The Magi And A Star For The Week Of Unity 2022 [MECC Project]

I POST every day, first to the “Friends of the WCC” a reflection on this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme had been proposed this year by the MECC (Middle-East Council of the Churches) and indeed, I try to show the Semitic Christian roots that are often neglected though they deeply impact the heritage of all the Church Traditions.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity [Continues in Jerusalem till Jan. 30], the Tenth Day – Jan. 27, 2022.

The Light, the Fire that truly enlightened the road for the Magi took Flesh in the City of David, the one who was chosen to be king though he was away, too young, inexperienced and keeping the flock of family. Bethlehem remains the small, humble city of the Beloved one. In his old days, he betrayed the Lord, his fellowmen, committed murder. Solomon, his son, had asked for wisdom and clarity, purity and discernment and ended his days as a corrupt ruler who had led to the split of his kingdom and a lot of wives, women, destroyed by his twisted idolatrous conducts.
Then, we are the same: the beauty of rushing to parties where we seem to cry to the Lord, praise His Name, applaud His Reign. We proclaim He is here and there and everywhere, in our midst… and right out of the Blue Moon, we take leave for our pleasures, oh, give me a break! I need to enjoy the One God that I dream of, not the One I cannot see by Who created me and you and all.
We know how to escape and avoid essential, life-giving pardons. Yes, we shall pray for some hours, some days, even for years but it is an exploit to stare at the bottom of the road, i.e. to envision at-one-ment. True forgiving and reconciliation.
The Magi got a piece of special breaking news, transmitted divinely: do not return to Jerusalem, take another way to leave the Place of Birth of the Messiah. They switched, a sort of inner profound conversion. God can be heard and listened to. We ought to be obedient 😊 to hear together in a common/not identical way in order to go ahead = ob-audire). There is no treason in such events.
The ruler was jealous. He wanted to kill Jesus, He is Christ. He lied and sent his men to kill the many recently born babies. Today, the world and the United Nations command to pray for the victims of the Holocaust during World War II. Indeed, anti-Semitism has to be erased. Still, because humankind could accomplish the project of the “Endlösung – Final Solution” against the Jews (projected in the Book of Esther), the Remembrance Day also focuses on all mass murders that had happened in the course of the 20th century: the Nama’s and Herrero’s in Namibia (1904), the Armenians, Assyrians, Pontic Greeks (1915), the peoples of Ukraine (1932-3). It climaxed in 1939-1945 with the systematic deportation and extermination of the Jews, the Gypsies, Sinti, a lot of Christians, communists, disabled, same-sex people, Jehovah Witnesses, non-Aryans and many others.
We see how violence and irrational violence, absence of credibility, trust invade our societies. It was quite the same by the time of the Magi. But they had enough brains, insights and trust in the Light to be saved and herald the message of redemption.
We shall not die but proclaim the works of the Lord.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity [Continues in Jerusalem], the Ninth Day – Jan. 26, 2022.

