Bible Archaeology

Hopes on the Slope to Jerusalem

Passover and Easter bring to mind pictures of the Messiah; both for Jews and for Christians.

Wayne Stiles in the Jerusalem Post:

People often ask me if I have a favorite place I’ve visited in Israel. “You  mean other than Jerusalem?” I usually reply with a smile.

No other city in history comes close to Jerusalem’s significance.

Others have had more power, more land, more people, more natural  resources—even more prestige—but none has more significance. And none  ever will.

Yet when you see Jerusalem for the  first time, you may wonder why all the fuss. Except for the Temple Mount with its golden Dome of the Rock, the city seems drab. No skyscrapers  pierce the skyline of Israel’s capital city. Only some scattered  antennae, towers, domes, cranes, crosses and crescent moons protrude in a tangled mess—like wheat and tares. Myriads of dumpy buildings and  uneven rooftops betray the hodgepodge of intentions each era has imposed on the city’s fixed spaces.

The tour group I  traveled with began the sharp descent from the Mount of Olives by  following a narrow road with high walls on either side. On top of the  walls, colored pieces of broken glass jutted up from the concrete as a  primitive barbed-wire fence. Immediately to my left was a sign: “Tombs  of the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.” Although the first- century kokhim (shaft) tombs could not have belonged to  these sixth- and fifth-century B.C. prophets, I found it interesting  that Zechariah, who foresaw Israel’s King coming on a donkey, would  allegedly rest on the slope where his words found fulfillment.

The high wall on my left overlooked a vast Jewish graveyard—the largest in  the world. Literally thousands of white tombs give testimony to the  Jewish hope that when the Messiah comes, “His feet will stand on the  Mount of Olives” (Zech. 14:4), and those buried there will stand first  in line for blessing (see Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:11-15). Just last  week I saw a group of mourners surrounding a grave.

The high wall to my right enclosed the grounds of the Dominus Flevit  Church. The chapel’s name means, “the Lord wept,” memorializing the moment Jesus wept over Jerusalem (see Luke 19:41). The roof of the  quaint chapel resembles the shape of an inverted teardrop. I entered and walked to the altar on the right and the large arced window that frames the city of Jerusalem. The window’s decorative wrought-iron bars depict a cup, a loaf, thorns and a cross. A few potted plants and candles sat  on the sill. The capstone above the window supports a stone relief of  Jesus riding a donkey with his face in his hands.

As I stared out the window at the city over which the Lord had wept, it  seemed as though I gazed through a porthole of time. The wrought-iron elements of Jesus’ Passion overshadowed the city. I couldn’t see  Jerusalem without also seeing the cross.

As I  continued down the steep road, I had to marvel at the contrast on either side of me. One wall guarded the hope that the Messiah will come one day. The other wall guarded the belief that he already had come. Only a  narrow, steep road separated these two walls. Somehow the distance seemed much greater.

Passover and Easter bring to mind pictures of the Messiah—both for Jews and for Christians. The  Mount of Olives echoes these hopes from its slopes…



Fr Robert Mercer on Apartheid, the Ordinariate, the Traditional Anglican Communion and Unity

Former Anglican Bishop Turned Catholic Priest is Star of Anti-apartheid Musical.

That’s the headline in the Catholic Herald on Fr Robert Mercer who was Ordained in the Catholic Church at the start of the week. We posted the news here on this blog. Bolding is mine:

A former Anglican bishop ordained a Catholic priest is one of the stars of an anti-apartheid musical in South Africa, it emerged today.

Fr Robert Mercer, 77, was deported from South Africa in 1970 for his stand against apartheid, along with several other Anglican priests.

He and other members of the Anglican Community of the Resurrection defied segregation laws by running a multi-racial parish.

They were, says Fr Mercer, “deemed to be a corrupting influence on students” at Stellenbosch University, where they worked as chaplains. One of the Anglican priests was jailed.

Their stand has been dramatised in a multi-media pop musical called Brothers, which ran for five nights at Stellenbosch University, the country’s top Africaans university.

The musical was performed in September 2010 in a mix of Africaans and English and was directed by playwright Peter Krummeck.

Fr Mercer, who grew up in Zimbabwe, went on to become Bishop of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, in the Anglican Province of Central Africa, in the midst of a civil war.

He was bishop for 11 years before leaving the Anglican Communion to join the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, part of the worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion. He served as metropolitan bishop from 1988 to 2005, when he retired to England.

Fr Mercer became a Catholic in January and was ordained a priest for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham on Monday.

He said today that Pope Benedict XVI’s offer of an ordinariate to Anglicans in 2009 was “an answer to our prayers, to our dreams”.

He said he had been longing for Christian unity since the early 1980s, when Pope John Paul II and Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, issued a joint declaration thanking God for “the progress that has been made in the work of reconciliation”.

He and his clergy in Zimbabwe began working through ARCIC documents and even met Vatican officials in Rome.

In 1985 Fr Mercer met Cardinal Johannes Willebrands and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to talk about the prospect of Anglicans reconciling with Rome.

