“New Years, New Prospects” by Protopresbyter Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel
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MEMRA – WORDS, Meaning And Faith
A new 2018-19 series of articles shared on the roots and the prospects that unite Eastern and Oriental Oxthodox Traditions to the realm of Jewishness and Hassidism,
Compared semantics and exegetical “paysages” by archpriest Alexander A. Winogradsky Frenkel (Patriarchate of Jerusalem). Below the first article :
“New Years, New Prospects”

One more year! I always wear two watches. That was the first article I could publish in my Jerusalem Post blog some years ago. Two watches because on the left hand, the “Jewish Watch” shows the Hebrew calendar date, the time for the Jewish prayers, blessings and reading portions (parashyot/פרשיות ) and the Gregorian date + the time in Jerusalem. On the right wrist, the watch shows the Julian calendar date plus the time as it is in Jordan, Palestine, especially in Summer, because the Patriarchate of Jerusalem never switch to Summer time. People usually do not pay attention to the fact that the Jewish Orthodox time does not change and correspond to that measure of our Patriarchate. Let’s say we are united beyond any sort of “conscious awareness”. On September 17 (Gregorian cal.)/04 (Julian cal.), 2018, the Jewish communities are on Tishrei 8, 5779 [eighth day of New Year 5779] and the Muslims on Muharram 7, 1440 [seventh day of New Hijra Year 1440].

Yom HaKippurim/יום הכיפורים is undoubtedly the major Jewish Feast. It is a day of atonement, of pardon. On that day, each Jew should pray to be released by God from all his sins reckoned in different categories of 37 supplications. The feast is rooted in the Sumerian tradition and Ugarit “Kipuru”, a sort of “ransom” that wipes out, eradicates and suppresses all sins, transgressions that a human being may commit in so various ways, considering that it goes far beyond any conscience, consciousness, awareness or soft, light, deep, profound absence or desire to get aware of the sins that were committed. .

This is why introspection joined to our capacity to analyze misdeeds make us real “human and humane beings”. In the course of history, pardon and forgiveness have been a vivid sign that Jews were always driven, not “compelled, to forgive their feuds. On the other hand, there is a real difference with the position of the Gentiles. Judaism is basically “positive” and “oriented to life, life-giving, birthing”. It is strange to note that the only language in which we can track back the heart of the Kippur or Day of Atonement is the Prayer of the Lord in Greek only; whereas only in this tongue is kept the move that we as humans firstly ought to pardon our fellowmen and other humans. Consequently, God can pardon us. This is at the core of  the Eucharistic move because it is at the original point of Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is the “soul”, the day of some full tending to real consciousness of our sins. Many rabbis insist at the present that we seemingly come back to some idol conduct that led to the destruction of the First Temple. In 2018/5779, the Day of Atonement will commence on September 18 at night and end 25 hours later, as three stars will be seen in the sky.

On the other hand, in Jerusalem, there is a second “Temple”, the Church of the resurrection or Anastasis, usually called “Holy Sepulcher” in the Western tradition. In the Anastasis, we celebrate the whole of the time of redemption according to the Christian faith: the mocking, crucifixion, sleeping into the death and resurrection of Jesus whom we call Christ or Messiah. The Tomb is empty. The destruction of Jesus on the Cross corresponds to his words that he would be “rebuilt in three days” as compared to what happened to the Mikdash – מקדש/Temple of Jerusalem.

Christian cannot prove that Jesus resurrected from the dead. It is given as a free gift in the Holy Spirit and to whom the Heavenly Father wants to reveal such an eschatologic reality. .

There are two major places of redemption in Jerusalem: The Temple located on the Temple Mount and the Anastasis. Both places, inhabited by the Divine Presence, face the mystery of “life and hope beyond hope”. With regards to the Temple of Jerusalem, the Jews have been praying over two thousand years with the certitude to see the Temple raise from ashes. It means that both Judaism and Christianity look ahead to Divine coming and full revelation. There is a sort of “equality” that neither the Jews nor the Christians would agree upon; “in the scope of “redemption”, fulfillment of plenitude, “pleroma” seems to belong to one or another group by a system of intellectual and rational/irrational exclusion.

Redemption came to maturity with God’s naming at mount Sinai: “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh/אהיה אשר אהיה that seemingly should be translated as “I am Who I am” (Exodus 3:14). These are the words or the Name that God gave to Moses. True, the Name introduces to a move, movement toward something and Someone Who is moving ahead and grow into a specific realm.

