Opening the Word: New Jerusalem

It would be difficult to overstate the significance of Jerusalem — as a city, a concept and a symbolic ideal — in both the Old and New Testaments. With the rise of King David and the establishment of his kingdom, Jerusalem became a central symbol of God’s presence and rule on earth.  

Often referred to as Zion, Jerusalem was the home of the Ark of the Covenant and of the Temple. “Yes the Lord has chosen Zion, desired it for a dwelling: ‘This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I desire it’” (Ps 132:13-14).  

This connection between Jerusalem and God dwelling on earth was transformed and fulfilled in a radical way by the Incarnation: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” wrote St. John, “and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). That verse is a helpful point of connection for reflecting on today’s readings, which refer to the kingdom of God, the new Jerusalem, God dwelling with the human race and the glorification of the Son.  

Why did God become man? To redeem man and save him from his sins, to bridge the chasm between earth and heaven, and to give men the “power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12). These all are key aspects of the kingdom of God, which Christ preached and which the apostles proclaimed as “good news” in cities, synagogues and public places.  

In his great discourse, after Judas fled the Upper Room, Jesus told the disciples, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God glorified in him.” Many of the Church Fathers remarked that since the second Person of the Trinity is fully God, he cannot be glorified or exalted anymore than he already is in his divine nature. Rather, the human nature, which was perfectly united with the divine nature, was gloried through the Passion and Resurrection. “God shall also glorify him in himself,” wrote St. Augustine, “so that the human nature that was assumed by the eternal Word shall also be endowed with eternity.” The Catechism states, “After his Resurrection, Jesus’ divine sonship becomes manifest in the power of his glorified humanity” (No. 445). 

This glorification opened the way for the lived reality of the new covenant, established in the blood of the crucified Lamb. John the Revelator witnessed a Lamb in the throne room of heaven “that seemed to have been slain.” (Rv 5:6). Once mocked and murdered, he is now triumphant and expectant. He awaits his bride, the Church. “Christ loves the Church as his bride,” declares the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ( Lumen Gentium) , “having become the model of a man loving his wife as his body; the Church, indeed, is subject to its head” (Nos. 7, 14). Having died for her, the Bridegroom waits to bring her to completion, fulfillment and glory.  

Which brings us to John’s glorious vision in Revelation 21 of a new heaven, a new earth and a new Jerusalem. The term “new Jerusalem” appears just twice in Scripture (Rv 3:12; 21:2), but the concept is evident in passages such as Isaiah 62. Jerusalem “shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the Lord” and “as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you” (Is 62:2,5). The new Jerusalem is the new covenant realized, the new creation revealed. It is the people of God in the very presence of God. Behold, he makes all things new.  

Carl E. Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com.