Fr Mercer said that Cardinal Ratzinger was “the humblest, gentlest, most sympathetic person I think I’ve ever met”. He said: “I could never understand, therefore, all the talk of ‘the Rottweiler’ and ‘Panzer cardinal’… I came away thinking if ever I had done wrong and wanted to tell someone about it, it would be him I’d want to tell.”

Fr Mercer said: “I couldn’t see then why Anglicans couldn’t be in communion [with Rome].”

Three years later he joined the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), an umbrella group of breakaway Anglicans, serving as a bishop in Canada.

There, he said, parishes had to start “from scratch”, meeting in homes and trying to build or buy churches. “I was so impressed by the commitment of the lay people,” Fr Mercer said. “It was a great pleasure and privilege to be with them.”

In 2007 Fr Mercer was one of about 30 leaders of the TAC who signed a letter to Rome asking to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church.

He and the others signed the letter and a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the altar during a service in Portsmouth, England.

Weeks ago, however, a majority of the TAC’s bishops announced that they would not be joining a personal ordinariate and would be stayingfully Anglican”.

Fr Mercer said more than half a dozen TAC priests and bishops in Canada, the US, Australia and even Japan were still “in the pipeline” to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church, along with their parishes.

He said that, while in a sense the Pope’s offer of an ordinariate in Anglicanorum coetibus waswonderful and sudden and too good to be true”, it was also the “fulfilment of 400 years of prayer and aspiration and hope and idealism”. “One day,” he said, “I hope the Anglican Communion will be reconciled with the Bishop of Rome.

Amen, Father… Amen!

UPDATE:   See also Ex-Anglican bishop becomes Catholic priest but remains member of Anglican religious order in The Times [Subscription required – thanks to Rupert Murdoch].



Question: I Broke my Lenten Fast…

A question received in the mail this morning:

Good morning Fr.

Hope I find you well.

I need some guidance regarding this Lenten/Fasting season. In a situation where one has broken their fast, can they continue fasting and what does one do to show or to ask for repentance?

Your response will be greatly apreciated, thanks.



We are all human. We are all fallen. And we all make mistakes.

Breaking a fast does indeed make one feel despondent, and constitutes a failure. But these things happen. And when they do – as with all our falters – we repent. God is a God of grace. He knows that we try our best, but our best is not good enough. That’s why there’s grace. That’s why there is Jesus. That’s why there is a Cross. And that’s why we have Easter!

God, through Jesus, will always accept genuine, heartfelt repentance.

Fasting empties the body of food… Repentance empties the body of sin… We sometimes need to look a little beyond the dogma and/or religious ritual and examine the spiritual meaning. When we fast in deep humility, we do so in order to seek to draw closer to God. It’s not a form of self-punishment. It’s designed to bring the physical body into submission to the spirit so that we can concentrate on higher things. Remember: Prayer, fasting and penance go hand-in-hand.

Also important: Fasts are between yourself and God (St Matthew 6:16-18).

So be remorseful. Ask for forgiveness – it’s all you can do. Pick yourself up. And continue as hard as lies within you. Mistakes cannot be taken back. Guilty feelings, though normal, are no good. So the thing for you now to do is to say you are sorry, be sorry, and try again. Recommit. Push on. After all, it the story of our lives… But thank God we are saved not because of anything we do, but only by the grace of Christ Jesus.

‘And he said to them: The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath’ – St Mark 2:27



Easter: Echoes from the Tomb

Leaning forward, you strain to hear. The fresh, cool breeze of the garden morning brushes your cheek. Bending, you look into that open, black-dark mouth of the tomb, its only light the sun’s thin finger reaching past your shoulder to touch the corner of a bone box. But the bones for which it waits have changed, gotten up and walked away. No smell of death; only the sweet scent of burial spices hanging in the air.

Bouncing off the walls of this vacated tomb, you may hear echoes from another garden where the lie, “Has God really said?” prevailed, and death was ushered in. But now, in this garden the lie has been silenced with a resounding, “Yes!! His Word lives!” and death has been driven out, the curse of Eden swallowed up in this empty space.

And do you hear the echo of righteous Noah, who built a deliverance to carry God’s creations through the judgment, or Father Abraham, through whom all the peoples of the earth would be blessed? Do you hear the echoes of Egypt’s oppressive slavery turned inside-out in powerful salvation, and at its peak an innocent lamb slain so that death would pass over? Do you hear the echo of new life found through parting waters, or of bread, water, and the Shekinah tent given in a wilderness? Do you hear the death-dealing law, unable to give life, at once fulfilled and filled full by the Life? Do you hear these echoes?

As you now kneel on this rough-hewn path leading into where Hope was dead for a moment, do you hear Joshua’s name, bouncing ’round these walls, the same name as “Yeshua,” “Jesus,” whose very name shouts “Salvation!”? Walls have crumbled. Evil has been judged, banished from the land. Joshua led God’s people to a promised place, a place flowing with all good things, as does now his namesake, who takes us to a promised rest harder bought. And the chaos of Judges too rings through this darkened grave, its “every man did what was right in his own eyes” now crushed under a staggering obedience, one Man having done what was right to give us new hearts, making us right with God…

You simply must continue reading to the end.