Note that archimandrite Johannes asked to use a personal spoon (Lzhytsa/Лжица – Lavis – λαβις) which has been in the case in past times of epidemics both in the Orthodox communities and also, for example, in the Vaudois Italian congregations.
There might be different reactions among the Eastern Orthodox. Some may consider that the Holy Gifts cannot harm anybody and that their holiness preserves from any danger of catching the virus. It is evident that the Body and Blood of the Resurrected are the true ailments of our Redemption. On the other hand, all have to act with much insight and be very prudent.
This will also be the task of the heads of the Churches, the Bishops, the priests, the deacons, acolytes who use to participate in the distribution of the Holy Gifts.
The same with regards to kissing the hands of the clergy and kissing the icons. Sanctification is one thing, but, just remember that in many parishes, icons and their “glass” cover or other materials are often cleaned, at times immediately after one person venerated the icon.
Indeed, it can be helpful to drink Holy Water and to eat some pieces of antidoron/a distributed at the Divine Liturgies. This could be managed in a prudent way so that only very few persons could touch the bread.
May we all act with patience and wisdom, true faith and insight and pray for all as Great Lent calls to penance, forgiveness, fraternity, dialogue, and unity.
Prot. Alexander A. Winogradsky-Frenkel
(Patriarchate of Jerusalem, [from Paris] February 28, 2020)
(1) Original on Facebook, on Feb. 28, 2020:

Vi må gjøre smittemulighetene så få og små som mulig og samtidig beskytte oss etter evne.

I kirken skal vi unngå kroppskontakt (håndhilse, kyssehånden, klemme etc) også avstå fra å kysse ikoner og hellige gjenstander, men bare bøye oss i ærbødighet. Vi benytter anledningen nå i den oppstartende fastetiden til å avstå fra “kirkekaffe” etter liturgien. Og angående den hellige nattverden: Vi vil benytte en skje til hver kommunikant, slik at det ikke blir mulig med smitte gjennom dette.

Paralellt med disse praktiske tiltakene skal vi styrke oss åndelig ved å gjøre korsets tegn over oss selv og barna, daglig drikke hellig vann og eventuelt spise en bit av prosforen vi har mottatt i kirken, og be om Guds beskyttelse og de helliges forbønner.

F. Johannes