For the rabbinic tradition, the verse and Name of God should not be translated as a “stiff” phrase. Hebrew is thus in un-achieved tense. It opens to the future. The Name of God calls to a certain move, not to stay put. Indeed, the verse should be translated as follows: “I am going to be Who I shall/will be going to be (on a perpetual basis)”. In some specific way we should say that God, the Divine Presence is “coming out, showing up and out into the world, this and the other worlds”, constantly, permanently. The move never stops. Jesus goes forth on the same line and path. His way is to be on a move that includes constant changing in one’s life. It is quite significant that the Greek deacon utters “Dynamis” before the reading of the Scripture because it calls to this move that develops in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Let’s have a look at the Gospel: Saint Mark’s account (8:27-35), includes the faith expressed by Saint Peter at Caesarea, six days before the occurrence of the Transfiguration. This definitely corresponds to the Feast of the Tents (Mark 9:2 ss.; cf. Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9: 28-36).

In the text, Jesus firstly asks: “For the people, who am I?”; we should consider that the question focuses on God and Divine recognition. The question corresponds to interrogating the Presence or existence of more than “human, humane”. The question is comparable to the expression “Mi El kamocha = מי אל כמוכה – Who is a God like You”.

Based upon the tradition of Saint Matthew, Jesus questions his disciples six (6) days before the feast of the Tents (Booths, Tabernacles, Huts), which means that he interrogates Peter (Shimon Kaipha) about himself AND God no the very Day of Atonement, i.e. six days before the eschatological feast of Sukkot/Tents. The feast refers to this constant move toward the full revelation of God and His redeeming action.

It should be noted that Jesus does not question the disciple in Jerusalem, or inside of the Temple of Jerusalem. Nor does he ask Peter on mount Garizim where he had spoken with the Samaritan woman. The confession of Peter will be uttered on the day of Atonement or Yom HaKippurim (יום הכפורים ) that mark a turning back to God, to our fellow human people in order to open up a new year of life and blessings.

The scene takes place at Banyas (Panias, Banias, the place of pagan god Pan who had goat feet and had been victorious over the powers of evil, a bit like the slaughtering of the Baalim by Prophet Elijah on the coast). We know the town as Caesarea Philippi, but Jesus had stopped outside of the pagan location. It is possible to say that there is one of the most ancient pagan site, a source that flows down through Jordan River from the borders of the Golan.

Pan is the only Greek and pagan god to be submitted to death; he supposedly died. There is some confusion between Pan and Tamuz and he is a typical example of pagan eros.

Jesus, on that specific day of Atonement, is not submitting himself to some odd poll. He is interrogated about his identity. Thus, Peter’s response is unique and a part of the Kippur questioning for life: Shimon Peter says: “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God”. It means that God cannot die. God is not a puppet or a statue or a Pan-like idol. Jesus is the “Son of Man = his complex affiliation is related to messianic views, salvation,  i.e. redemption of the whole universe”.

The meaning of the text is clear in the Gospel after Matthew 16:16:

“Jesus declared: but who do you say I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said to him: “You are Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus answered and said to him: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Yonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter (Kaypha) and on this rock, I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

“Kaypha/כיפא” means “stone, rock” in Aramaic. In an environment of death and judgement (Banias), paganism and death are called to be destroyed. Peter make the confession of God to Jesus in Banias and still Jesus tracks back to history and tradition. How come that there was a first “Shimon Bar Yonah” in the Book of Baruch Ben Sirach 50:1 : “It was Shimon Bar Onias (Yonah) the High Priest, who, during his life, repaired the House (Temple, after the return from Babylon) and during his days strengthened the Sanctuary” (Siracide 50:1).

This is what had happened when the Jewish people came back from deportation in Babel. Siracide 50:16-20 continues and describes the scene: while the levites were singing, the people were gathered to pray and supplicate to God. Then (Shimon bar Yonah) waved up his hands over the whole assembly of the children of Israel in order to give them the blessing and have the honor to pronounce His Name.” (cf. Talmud Yoma 3,8). This is the order of pronouncing the Holy Name of God, the Shem HaMeforash/שם המפורש that only could be uttered once a year on the day of Atonement. In the afternoon of the Yom Kippur, the cantor/hazan reads the account of this rite. It climaxes with the Name and the forgiving action of the life-giving God.

