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Three times amen

This post is an edited version of a comment I posted on sacrilege in the Eastern Church — history it seems is replete with similar instances across all traditions and eras.

In the Jewish tradition, the celebrated 15th century commentator Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro recounts how Apostmos the wicked burnt the Hebrew Tanakh in the Second Temple grounds. The burnt scroll was believed to have been the work of Ezra, who along with Moses, Enoch and David holds the honorific title of “scribe” in the Jewish tradition. This sacrilegious act had serious implications — all other scrolls in the Temple were copied from the Ezra scroll — clearly this was an attempt to uproot Jewish faith and tradition.

Many high profile instances of spiritual wickedness are recorded in the Bible — King Manasseh rebuilt the high places of idol worship in the First Temple that his father Hezekiah had destroyed (cf. 2 Kings 21:3). Later, the king returned to the Lord but by the first century CE, Judaism had new enemies, as the Jewish historian Josephus writes:

“But on the fourth day of the feast (Passover), a certain soldier let down his breeches, and exposed his privy members to the multitude, which put those that saw him into a furious rage, and made them cry out that this impious action was not done to approach them, but God himself [….] So instead of a festival, they had at last a mournful day of it; and they all of them forgot their prayers and sacrifices, and betook themselves to lamentation and weeping; so great an affliction did the impudent obscenity of a single soldier bring upon them.

(Antiquities of the Jews, Book 10, Chapter 5).

Our relationship with God can be something of a dilemma, as Rabbi Friedman recounts in his cold soup narrative. The Lord is with His people  one moment, but seems very far away the next. The would be history makers and power brokers are always locked in some struggle waged against something or the other but the Lord — blessed be He — comes on a day entirely of His own choosing.

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