Pope Francis’ prayer, “O Cross of Christ”

Thanks to Cindy Wooden over at Catholic News Service, here is the Vatican’s English translations of Pope Francis’ prayer last night at the conclusion of the Via Crucis service at Rome’s Colosseum:

Source: Pope Francis’ prayer, “O Cross of Christ”

Very brief observation on Anglican-Catholic relations

The Holy See tends to see the Anglican Communion as the Church of England;
Anglicans tend to see the Catholic Church as the Church of Rome.

While Rome and Canterbury are sister churches in need of full communion, they represent communions broader that the local primatial sees!

Thank you, Dame Mary Tanner.

Seriously, Anglicans, referring to the Catholic Church as the “Roman Church” is equivalent to Catholics referring to the Anglican Communion as the “Church of Canterbury”, or “Canterburian Church”.

Moreover, “Roman Catholic” is better suited for the Latin Church – it excludes all the Eastern Catholics. It is entirely inaccurate to apply this name to the entire Catholic Communion. Even if you can find pre-Vatican II era Catholic texts that do so (the only post-conciliar texts which do so are ecumenical concessions…)

There are more Catholics in say, Brazil (130 million), than in Italy (50 million). More Catholics in the Church of Mexico City (7 million) than in the Church of Rome (2.5 million).

I have lived near, and even in, the same monastery from which St. Gregory the Great sent missionaries to England at the turn of the seventh century, so i understand the deep relationship between the Church of England and the local Church of Rome, but let us remember the bigger picture.

As for the Holy See, one could hear in recent years the lament that “there’s no point in ecumenism any more now that they ordain women bishops.” As if the 2015 ordination of Allison White in the Church of England was the first in the Communion, and not Barbara Harris in 1989 in the Episcopalian Church (U.S.).

Similarly, the Holy See tends to see all of Lutheranism as it if it is the German Evangelishkirche. How easily some forget the episcopal polity of the Nordic countries or that there are as many Lutherans in Ethiopia as in Sweden (about 6 million each).

This is, i think, a symptom of Euro-centrism. It is a parallel to the linguistic myopia wherein Europeans insist on learning, and seeing as normative, Portuguese of Portugal (10 million speakers) rather than Portuguese of Brazil (201 million speakers); Spanish of Spain (46 million) rather than Spanish of Mexico (120 million); British English (60 million) rather than American English (300 million).

Holy Week in Rome 2016

Holy Week in Rome: There are so many opportunities in Rome during Holy Week, I have highlighted just a few in Italian and English, including the normal Roman Rite, and a few exemplars from the “Extraordinary Form”, Byzantine Rite, and Anglican rites. All of the Station Churches and Papal Liturgies are noted.  

I would welcome input from anyone who is aware of others of particular interest, especially where good liturgy can be found – including good music, good preaching, good aesthetic, etc.

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

  • Station Church: San Giovanni in Laterano – 0700 (English); 1730 (Italian)
  • Papal Liturgy: Piazza San Pietro – 0930

Monday

  • Station Church: Santa Prassede all’Esquilino – 0700 (English); 1800 (Italian)
  • Byzantine Vespers of the Presanctified Gifts – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800

Tuesday

  • Station Church: Santa Prisca all Aventino – 0700 (English); 1800 (Italian)
  • Anglican Centre 50th Anniversary Eucharist/Chrism Mass – 1245 (English)
  • Byzantine Vespers of the Presanctified Gifts – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800
  • Evening Prayer with Sant’Egidio Community – Santa Maria in Trastevere 20:30

Wednesday

  • Station Church: Santa Maria Maggiore – 0700 (English); 1730 (Italian)
  • Seven Churches Pilgrimage of St. Filippo Neri (a devotional tradition since 1559)
    • Join the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College in a tour of the Seven Churches, starting with the morning station mass at Santa Maria Maggiore. It is about 22km walking total and will take all day. Pack a lunch or plan to stop along the route:
      • Santa Maria Maggiore
      • San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura
      • Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
      • San Giovanni in Laterano
      • San Sebastiano
      • San Paolo fuori le Mura
      • San Pietro al Vaticano
  • Byzantine Vespers of the Presanctified Gifts – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800
  • Office of Tenebrae
    • Paul’s Within the Walls (Episcopalian) – 1830 (English)
    • Santissima Trinita’ dei Pellegrini (extraordinary form) – 2030 (Latin)

 Holy Thursday

  • Papal Liturgy: Chrism Mass – Basilica San Pietro – 0930
  • Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Beginning of the Paschal Triduum Liturgy)
    • San Giovanni in Laterano – 1730 (Italian) – Station Church
    • Santa Maria in Trastevere – 1730 (Italian)
    • Oratory of San Francesco Saverio al Caravita – 1800 (English)
  • Altars of Repose pilgrimage – Roman devotional tradition is to walk around the city after the liturgy ends for the evening, visiting the beautifully decorated altars of repose in (at least seven) different churches.