We continue the Week of Prayer in the area of Jerusalem since it began on Jan. 22nd. It allows to walk of the way of the Magi. Each generation, mainly each century has undergone strong or lighter changes, shifts, bifurcations. By the time of the Magi, shifts were possible by huge human contacts, spiritual talks, orally and in written forms. Connections were first based on the immense role of dialogues and verbal conversations based on arguments and retained, transmitted by memory. We still see this in many parts of the world among nations who “memorize” texts, discussions, the individuals with whom they are/were in contact. The Magi were not only serving the fire in the Mazdean temples if they really were of Zaratushtrian tradition. Their service was not only based on keeping the fire as a sacrifice. This service was in-depth. They “surveyed” the celestial creation and the role of the stars and they were in dialogue with different residing believers, in particular, the Jews and the ancient Persian Plateau, Hindu and Caucasian peoples certainly with real contacts with the Tibetan and Chinese cultures. It was difficult, it took a lot of time, but it led to changes and evolution. Shifts occurred drastically with the invention of printing. It is rather difficult to fathom how it impacted the development of religious consciousness. Just as it is a miracle that the Scriptures have been transmitted with much care and respect. At the present, the Magi and their descents face high-tech, digitalization, internet, the Web, audio-/video documents, external “memory boxes and tools” and this must question us on how we apprehend the reality of the true Star. It continues to bring us to Bethlehem, to Nazareth, to Jerusalem and overshadows all regions and nations, languages. It mixes technique and speech, instruments and virtuality. We ought not to drown in the confusion that it may raise, but learn how to focus on the true direction. The Magi remind us to keep the sense of revelation, direct contact, prayer, Zwiesprache = speech to two! not framed. We are on the move as the Star of the Magi enlightens our paths or highways to the Resurrected.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Eighth Day – Jan. 25, 2022. The bigger part of the world arrives on the final day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, celebrating the “Conversion of Saint Paul” in the Latin Catholic Church. On the other hand, the Churches of Jerusalem continue on the road of praying and meeting till Sunday 30/01. This is due to the late date for the feasts of Theophany for the Eastern Orthodox and “Nativity and Theophany” for the Armenians (18-19/01). I will continue to post each day the meditation that will accompany our fellow believers in Jerusalem. Roads can be quite special. We don’t know how the Magi reached out to Bethlehem. They were under the guidance – natural and spiritual revelation – of the Stars, the celestial elements. The Star was the light, the day “burning” of faith, confidence, trust to walk en route toward the manger, the cradle of the Baby Messiah. Indeed, it can be hard to find a direction. We speak, at the present, of redirection, bifurcation, drifting aside or away, forking. The routes that are proposed in the Bible allow choosing what leads to good(ness) and not to evil or loss of life and conscience. What did the Magi feel? Do we continue to march in with some sort of inner discernment? “Lord,” said Thomas, “we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:5-6). The three words are evident in most languages. It sounds understandable, even when Jesus Christ utter them. The challenge that we all face in our existence is to clarify the meaning of the WAY that we may choose or reject, see or miss as blind souls. TRUTH is more complex, a mixture of thoughts, concepts, words, speech or silence, specific behaviors, attitudes expressed by writing, phrases, contacts or denial, feelings… It seems impossible to seize what TRUTH should be.LIFE seems evident in most languages. It sounds understandable, even when Jesus Christ utter them. The challenge that we all face in our existence is to clarify the meaning of the WAY that we may choose or reject, see or miss as blind souls. TRUTH is more complex, a mixture of thoughts, concepts, words, speech or silence, specific behaviors, attitudes expressed by writing, phrases, contacts or denial, feelings… It seems impossible to seize what TRUTH should be. In Hebrew, the three words are particular: “Truth = Emet”, combined by Jesus with “Life = Hayim” and “Way = Derekh”. There is a sign expressed by the letters. the Hebrew word E-Ha-D means ONE. Just as “Wahad in Arabic or Had in Aramaic”.The Lord said Who he is and was and will be forever. It is in the text and the inspiring response that He gave to Mar Thomas. Then we can believe without seeing and act with faith.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Seventh Day – Jan. 24, 2022. The Magi continue to accompany us at the present, beyond age-long times and evolution of spiritual discernment, theological insights. The search for understanding how revelation is always en route. It obliges us to cope with new topics and complicated societal, political developments.No individual is born a Christian. This is a huge challenge. There are Christian-inspired and impacted cultures, social groups. But nobody can pretend that s/he is a Christian by birth, by direct heritage, by being educated in a specific “tribe or nation”. Each of us went through baptism, the descent into the waters and the coming out of them as being reinvigorated in Jesus the Messiah and anointed by the oil of strength in Jesus Who resurrected.This means that we cannot worship, kneel and bow as the heathens who would adore non-life-giving invisible deities. This is why Mordechai – in the Book of Esther – refused to kneel and bow low to Haman (Esther 3:2). Kneeling and bowing to him would be a form of idolatry. We see and live with the power of the Light born in Bethlehem, acknowledged by the Magi. It is the challenging fight that we face: we ought not to worship idols, but as said in Ps. 95 (see Yesterday’s text) to “come, bow, kneel down and then while kneeling to give thanks, exalt and exult in the joyful flame of life, the Divine Presence of the Lord. This is not gold that confirmed the kingship of Jesus. Neither is it silver or myrrh that also envision the way the newborn will die. We have become or were born in the context of Christendom. It is a free gift, the one that is the seal (sphragis) that burns and does no harm and commits us to unity.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Sixth Day – Jan. 23, 2022.

