Jerusalem in Christianity

Extracts from the Memorandum Of Their Beatitudes The Patriarchs

And Of The Heads Of The Christian Communities In Jerusalem

On The Significance Of Jerusalem For Christians

November 14, 1994

 

Preamble 1.

On Monday, the 14th of November 1994, the heads of the Christian Communities in Jerusalem met in solemn conclave to discuss the status of the holy city and the situation of Christians there, at the conclusion of which, they issued the following declaration:

The Christian Vision of Jerusalem

6. Through a prayerful reading of the Bible, Christians recognize in faith that the long history of the people of God, with Jerusalem at its center; is the history of salvation which fulfils God’s design in and through Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. The one God has chosen Jerusalem to be the place where His name alone will dwell in the midst of His people so that they may offer to Him acceptable worship. The prophets look up to Jerusalem, especially after the purification of the exile: Jerusalem will be called “the city of justice, faithful city (Is 1,26.27) where the Lord dwells in holiness as in Sinai (cf PS 68,18). The Lord will place the city in the middle of the nations (Ez 5,5), where the Second Temple will become a house of prayer for all peoples (Is 2,2, 56,6-7). Jerusalem, aglow with the presence of God (Is 60,1), ought to be a city whose gates are always open (Is, 11), with Peace as magistrate and Justice as government. (Is, 17).

In the vision of their faith, Christians believe the Jerusalem of the Prophets to be the foreseen place of the salvation in and through Jesus Christ. In the Gospels, Jerusalem rejects the Sent-One, the Savior; and He weeps over it because this city of the prophets that is also the city of the essential salvific events – the death and resurrection of Jesus – has completely lost sight of the path to peace (cf Lk 19,42).

In the Acts of theApostles, Jerusalem is the place of the gift of the Spirit, of the birth of the Church (2), the community of the disciples of Jesus who are to be His witnesses not only in Jerusalem but even the ends of the earth (1,8). In Jerusalem, the first Christian community incarnated the ecclesiastical ideal, and thus it remains a continuing reference point. The Book of Revelations proclaims the anticipation of the new heavenly Jerusalem (3.12, 21,2 cf Gal 4,26: Heb 12,22). This holy city is the image of the new creation and the aspirations of all peoples, where God will wipe away all tears, and “them shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away” (21,4).

7. The earthly Jerusalem, in the Christian tradition, prefigures the heavenly Jerusalem as “the vision of peace.” In the Liturgy, the Church itself receives the name of Jerusalem and relives all of that city’s anguish, joys and hopes. Furthermore, during the first centuries the liturgy of Jerusalem became the foundation of all liturgies everywhere, and later deeply influence the development of diverse liturgical traditions, because of the many pilgrimages to Jerusalem and of the symbolic meaning of the Holy City.

8. The pilgrimages slowly developed an understanding of the need to unify the sanctification of space through celebrations at the Holy Place with the sanctification in time through the calendared celebrations of the holy events of salvation (Egeria, Cyril of Jerusalem). Jerusalem soon occupied a unique place in the heart of Christianity everywhere. A theology and spirituality of pilgrimage developed. It was an ascetic time of biblical refreshment at the sources, a time of testing during which Christians recalled that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth (cf Heb. 11,13), and that their personal and community vocation always and everywhere, is to take up the cross and follow Jesus.

The Continuing Presence of a Christian Community

9. For Christianity, Jerusalem is the place of roots, ever living and nourishing. In Jerusalem is born every Christian. To be in Jerusalem is for every Christian to be at home. For almost two thousand years, through so many hardships and the succession of so many powers, the local Church with its faithful has always been actively present in Jerusalem. Across the centuries, the local Church has been witnessing to the life and preaching, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ upon the same Holy places, and its faithful have been receiving other brothers and sisters in the faith, as pilgrims, resident or in transit, inviting them to be reimmersed into the refreshing, ever living ecclesiastical sources. That continuing presence of a living Christian community is inseparable from the historical sites. Through the “living stones” the holy archaeological sites lake on “life.”

10. The significance of Jerusalem for Christians thus has two inseparable fundamental dimensions:

1) a Holy City with holy places most precious to Christians because of their link with the history of salvation fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ;

2) a city with a community of Christians which as been living continual there since its origins. Thus for the local Christians, as well as for local Jews and Moslems, Jerusalem is not only a Holy City; but also their native city where they live, whence their right to continue to live there freely, with all the rights which obtain from that.

Conclusion

Jerusalem is a symbol and a promise of the presence of God, of fraternity and peace for humankind, in particular for the children of Abraham: Jews, Christians and Muslims. We call upon all parties concerned to comprehend and accept the nature and deep significance of Jerusalem, the City of God. None can appropriate it in exclusivist ways. We invite each party to go beyond all exclusivist visions or actions, and without discrimination, to consider the religious and national aspirations of others, in order to give back to Jerusalem its true universal character and to make of the city a holy place of reconciliation for humankind.

Signed by Greek Orthodon Patriarch, Latin Patriarch, Armenian Patriarch, Custos or the Holy Land, Coptic Archbishop, Syriac Archbishop, Ethiopian Archbishop, Anglican Bishop, Greek-Cath. Patriarc. Vicar, Lutheran Bishop, Maronite Patriarchal Vicar, Cath. Syriac Patriarc.Vicar,

Jerusalem, Nov. 14, 1994

Christian Prayer from the 16th Century (1993 version)

O mother dear, Jerusalem, when shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end, thy joys when shall I see?
O happy harbor of the saints! O sweet and pleasant soil!
In thee no sorrow may be found, no grief, no care, no toil.

No murky cloud o’ershadows thee, nor gloom, nor darksome night;
but every soul shines as the sun, for God Himself gives light.
there lust and lucre cannot dwell, there envy bears no sway;
there is no hunger, heat, nor cold, but pleasure every way.

Thy gardens and thy gallant walks continually are green;
there grow such sweet and pleasant flow’rs, as nowhere else are seen;
quite through the streets, with silver sound, the flood of life doth flow,
upon whose banks on every side, the wood of life doth grow.

There trees forevermore bear fruit, and evermore do spring,
there evermore the angels sit, and evermore do sing.
Jerusalem, my happy home, would God I were in thee!
Would God my woes were at an end, thy joys that I might see!