When Jacob settles his debate with Laban, there is a surprising reciprocity in their deal. (His father in law, Laban cheated him by keeping him as his worker for twenty years, he had to marry both of Laban’s daughters, and was not paid the agreed sum for his work.) They are mirroring each other: ‘Come now, let us make a covenant, you and I… And they collected stones and they made a heap; and they ate on the heap. And Laban called it ‘’Heap of Witness”, and Jacob called it ‘Witness Heap.’’… I do not cross over to you, nor you cross over to me, across this heap and this pillar, for evil intent, the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor will judge between us.’ Goodness keeps in bay competitive and harming human intentions. God’s presence keeps the balance and make the covenant work.
This is a good model of how human history should be cultivated and safeguarded. Peace is preserved if the goodness on both sides are mirrored and not the ‘dark side’ of human nature. That would leave to war, inevitably.
That’s why it is so painful to read the description of the apocalypse at the end of times. The passage from Matthew’s Gospel is an apt model of when the above ‘mirroring of goodness’ fatally breaks down. On the scale of human history, this is an apocalypse created by the darkened human heart. We can see what happens when our dark side is mirrored on a monumental scale. ‘For one nation will rise up against another, and one kingdom against the another; … Then they’ll hand you over to affliction, and they’ll kill you, and you’ll be hated by all the Gentiles because of my name.’
Christians will be part of that great drama of hatred, being caught up in this final inferno of the human heart of which God is evacuated. It is not accidental that in Jesus’ prophecy, the apocalypse starts with the destruction of the Temple. ‘I tell you, no stone will be left on another stone here that will not be destroyed.’
The Temple, just as our churches today, is the mirror, which alone can show, bring forth, and magnify the goodness in the human being. This is a ‘place’, a Presence, which alone can keep in bay our evil intentions (also on a historical scale.) When God is expelled from this mirror - humanity, literally, is in free fall. The artificial spaces we created (internet, cyber-spaces, artificial intelligence, virtual transactions) will never show us our truer self… but let our dark side freely come to surface and be totalised. Thus becomes the totalised modern self becomes the eraser of God.
When God is erased, peace is erased, and all what is entailed.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..