Good Friday

Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion with Veneration of the Cross:

  • Station Church: Basilica Santa Croce in Gerusaleme – 1500 (Italian)
  • Oratory of San Francesco Saverio al Caravita – 1500 (English)
  • Papal Liturgy: Basilica San Pietro – 1700 (Italian)
  • Santissima Trinita’ dei Monti – 1800 (French)

Stations of the Cross devotion, with Pope Francis at the Colosseum, 2115

Holy Saturday

The Great Vigil of Easter

  • Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita – 2000 (English)
  • Papal Liturgy: Basilica San Pietro – 2030 (Italian)
  • Station Church: San Giovanni in Laterano – 2100 (Italian)
  • Venerable English College – 2130 (English)

Easter Sunday

Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection

  • Byzantine Divine Liturgy – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – Midnight
  • Papal Liturgy: Piazza San Pietro – 1000 (Italian)
  • Oratory of San Francesco Saverio del Caravita – 1100 (English)
  • Station Church: Santa Maria Maggiore – 1800 (Italian)

Pope Francis Urbi et Orbi Blessing – Piazza San Pietro – 1200 (Multilingual)

Solemn Vespers (concluding the Paschal Triduum)

  • Chiesa di Sant’Anselmo al Aventino – 1700 (Italian)
  • Byzantine – Russicum/Sant’Antonio Abate – 1800

Easter Week Station Churches (Italian):

  • Monday – San Pietro – 1700
  • Tuesday – San Paolo fuori le Mura – 1730
  • Wednesday – San Lorenzo fuori le Mura – 1800
  • Thursday – XII Apostoli al Foro Traiano – 1830
  • Friday – Santa Maria ad Martyres (Pantheon) – 1700
  • Saturday – San Giovanni in Laterano – 1630
  • Divine Mercy Sunday – San Pancrazio – 1600
    • Conclusion of the Station Churches pilgrimage

Networking Meeting on Catholic Higher Education in Rome

Also of interest in Rome:

The Lay Centre News

DSC_0005_mBy A. J. Boyd

On Friday, 11 March, The Lay Centre, in collaboration with the Rome Centre of The Catholic University of America and Australian Catholic University, was host to a first-of-its-kind networking forum of Catholic higher education in Rome. The meeting was chaired by Rev Frederich Bechina, undersecretary for the Holy See’s Congregation for Catholic Education, and Dr Luca Lantero, director of Information Center on Academic Mobility and Equivalence (CIMEA).

More than twenty participants represented three sectors of Catholic higher education active in Italy:

  • Italian Catholic universities and institutions;
  • Pontifical/ecclesiastical universities, athenae, and institutes;
  • U.S. and other foreign Catholic universities with programs or campuses in Italy.

From the Italian Catholic universities were three administrators from LUMSA, a “free” (semi-private) Italian Catholic university. Seven of the 23 pontifical higher education institutions in Rome were present, including a representative of the Conference of Rectors of the Pontifical Roman Universities…

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Very brief thought on popes emeritii

[Found in the archives of half-written posts, from shortly after the election of Pope Francis, the third anniversary of which we have just celebrated]

When your pastor retires, he is not called Father Emeritus John Smith.
Rather, Father John, Pastor emeritus of St. Whatshisname Parish.

When your bishop retires, he is not called Bishop Emeritus Sean Patrick Murphy.
Rather, His Excellency, Bishop Sean, Bishop emeritus of Brigadoon.
Or, His Eminence, Cardinal Sean, Bishop emeritus of Brigadoon
(if also has a Roman suburbicarian see, titulus, or diaconiae).

When the pope retires, he ought not be called Pope Emeritus Benedict.
Rather, His Holiness, Pope Benedict, Bishop emeritus of Rome.

This seemed to be clear, we may recall, when suddenly it was not.
But then it was, at least to the new pope.

