Monday of Holy Week : Day of the Moon

 

From: Jo Ann Schwartz
Date: Mon Apr 5, 2004 1:35 pm
Subject: Monday of Holy Week : Day of the Moon

[Some of us on the Steiner Internet have a tradition during Holy Week of reading together from Emil Bock's book, _The Three Years_. Since I suspect Dottie and others here would also enjoy these readings, I am sending them along. My apologies if you are getting them twice. -- jms]

Monday of Holy Week : Day of the Moon
Emil Bock
The Three Years

There is a certain quiet place which even to-day is shrouded in mystery. It is upon the road which every morning and every evening of Holy Week was traversed by Jesus and His disciples, whether leaving the city for Bethany in the evening or returning to Jerusalem in the morning. Crossing the summit of the Mount of Olives, coming from Jerusalem, and slowly descending the other side towards the valley, where from the depths of the Judean wilderness glitters the subearthly mirror of the Dead Sea, one comes to a spot surrounded by high walls. it lies half-way between the Mount of Olives and Bethany. Black cypresses rise above the walls and point heavenward like solemn beacons. In the time of Jesus there was a little settlement here, Bethphage, "the House of Figs". This village was not like other villages. A group of persons led there a life in common, united by a special spiritual tie. The simple huts in which they probably dwelt were surrounded by a hedge of fig trees which gave the place its name. These fig trees, however, were not mere bearers of fruit, they were sacred to the people who lived there, visible symbols of their special training for the spirit. These were people who sought to preserve in their circle a spiritual Mystery of the past, the same Mystery which is hinted at in the story of Nathanael. The group at Bethphage cultivated a condition of supersensible sight which was called "sitting under the Fig tree". It was attained by means of meditative exercises, supported partly by special postures of the body.

It was from Bethphage that in the early hours of Palm Sunday Jesus instructed Peter and John to fetch the ass and her colt. For just as there were trees there which were held as sacred, so too were these animals. The asses kept there were no beasts of burden; they too, symbolized a mystery. The memory still lived of the magician Baalam who was called from Babylon to curse the Israelites and prevent them from entering the Land of Promise. Baalam was pictured in the Old Testament as riding on an ass. But it was known that the phrase had a hidden meaning: it referred to a definite state of soul. It was really a somnambulant withdrawal from consciousness in which formerly the Babylonian magician began to speak. Baalam spoke out of a kind of spiritual possession, not from His human consciousness, and without His knowing how it came about the magic curse which He was to utter became a blessing instead. The sacred animals harboured at Bethphage indicate that the supersensible vision cultivated there was somnambulistic and bound to the physical body. Right into modern times the ass often appears in fairy tales as the imaginative representative of the physical human body.

The ass's colt upon which Christ rode into the holy city on Palm Sunday belongs to the realm of memories associated with Bethphage. But as He rode boldly into the city on the sacred white beast, there was no repetition of the Baalam condition of "riding on the ass"; it was the crowd who, beholding Him, fell into the ecstatic withdrawal from ordinary consciousness. It was as though a language of Baalam gripped the people as they cried "Hosanna" to the one who rode upon the ass's colt.

When the day drew towards evening, Jesus went to Bethany with His disciples to rest, as also on the following days. In the night the echo of popular ecstasy with its "Hosannas" echoed in His soul. And when next morning they passed by Bethphage on the way to Jerusalem, neither He nor his disciples remained unchanged by what had taken place. There was something deeply earnest in the bearing of the Christ, something inexorable. Then comes the enigmatic approach to the fig tree. The disciples wondered why Jesus should expect to gather figs, when it is not their season. And they heard Him speak the strangely harsh words: "Henceforward shall no man eat of this fig tree for ever". Perhaps they dimly felt in this moment that something greater lay in the words than just a statement about the tree and its fruitfulness. But the scales did not fall from their eyes.

And now in Jerusalem the disciples pass a day with the Christ in which many dramatic scenes follow each other. As their Master sets foot on the threshold of the Temple precincts, chaos breaks out. Everywhere there is panic and terror; tables are overturned, money rolls across the ground. It is a reversal of the ecstatic jubilation of yesterday.

Then the night is again spent at Bethany, and the next morning Jesus and His disciples come by Bethphage at dawn. There the sight of the withered tree suddenly confronts them, and the disciples ask Jesus to explain it to them. It was no crude miracle, as though Jesus through his angry word of power had robbed a creature of its existence. How could He have destroyed a tree belonging to the people who had willingly placed at His disposal the ass and the ass's colt! No, it was a Spiritual act, denoting an important moment in the Mystery of Holy Week.

The signal for the decisive battle had already been given through the awakening of Lazarus. But it was on Palm Sunday that the full being of the Christ was revealed and it was this that stirred men's souls. But this moment had also its simple human meaning. Jesus, as other devout people, was going to the Temple for prayer and sacrifice in preparation for the Passover. But a foreboding of great decision had seized Him. Things could no longer go on painlessly, as in the past. The Christ sees that mere enthusiasm is superficial and untrustworthy, but as yet He is not constrained to repulse it. That He cannot directly reprove the people is shown next day by a similar scene before the Temple. This time it is children who cry out "Hosanna". When His enemies ask maliciously, "Hearest thou what these say?" He replies, "Yea, have ye never read the Scripture 'out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise'?"

