Sunday, 24 March 2013

Fig Monday

The next three days of Holy Week have traditional names, taken from incidents in the gospel accounts of Jesus' last week. Tuesday is known as Temple Tuesday, Wednesday as Spy Wednesday.

My favourite name, however, is tomorrow's. Holy Monday is also Fig Monday. The name comes from the account of Jesus cursing the fig tree. In Mark's account, the cursing of the fig tree 'frames' the story of Jesus' protest action in the Temple. Jesus attacks not the Temple as such - the sorry history of Christian anti-Semitism has sometimes led this point to be overlooked - nor even commercial transactions. Rather, this story needs to be read against the background of the Temple's role in the domination of Palestine under Roman occupation. Jesus' action (the context of which is unfolded brilliantly in Borg and Crossan's very readable The Last Week) is a statement against misusing the things of God to get power over other human beings. It is a statement that still needs to be heard today.

And figs? The sour figs are a symbol of an instituion (the Temple) which has become bitter, unfit for purpose. The cursing, and subsequent withering, of the fig tree are a warning to all of us trying to be the Church in the 21st century.

Now, why not have some figs for your pudding tomorrow? See here for a recipe.

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