From such a good ecclesiologist as Ratzinger, the style Pope Emeritus always struck a discordant note. He knows better than most that there is no office of pope, and therefore no emeritus pope, only the office of bishop of Rome to which the style of “pope” adheres. (Like the priest who is styled “father”).

Roman Pontiff emeritus, also offered in the official statement, never really took off, either (can’t imagine why…).

Turns out, it apparently was not his idea, and he would have been happy with “Father Benedict” (or Pope Benedict, since “pope” just means “father” anyway), as a style. This also recalls and reminds us of the practice that all clergy – bishop, deacon, presbyter – can be addressed as “Father”, not only the presbyterate.

That would have made a lot more sense: Father Benedict, Bishop emeritus of Rome.

The cross of Pope Benedict XVI

 

Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue: Pope Francis, the Eucharist, and Reception

In recent weeks, two significant events highlighted the significant progress made in Catholic-Lutheran dialogue over the last fifty years.

OntheWayOn 31 October, Reformation Day, the U.S. Catholic-Lutheran dialogue published a consensus statement, Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist. The Declaration draws on the fifty years of official dialogues to produce a litany of 32 consensus statements – a list of doctrinal agreements on the related topics of the Church, ministry, and the Eucharist – that are the direct results of dialogue, and which are no longer church-dividing issues.

The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has unanimously affirmed the document and has forwarded it to the 2016 Churchwide Assembly and the Lutheran World Federation for consideration. On the Catholic side, the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also affirmed the consensus unanimously. They have sent it on to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity for consideration.

Two key points from the conclusion of From Conflict to Communion guided the work. [Called to Communion is the 2013 document published by the international Catholic-Lutheran dialogue, in preparation for the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformations, in 2017]:

          1)      Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.

2)      Lutherans and Catholics must let themselves continuously be transformed by the encounter with each other and by mutual witness of faith.

Too frequently, we hear the complaint, “What has been achieved with all this dialogue?” as if to expect that the answer is nothing. It is easier for those of us too young to remember the time before the Council to think this way, growing up in an age when it was taken for granted that we should be ecumenically engaged, and little seems to have changed since the 1980s. The purpose of this document is to respond to the question, and to lay the groundwork for the next steps in the dialogue.

With the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1999) the days when one could simplistically summarize the disparity on Catholic and Lutheran teaching on justification as “Protestants believe you are saved by faith alone, and Catholics that you are saved by faith and works” are thankfully long gone. The Declaration on the Way offers a longer list of doctrines that we clearly share in common.

The summary form makes it easy for preachers to integrate into their preaching, and catechists to integrate into their teaching. While wading through volumes of dialogue statements and notes might make a daunting task for the typical parish pastoral minister or Sunday school teacher, this entire document is about 100 pages and easily navigated.

This concern is “Ecumenical Reception”. It is one thing for the Churches, through their official dialogues, to agree on an article of faith, but it is quite another for that to really sink in at the grassroots level. It has to be adopted, and adapted, at the local level – both in terms of local culture and pastoral practice, and at the level of individual faith and the understanding. What good is an agreement on justification or ecclesiology if the Sunday school teachers, the pulpit preachers, and the popular bloggers are still using outdated information and spreading stereotypes based on the misunderstandings and attitudes of the past, as if no dialogue had ever happened?

Catholics and Lutherans agree on the Church’s foundation in God’s saving work, in Scripture and the means of Grace, the Church as communion (koinonia) with visible and invisible elements, the communion of saints and the eschatological nature of the Church and its mission. We agree on ordained ministry as an essential element of the Church, the universal priesthood, the divine origin of ministry, the nature of ministerial authority, much of the nature of ordination, the unity of the orders of ministry, and the need for a ministry of worldwide unity. So too are there agreements on the Trinitarian and Christological dimension of the Eucharist, the Eucharist as a sacrificial memorial, the eschatological and ecclesiological dimensions of the Eucharist, and even on the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

Where work remains to be done is on some aspects of the nature of ordination and who may be ordained, and the question of what intermediate sacramental steps might be taken to help lead to reconciliation an full communion among the separated Christian communities. Before offering ‘next steps on the way’ the document suggests that “The possibility of occasional admission of members of our churches to Eucharistic communion with the other side (communicatio in sacris) could be offered more clearly and regulated more compassionately.”