-ונכרWe focus this year on the role of the Magi who came to venerate the newborn Baby Jesus at Bethlehem. Zoroastrian priests/ maguŝ(e) who served (and continue to guard) the holy fire in the Mazdean temples were envisioning what stars and natural elements could unveil of Divine Presence over the universe. They went on their way, opening the perilous paths to newness of spaces and creeds. They looked for the Light, as they could feel in following the Avestan and Jewish Oral tradition of the strategic Persian Plateau: salvation and redemption could take Flesh in place that the Lord would show.”To worship, venerate, adore” can be typically pagan, servile, imposed by rulers, despotic kings or “guides”. This is a general temptation, in particular in the realm of spirituality and/or revelation. Psalm 95:6 says something special: “Come/bo’uבאו, let us bow down/nishtachavehנשתחוה and bend the knee/unichr’ehונכרעה; let us kneel (and give thanks)/nivrachehנברכה before the LORD our Maker”. The Magi accepted to humble down and to only follow the Will of the Lord, the One Maker of all things. The One Father of Jesus could reveal to these servants of the antique fire that the Light had taken Flesh and was dwelling among us. It was thus possible to approach Him, to come to the place of His birth, bow down respectfully, bend the knee, kneel down in a gesture that humans can only do in front of the Messiah. Facing the soil, they were called as we are – over generations of generations – to kneel, not as slaves do. Conversely, while kneeling, we already raise up. Such is the meaning of the pan-Semitic root “Brachah/Baraka”. We are called to immediately give thanks to the Lord and Maker and His Son. This is the miracle of Bethlehem, later confirmed in Jerusalem with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christians, we cannot be enslaved, enchained, dominated. Like the Magi, the world is on the move, often in turmoil, individuals and groups, new tribes and nations are migrating throughout the continents. Among this multitude, the Christians witness to this “Unchaining our souls and bodies” and listen to the Word of true liberation.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Fifth Day – Jan. 22, 2022.

The Star shone in the sky and from the East from where the sun rises day after day and led the Magi. A sign from the Highest and a physical, natural, active change that seals times and delays, history and epochs. As a child Abraham the ancestor lived in a cave. Who had created the world, the Sun and the Moon, the stars?, he thought. To begin with, he saw the Moon and said: “I will worship it because it gives light at night”. He woke up and saw the Sun and said: “I’d rather worship it because it gives light at day time”. Then he went to sleep again and saw the Moon… He thus declared that he would not worship the Sun or the Moon or the stars but the Creator Who set this order in the creation and reigns over all the worlds. Jesus Christ is the Light over night and darkness and day and apparent clarity. We stand between light and somber, and still feel this Light of joy (Phos hilaron/lumen hilare – Svete Tikhiy [gladsome, quiet, peaceful in Slavonic]). It shines, is warms, comforts, it is more like a fire that burns and does no harm. The Magi had certainly seen or met this huge sacrificial fire among the Zoroastrians first, in the Oral Tradition of the Mesopotamian Jews and in Bethlehem they worshiped the Light Who is the Divine and human(e) Presence that never fades. It burns as, in the Sinai, we feel it and cannot clutch to it. We want it, think that we see it and it is so clear and alien. This Light and Fire is the One-begotten Son Wo comes, Who came and will come and lead us to hope beyond hope. It sounds weird, it is at the very core of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Magi saw, we see and share over times and spaces.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Fourth Day – Jan. 21, 2022.

