AT NIGHT HE STAYED ON THE MOUNTAIN
(Friday, December 8 )
“And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed (ηὐλίζετο, was lodging) on the mountain called Olivet (Ἐλαιῶν).” (Lk 21:37)
This first verse of today’s Gospel-reading, quoted above, may not seem too interesting or significant to many readers, but it struck me this morning for personal reasons. I lived for two years on “the mountain called Olivet,” – not exactly in the place where our Lord was camping out under the stars, (as commentators surmise from the way this is expressed in Greek), which was probably in the garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives. I lived higher up on this mountain, and slept not under the stars but in a bed, inside a simple but comfortable monastic cell. It wasn’t always safe, because the locals twice infiltrated our convent: our abbess was attacked once by a man with a gun, who came into her cell at night and shot at her (but he missed, because she fought him off with scissors and he ran away), and an elderly nun was attacked in the building where I lived, by another man who attacked her with a knife, demanding money. She was wounded but survived.
Anyway, although I never thought about this specific factoid at that time, today it strikes me that ca. two millennia before I was there, the Son of God was actually, in the flesh, staying for about five nights not far from where I lived. Unlike me and the rest of the nuns at the Convent of the Ascension, He had no room or bed, just like in Bethlehem when He was born to a Virgin, neither He nor His mother had a room or bed.
So, our Lord shared our space, – a space so very contested today, – in an extremely unimposing and unassuming manner. The incarnate Son of God never sought to buy or conquer any plot of land for Himself or His disciples; nor did He build for Himself a house or even a synagogue or church, (although we presume He learned carpentry from Joseph, so He could build stuff).
While acquiring land *was* an important thing for the people of the “Old” Covenant, in the Era of the Church, *we* are not taught or shown by our Lord that acquiring land for ourselves is a Christian priority. “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another,” He says to us (Mt 10:23). Nonetheless, we sadly have, and still do, fight one another for territories, – both in the church-administrative sense, when hierarchs assert their “canonical” territories, and in the military sense, when we fight or support military invasions of sovereign states, like the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, and more recently of Israel on October 7. “Land!” “From the river to the sea!” – some of us get riled up about that, like it is worth killing for; like it justifies raping and mutilating and taking hostage hundreds of innocent people, and then using thousands of more innocent people as human shields, to escape justice for unleashing this chaos.
What kind of land *does* our Lord promise us, and how are we to attain it? “Blessed are the meek,” He says, “for they shall inherit the earth.” While *I* can’t change the tragic fact that human beings continue to be willing to kill, rape, etc., for land, *I* can embrace peace within myself, through communion with our meek and humble-in-heart Lord. He sends me *everything* today, everything I need, like my little corner of the earth, the apartment and the roof over my head. And today I find peace in gratitude, rather than endlessly wanting *more*. Would I defend myself, were I to be attacked with a knife or a gun, as was my abbess? I would, if I could. Lord, bless us by Your meekness today, and grant us peace and victory over the chaos, if or when we need to defend ourselves. May Your light shine in our darkness now and always!