Declaration ont eh way

Bishop Dennis Madden, USCCB and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA

Almost as if in response to the document, Pope Francis visited Rome’s Evangelical Lutheran Church just a couple weeks later, on 15 November, and responded to a question about Eucharistic hospitality that suggested that Lutherans might receive communion as a matter of conscience. We take it as a given that this assumes the normal conditions being met and in appropriate circumstances.

At first blush, this seems little more than an affirmation of the long-standing practice of the Church articulated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which was virtually unchanged from the pre-Vatican II conditions.

According to the Code, for members of the churches and ecclesial communions born out of the Reformation (i.e., Anglicans and Protestants) to receive communion during a Catholic Eucharist, they must:

  1. Be baptized
  2. Be properly disposed
  3. Manifest Catholic faith in the sacrament (=Real Presence)
  4. Not have access to a minister of their own church or communion
  5. Approach the sacrament on their own accord
  6. Be motivated by “grave pastoral need”, such as danger of death; other situations to be determined (generally, not case-by-case) by the episcopal conference or diocesan bishop. (CIC §844.4)

[Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East, and Old Catholic Christians are allowed to participate in Catholic sacramental life at any time, with respect to the rules of their own traditions, essentially only needing baptism, disposition, and belief in the Real Presence, which are all assumed in these cases as well. This is dealt with in CIC §844.3]

In application, Lutherans always fulfill condition 1: we have long recognized their baptism as valid. Whenever a communicant approaches during the communion procession, it is assumed they fulfill conditions 2 and 5, unless there is some grave public reason to know otherwise. This is, even for Catholics, generally a matter of conscience (guided by their spiritual advisor, confessor, etc.).

As the consensus statement above highlights, Catholics and Lutherans have long articulated agreement on the Real Presence, so being Lutheran is enough to fulfill condition 3.

This condition does not mean, as some have suggested, that only those in full communion with the Catholic Church can receive communion; it means you must agree with the Catholic theology of the Real Presence; most Christians do. Neither does it mean that you must use the word “transubstantiation” – even within the Catholic communion, many of the Eastern Churches do not. In Mysterium Fidei (1965), and Paul VI reminded us that it is helpful, even necessary, to find “fresh ways of expressing [the Real Presence], even by using new words” – it is the meaning of the doctrine, not its formulation, which is always imperfect and in need of reform, that is essential.

Where there is remains some discussion, and frequent confusion, are the following two questions:

  • what does it mean not to have access to a minister of their own church?
  • and what constitutes a grave pastoral need?

The 1993 Directory on the Application of Principals and Norms on Ecumenism offers an interpretive lens and some clarifications, noting that, “in certain circumstances, by way of exception, and under certain conditions, access to these sacraments may be permitted, or even commended, for Christians of other Churches and ecclesial Communities.” (§130)

Pope John Paul II similarly softened the language of condition 6 from “danger of death or other grave necessity” to simply “grave spiritual need”. He reduced the requirements to this spiritual need and baptism, proper disposition, and who freely approach the sacrament – eliminating the “lack of access to a minister of their own faith” as a condition. (Ecclesia de Eucharistia §34-46, esp. 45). Where bishops and bishops conferences have attended to their duty in this regard, ‘mixed’ marriage and family life is the most common example of a situation that meets these conditions.

Unfortunately, as with a great many of the Polish pope’s great achievements, he lead by example and larger-than-life theatrical symbols, and never changed the law itself to correspond with his actions or apparent intentions. One could hope that among the myriad reforms that the Church needs would be an updating of the Code to account for the developments in ecumenical dialogue over the last five decades.

Both John Paul II and the Directory take care to point out that this concerns individuals, not interim concelebration or general table fellowship, and that the purpose is always for the spiritual care of the individual and the motivation for full communion, with care that it not lead to indifferentism. Triumphalism about Catholic Eucharistic theology or practice – that is, to suggest erroneously that only Catholics celebrate the Eucharist or “have the Real Presence” – is not part of the equation. In fact, it could be argued that if that is your attitude, you are not properly disposed to receive, owing to a sin of pride!

In other words, it is not possible for any informed Catholic to say, “Non-Catholics may never receive communion at a Catholic Eucharist”. This truth has been encased in law since at least 1983. This is a “dumbing-down” of a complex discipline of the faith to the point of error.

Understanding of the conditions under which access to the sacrament is allowed has developed even in the thirty years since the Code was pope lutheranpublished. These legitimate developments have to be considered as well, not just the Code itself. It is already Church teaching and practice, explicitly in many jurisdictions and implicitly in others, that the Lutheran spouse of a Catholic could receive communion during the Catholic Eucharist, at least in some situations.