We often speak of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a major city in Galilee of the Nations, where the young and adult son of the carpenter started His heralding of the redemption and His messianic identity of Son of Man. We do not speak of Jesus of Bethlehem, though according to the tradition, He was born in the city of King David. In an area where words show a continuum of humane and theological resources. Jesus-Immanuel came to the world in the House of the Bread, a root that is so special in the local Semitic tongues! L-KH-M in Hebrew, Aramaic and thus in Arabic and the other nearby dialects can be vocalized in changing and intriguing modes that switch to diversified meanings that remain coherent according to the root: lekhem\לחם (bread) – lakhma\לחמא (meat), khalom\חלום (dream), melakh\מלח (salt) – lokham\לוחם (resistant, fighter). Let’s take into account the immense heritage of the Christians of the East, whose languages and expression must be understood in unity with the other linguistic great traditions of the Churches. The Son of Man is the Lamb, the true nourishment Who allows us to acknowledge that we are called to the oneness of God and redemption of all generations. It is a dream that is Truth, maintains us as salt in dire contexts and resists death to Life and goodness. A Challenging Presence!

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Third Day – Jan. 20, 2022.

Days pass and stars show at sunset. It sounds systematic. Stars appeared as the theme of divine judgment as mediated by heavenly beings, the ‘Watchers’ and the members of the heavenly court in the Aramaic Jewish tradition (Daniel 4, 7.1; Enoch 14). They were viewed as heavenly bodies and spirits, mediators between the human and heavenly worlds. This tradition is founded upon an overall Mesopotamian cultural teaching. In the Hebrew Book of Daniel (10–12)appears, שר\sar meant the “spirit of a star”. These spirits and mediators have a direct role in influencing and determining the fate of territories and kingdoms. The Star that led the Magi to Jesus’ location is even far more inspiring: it overcomes all possible human power and will to rule over others. Jesus’s Light revolves, reveals how to humble down and get more dignity. The mysterious 6000-year-old star of Ghassul, discovered in Jordan in 1930, traces us back and forth the exceptional impulse of the Presence of the Messiah in our midst.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Second Day – Jan. 19, 2022.

In itself, the “Roman” empire of a time, including Persia, gave an exact measure of the spiritual roots of our civilization. We can understand that the Magi saw a star that led them to the One who “can not be dissolved”. The Magi were these human beings educated by the old Jewish diaspora of Mesopotamia and Persia and had learned about the value of salvation. It would not be easy to describe Zarathustra’s own thoughts that had been developing in the area from old. Let’s just say that he sought to clarify two driving forces of our societies and human behavior: “Asha = truth” as opposed to “Druzh = a lie” (modern Persian: “dorûgh”). We have reduced it to some gnostic notion, a sort of clash with Manicheism, which came out of this radical principle of constant opposition: “Asha – druzh = light against falsehood”, maybe the prelude to a substantial discernment between “good and evil”. Honestly, everything turns and sways, again and again – revolves around this question expressed in a very specific and fascinating way by the Semitic Christian. The ancient Light is shown by the Star because it – He the Lord – comes to serve, call to oneness.

It is a special day: on the one hand, in the Holy Land, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem Celebrates on Jan. 18-19, 2022 in Bethlehem the Nativity and Baptism/Theophany of the Lord. And the Greek Orthodox (and all the Orthodox Churches) celebrate the Baptism and Theophany of Jesus Christ. A profound period of revelation that develops the sign received by the Magi from the East who followed the Star till they arrived in the House of the living Flesh and Bread (Beit Lekhem in Semitic languages). Blessed Week of Prayer for Christian Unity! It starts on Saturday in Jerusalem with the Greek Orthodox Vespers at the Golgotha (Holy Sepulcher).

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