But now the night at Bethany has come between and there is a certain contrast with the mood of Palm Sunday. He approaches the fig tree at Bethphage and wishes to show the disciples how little value should be attached to the "Hosanna" of the previous day. All that it represented was the last fruits of the old visionary clairvoyance, given by nature, and bound to the body. The words He addresses to the fig tree are, as it were, a challenge to the whole realm of ancient ecstatic vision. Here a momentous decision is made in the history of mankind. Jesus rejects the Hosannas of the people, and Himself brings about the transition to their cry, "Crucify Him". He has the courage Himself to summon the spiritual blindness through which the people will fanatically demand His death. Humanity must act out of a consciousness that leads to freedom, even if it means tragedy; even if men in their spiritual blindness nail Him on the cross.

When the fig tree of Bethphage is seen again by the disciples on the morning of Tuesday, a wholesome disenchantment has come over them. They see the withered tree, just there on the spot which they have always treated with veneration. They receive teaching from Jesus which serves as a prelude to what they will hear from Him in the evening hour on the Mount of Olives. Then they are led to realize that some day there will be a new "sight" for mankind, and that "faith" is to be the germ of this. Jesus says to His disciples: "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible unto you. Ye shall say unto this mountain 'Remove hence to yonder place' and it shall remove". --- There will be no barrier before you; the mountain of the sense world which bars your sight will disappear. Through the rocky stone of earthly existence you will see the true nature of things permeated by divine thought. --- The power of faith will bring to maturity in the human heart the eye of the new vision. The Sermon on the Mount speaks of this: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." But in between the old moon-vision, no longer serviceable, and the new sunlike vision of the heart, there lies a time of darkness, of blindness to the spirit. And in this stage of blindness Christ will be nailed on the cross.

On that Monday in Holy Week Christ rejects a temptation. Had He allied Himself with the ancient clairvoyant forces, He might have found public recognition. Not only would people have cried "Hosanna"; they would have crowned Him King. But a final pronouncement is made: Christ will form no link with the ancient forces. His sole aim is that mankind should find the way to awakening and freedom. it is no unloving curse that He utters on the fig trees of those who had lent Him the ass and its colt. He acts purely from the nature of His own being. He is the Sun, and when the Sun rises, the Moon perforce grows pale. So the moon-forces of the old vision fade away.

The Christ appears before the Temple. Many hundreds of pilgrims have assembled, and around the Temple buying and selling, trading and bargaining are being carried on. In the Temple itself a feverish activity prevails; sacrificial beasts are needed for the Festival, the Passover lamb must be slaughtered. This is a source of business; for the animals have to be bought before they are sacrificed. Old Annas, the notorious miser of world history, knows how to make a profit. He has already made a vast fortune from this market. He has been the wirepuller in the political compromise with the Romans which is the basis of the Temple business. The pilgrims must change their local currency into the official currency which is valid in the Temple. This is Roman currency. Thus the Temple comprises also a Roman Exchange market. The Roman fiscal officers have been admitted to the Temple, although they were representatives of the Cult of Caesar, because it was hoped by this compromise to keep them at least out of the Holy of Holies.

Now Christ comes on the scene. He is coming to fulfil the custom of the Feast. But the fire of His burning will has its effect. There is no need for Him to say much. The people are immediately seized with panic. Terror-stricken, they realize into what decadence they have fallen. Something similar had taken place at the feast of the Passover, three years before. At that time the terrifying effect came from the divine nature of the Christ, despite the conscious restraint which was still exercised by Jesus. But now the divinity is entirely transformed into humanity; it has become intensity of will. He has the right to tear down the mask of decadence of the Temple.

The Sun of Christ shines, and the glimmer of the Moon must fade away on the moon-hill of Mount Moriah. The spectres of the night flee from the sun. In place of a magnificent Temple appears a simple room on Mount Zion. There, in the Last Supper, the seed of a new ritual and worship, a Sun-like Sacrament, will be sown. The moon religion of antiquity will be superseded on the evening of Maundy Thursday, when on the sun-hill of Mount Zion, Christ gives Bread and Wine to His disciples.

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From: Deborah
Date: Mon Apr 5, 2004 6:26 pm
Subject: Monday of Holy Week : Day of the Moon

Thank you! I've tried a couple of times to read this book and always got stuck. This time I seem to be able to understand it.

I've read all of his other books with no difficulty, but this one was beyond my reach.

Deborah

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From: dottie zold
Date: Tue Apr 6, 2004 2:25 pm
Subject: Re: Monday of Holy Week : Day of the Moon

JoAnn

[Some of us on the Steiner Internet have a tradition during Holy Week of reading together from Emil Bock's book, _The Three Years_. Since I suspect Dottie and others here would also enjoy these readings, I am sending them along.

Hi JoAnn,

Thanks for bringing this to us at AT. Again its like not realizing you need a little water until it shows up. Right on time is all I have to say, and thanks, d

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