Pope Francis is merely reiterating this. What he does, and has every right to do, as supreme pontiff and universal pastor, in light of real progress made by the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue on the Eucharist, is to frame it in a more positive way. He could, in fact, change the Code itself to allow more frequent opportunities, or to spell out more clearly a longer list of situations, like an interchurch marriage, where the exceptions apply. He is, after all, the supreme legislator.

We already know that there are certain circumstances that a Lutheran can receive; Pope Francis is suggesting that it is a matter of conscience by the individual to determine when those conditions are fulfilled. This is, practically, just acknowledging the current practice of the Church: it is the conscience of the person that determines if they are properly disposed, whether there is spiritual need (and what constitutes ‘grave’), and motivates them to approach the sacrament.

The bishop of Rome also reminds us, as did Vatican II, that communion is not only the goal and sign of ecclesial communion achieved, but also a viaticum (food for the journey) for walking together on the way to that unity. If witness to the unity of the Church generally restricts Eucharistic sharing, the grace to be had from it sometimes commends the practice. (UR §8). Under the right, carefully proscribed circumstances, the Church has taught for fifty years, certain occasions of Eucharistic hospitality is good for the soul, and for the ultimate goal of full communion.

The real progress made by dialogue necessitates a real change in discipline and practice, and we can see this in the (rather conservative) shifts from the Code to the Directory to John Paul II to Francis.

Anyone “confused” by the pope’s comments has probably not kept up with the development of Church teaching in and since the Council, and is unaware of the even previously existing conditions (e.g., danger of death) that allowed a non-Catholic to receive communion from a Catholic minister.

What has changed with Pope Francis is that the ‘norm’ is now to take a more generous reading of the law – one in which the hermeneutic is mercy and the care of souls – rather than a rigorously constrained reading or a hermeneutic of triumphalism. This is possible without even offering a change in the law itself.

communion

Into the Desert

As I continue my research fellowship at Tantur, marveling at the amount of work one can do on a doctorate when one has normal access to a library and is not working four or five part time jobs, I have had some occasions to join the sabbatical program on a couple of their excursions.

For the last two days, we went into the desert: Qumran, Masada, floating the Dead Sea, overnight at Kibbutz Mash’abei Sadeh, Makhtesh HaGadol, and lunch with a family of Negev Beduin.

Qumran is the archaeological site between the Dead Sea and the caves on the eastern slopes of the Judean mountains, just over 20 km due east of Jerusalem as the Tristramit fly. Eleven of the scores of caves in the hills contained over 900 manuscripts dating about 2000 years old, most of which include what later became the canonical books of the Hebrew Bible (except Esther), leading to some connections between Qumran and the treasury of scrolls found in the caves, and this is what drives interest in Qumran, as it is, by itself, a fairly small archaeological site. The scriptural texts were a millennium older than the previous oldest surviving manuscripts, giving us a measure for the development over time, and the impressive consistency.

map-Qumran-spm-g-02

Masada is a desert fortress situated on a massive mesa 53km southeast of Jerusalem, towering over the Dead Sea. To say it is impressive is an understatement almost as massive. Linked with the Hasmonean Maccabee revolt in the mid-second century before Christ, it was developed on a grand scale under Herod the Great in the 30s and 20s B.C., and used again by the Sicarii, the Zealots, during the revolt against the Romans that resulted in the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D./C.E. It was during this conflict that the Romans besieged Masada, recounted to us by Flavius Josephus (who was not actually present). The remains of the roman siege can still be seen: several siege camps and a siege wall are still visible from high up in the fortress, as is a massive ramp built by the Romans to access the fortress from the desert floor without having to scramble up the narrow ‘snake path’ that lead to the front gate.

slide-static

Masada, Roman siege ramp on right

The Dead Sea probably needs little explanation, but it is hard to describe the feeling of getting in and feeling the seemingly unnatural buoyancy, owing to its 35% salinity. It is said that when Vespasian came to the Sea during the Roman-Jewish War in the late 60’s, he threw Jewish prisoners into the sea while bound to see if they really would float – and they did, despite being unable to swim. Then valuable for its salt, now the stuff piles up uselessly as the lake is process more for other minerals: bromides, potash, magnesium. More than 400 meters below sea level (at the surface) and another 300m deep, the salt lake is receding at a rate of one meter (about 3’6”) per year. This is dramatically seen when one comes across one of the spas built on the shore in the mid-1980s – now so far from the water that one has to take a shuttle to get from the spa to the lake. Surprising to me was how many tourists come to Israel simply to spend a week at the Dead Sea for its health benefits, never once spending anytime at the holy sites, exploring the cultural heritage, history, or even political situation of the land.