The building pf the Church relies on a man, a mortal one, Kaypha. It would be useless to discuss here the notion of “Church creation and/or launching”. In Hebrew tradition, disciples follow a spiritual guide; the creation of a separate new Body would be in contradiction with the profound hope and longing of the Jewish call to unite all the Universe, i.e. to assemble Jews and Non-Jews (Gentes, Gentiles) into ONE SINGLE UNIQUE BODY.

We deal here with Eucharist and this is why we would not any longer about the Church. But Israel remains and always has remained the only Divine Assembly and One Jerusalem Church that spread over the continents.

Moreover, we see the connection and definitely not a disrupture between the naming of Simon Bar Yonah confessing the Messiah in Jesus and the parallel situation in the Scripture when the Temple services started again after the return from Babylon.

Jesus said to Peter that he would be given the keys to tie or to loose, to bind or to release. This refers to the Day Of Atonement as a joyous day of forgiveness and proclamation of God’s reign over the whole of the creation. This implies that there cannot be any split, breach, but constant moves and search for unity.

But there is another Kaypha at the time of Jesus’ trial: the High Priest who also made the statement in the form of a question; the question is someway quite similar to the confession of Peter. Jesus had asked his disciples about “who the people say about him”. High Priest Kaypha asked Jesus: “Do you answer nothing? What is it that these men testify against you? (that he could destroy and rise the Temple in three days)”. Jesus kept silent. And Kaypha added: “I adjure you by the living God that you tell us of Christ the Son of the living God”. The High Priest “adjures” and reverses the confession made by the disciple, Peter.

Note that Peter is also “Kaypha”. it should be his “usual first name” along with “Shimon”. Curiously, both Kaypha-Peter-Shimon Bar Yonas the disciple of Jesus and Kaypha the High Priest of the Jewish Community are at the same level, same stand and equal. Both will reject Jesus as Messiah/Christ. Peter’s institution as the first of the Apostles is to be found in the Gospel of Saint John 21:15-19. The chapter had been added quite lately to assure Peter’s first “rank”. On the hand, it is important to take good note of the value of names and Peter is fundamentally tracking back to the “rock”.

Jesus’ silence to High Priest Kaypha’s questioning or the disciple Peter who confesses God in the Messiah testify for his full “control” of history and redemption in the Name of his heavenly Father. Redemption develops in accordance with a special pattern and schedule: Judas’ corruption, but also Peter’s rejection and denial of his guide and Messiah.

The day of Atonement does not only relate to “sins and pardon, trespasses and Divine forgiving”. What pardon? Why should we reconcile and why God should grant His pardon to peoples who are so slow and reluctant to really wiping out of any enmity. Let’s be honest and consider the way we sketch out our faith in God: by mere exclusion and suspicion. God never proposes redemption at such a low level. Disciple Peter, Kaypha the “rock”, so similar to the high priest Shimon Bar Yonas (Siracide 50) at the outcry of the cock/rooster who crowed three times! It is the first morning blessing recited by the Jews; it was by the time of Jesus and it is still the first prayer because the cock is “automatically conscious” of “day-time”, while human beings prefer to judge and not to agree or follow God’s proposals.It is amazing that the blessing “Blessed are You, Lord, Lord of the Universe / Who gives understanding to the cock to distinguish between day and night – ב’ א’ ה’ א’ מ’ ה’ הנותן לשכוי בינה להבחין בין יום ובין לילה .

Forgiveness makes sense if the entire universe is granted salvation and redemption. When the rooster crows, the animal systematically switches and clicks to day-time. There are no automatics with faith in God.  Faith leads to full confidence and inner feelings toward Divine Presence.

Each time the Eucharist is celebrated, the Church proclaims pardon and resurrection, forgiveness and Divine Presence over the whole of the universe. Thus Yom Kippur is essential for the Christians. The Day refers to the propitiatory character of Jesus’ sacrifice, cf. God’s righteousness through faith in the Epistle to the Romans (3:21-25).

It is the real call to unity for the sake and because of the plerome of redemption.

Protopresbyter Alexander Winogradsky Frenkel (Patriarchate of Jerusalem)

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About the Author

Jivko Panev

Jivko Panev

Jivko Panev, maître de conférence en Droit canon et Histoire des Églises locales à l’Institut de théologie orthodoxe Saint Serge à Paris, recteur de la paroisse Notre Dame Souveraine, à Chaville en banlieue parisienne.

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