536-jordan_deadsea_drought_1985banner_imgjesseblatutis-foeme

We then spent the night at Kibbutz Mash’abei Sadeh. The kibbutzim are pretty well known around the world, but maybe only in a general sense. Years ago I remember talking with a group of friends about how we would love to have all the benefits of religious community life without the necessary obligations of living in single-sex communities or that the only state of life option would be vowed chastity. We had images of a large plot of land with cabins for privacy and a common space for joint activities, including a library, fencing gym, dojo, and common area for games and socializing. I do not think it occurred to any of us that we had described something that already existed in practice, so different did it seem than the usual expectation in the States of buying into your own private slice of life separate from everyone around you. This kibbutz is 66 years old, with about 200 members and another couple of hundred residents. Like most, there has been some accommodation to privatization, but education, health care, and culture remain communitarian. Everyone contributes their salary to the community fund, whether physician or janitor, and is given an equal stipend on top of the common needs being met.

A.J. in desert.jpg

Makhtesh HaGadol, in the Negev

The morning took us to what ought to be one of the natural wonders of the world. The Makhtesh HaGadol, or the large Makhtesh, is often referred to as a crater but is something altogether different. Where a crater is the result of an extraterrestrial impact or volcanic explosion, the Makhteshim are what happen when you erode the insides of a mountain out while leaving part of the shell behind. Ten kilometers long and five wide, the slopes of the original mountain are still visible, covered in limestone, while the soft sandstone middle has long since been eroded away. It is more than half a kilometer  drop from the top of the rim to the central basin below. In the quiet of the morning, under a hot sun and a cool breeze, we spent some time in quiet prayer and contemplation. Let the words of Elijah’s encounter with God shape our reflection:

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

We then went to the house of the ‘mayor’ of one of the Negev’s ‘unrecognizedBedouin communities, Kashem Zaneh, for discussion and lunch. The Bedouin are Arabs demarked by their nomadic desert life – the word itself (Arabic, badawi) derives from bada (desert) and simply means “those who dwell in the desert”. The people of Israel entire were badawi during the Exodus. Yet, the Bedouin of the Negev were often less nomadic than their counterparts in other deserts, the village we visited tracing its history back at least five centuries. Temporary construction marks the villages, not unlike some First Nations reservations I have seen in North America. Corrugated steel seems to be the construction material of choice, along with semi-permanent tents. It was a Bedouin goatherd who discovered the Dead Sea scrolls near Qumran.

Khashem Zaneh - Bedouin settlement 1.JPG

Kashem Zaneh, Bedouin village

 

Their political situation is tenuous – full Israeli citizens, and living outside of the Palestinian territories, but restricted to a zone around Be’er Sheva covering about 2% of their traditional range, the 100,000 or so Bedouin have to choose between living in one of about eight recognized communities, giving up their traditional life, or staying on their homeland with none of the benefits of the modern state. We were told the Israeli Education ministry spends as much on transporting the 700 Bedouin children from this village to school 15km away each year as it would cost to actually build a school on site – which is not done because it remains an unrecognized community.

TelBs015.jpg

The well at Tel Be’er Sheva – 2700 years old and 70 meters deep

Finally, we stopped at Tel Be’er Sheva, the archaeological site associated with the patriarch Abraham and his first settling in the promised land. A well remains that, though not old enough to be the original, dates back around 2,700 years. We first encounter Be’er Sheva (Beersheba) in Genesis 21, as the place of the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech, giving the place its name: the well of the covenant, or the well of the seven (the ewes Abraham offered to Abimelech to prove his ownership of the well).

Just a few lines beforehand, however, the first reference is attached ot one of the most significant moments in the Bible for contemporary Israeli-Arab relations. It is from here that Abraham sends away his concubine Hagar and her son Ishmael, who is destined to become the father of the Arab peoples, and the forefather of Mohamed, while Moses and Jesus both descended from the line of his half-brother Isaac.

The archaeological evidence shows habitation back to at least 4000 years before Christ, into the bronze age, an estimated 2200 years before Abraham. According to the Hebrew Bible, this is the southernmost city settles by the Israelites.

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