"On the third day Abraham caught sight of the place from a distance. Abraham said to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over there. We will worship and then come back to you. ”So Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham. “Father!” he said. “Here I am,” he replied. Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” “My son,” Abraham answered, “God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.” Then the two walked on together.
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he bound* his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered.“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the angel. “Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.”Abraham looked up and saw a single ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son." Genesis 22:4-13
Mount Moriah was the site of this important happening where Abraham showed his faithfulness to God and gave us a glimpse of God's own Son taking the place of not only Isaac, but all of mankind. Moriah became a very important foundation in God's plan of Salvation.
A thousand years later, the city of Jerusalem and the temple mount was surrounded by a protective wall. The East Gate of the wall was built on the Mountain of Mount Moriah, the site of Abraham's sacrifice. The Eastern Gate was the closest entrance and exit to the Temple site. When looking at the Gate, the Southern portion of the Gate became known as the "Gate of Mercy" while the Northern portion of the Gate became known as the "Gate of Repentance". This is a powerful symbolism steeped into the historical approach through the Gate tied to the mystery of the Angel intercepting and stopping Abraham's sacrifice.
Place yourself in the time of King Solomon who built the first Temple during his 4th year of reign (966 BC). They went by the tradition handed down year after year going back to Moriah. This was very important to the Israelite. Mount Moriah sits in the middle of three mountains known as the "Zion" mountains. Jerusalem was built on this middle mountain called Moriah.
King David had placed Jerusalem as his Capital in 1003 BC and would last as a dynasty for 400 years when the Babylonians conquered the Jews. Jerusalem continues to stand at the center of Jewish spiritual life and also for Christians who holds to the foundation of God's plan in the New Testament.
The Israelite tradition holds that the Messiah will one day enter the city through the Eastern Gate. Strangely, this is why the Muslims when they held control of Jerusalem sealed the Gate. Their purpose was to prevent the Jewish Messiah from being able to enter through this Gate. I suppose the Muslims were not aware that Jesus can go through locked doors (John 20:19).
Originally, the gates were not only intended for safety if under an attack, but the gates were also a means to bless travelers coming and going. The walls were built for protection, that was their purpose. The Eastern Gate had a very important function. Ezekiel 44:1-3 states, "Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary facing east, but it was closed. The LORD said to me: This gate must remain closed; it must not be opened, and no one should come through it. Because the LORD, the God of Israel, came through it, it must remain closed. Only the prince may sit in it to eat a meal in the presence of the LORD; he must enter through the vestibule of the gate and leave the same way."
Whenever the Shekhinah Presence appeared the Lord would come through this Eastern Gate. Because of this, the masses of people did not ordinarily use this Gate, this was reserved for the Jewish High Priest and those within his company for the purpose of sending out the "Red Heifer" or the "scapegoat" on the "Day of Atonement".
Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year. This festival, the Day of Atonement took place shortly after the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah. To the Jews, this was known as the "Sabbath of Sabbaths" when God was petitioned for forgiveness. They would cry out to God for forgiveness.
The Eastern Gate is also called "The Golden Gate", remember that gold is a symbol of the purest of metals. Remember also this Gate is known as the "Gate of Mercy.. Ezekiel's vision of the temple foretells the coming of the Lord through the East Gate, this would happen following the violent purification of the land. The re-entry of God among the Congregation. The early Church began to recognize the Virgin Mary as this temple Gate because Jesus came into the world through her.
Something significant happens in March 2 BC as the Angel Gabriel appears to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
“In the sixth month (since the announcement of John the Baptist-October 2 B.C.), the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail Full of Grace, the Lord is with you. But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:26-22)
Mary's virgin pregnancy would initially be a problem with St, Joseph who was betrothed to Mary. The the Angel would also appear to Joseph is a dream:
"Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,* but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,* yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord* appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. Matthew 1:18
The Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception taking place December 8, 19 BC, Born on September 8, 18 BC making the coming Messiah a reality to fulfill prophecy and bring into light what God's real intention was with Abraham on Mount Moriah.
Joseph's dream was a great sign for St. Jochim and St. Anne, the parents of the Virgin Mary. Jesus was coming into the world. After the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary's Parents realizing the history of the Eastern Gate went to the location contemplating the Immaculate Conception, how wonderful it was that they were blessed to bring into the world the one who would crush the head of the serpent. They were blessed to have had the woman of Genesis 3:15:
"I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman (Mary), and between your offspring and hers (Jesus); They (Jesus and Mary) will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel."
John 2:17-21 presents an interesting addition identifying the East Gate with the Virgin Mary:
"His disciples recalled the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body."
How old was Jesus when He began His public Ministry? He was 30 years old with some change. The Jews challenging Jesus said the construction of the Temple was 46 years. What is 46 minus 30? 16! How old was the Virgin Mary when she gave birth to Jesus? 16!
By 20-19 BC, in the 18th year of King Herod's reign, he began renovation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the expansion of the Temple Mount towards the North. This effort for the Temple took a year and a half to complete while it took 80 more years to finish out-buildings and courts.
Herod suffered from a painful putrefying illness that was simply called "Herod's Evil" because he was evil. During the hot summers King Herod would go to Jericho where it would not be as hot. The point I am making is that September was a better time for Herod to oversee the work on the Temple Mount, precisely at the time of the Virgin Mary's birth. That is too uncanny! The walls to include the Eastern Gate was created a flat platform upon which the Temple was constructed. Remember that it is the Eastern Gate that was closest to the Temple and the area that only the King or High Priest would pass through!
Joseph's dream was a confirmation of the holiness of the life of the Virgin. It was through the Eastern Gate that Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday:
When they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find an ass tethered, and a colt with her.* Untie them and bring them here to me. And if anyone should say anything to you, reply, ‘The master has need of them.’ Then he will send them at once. This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
“Say to daughter Zion,
‘Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them, and he sat upon them. The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying:
“Hosanna* to the Son of David;
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”
And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken* and asked, “Who is this?”And the crowds replied, “This is Jesus the prophet,* from Nazareth in Galilee.” Matthew 21:1-11
The Virgin Mary was the means that Christ came into the world who would ultimately come to take the place of Isaac, to take our place.
With St. Jochim and Anne, we too can ponder on the life of Mary who personified purity and chastity. It was from this basis that Pope St. John Paul II utilized the symbolism of the Eastern Gate in his reflection on his "Theology of the body". Crossing the Threshold of Hope was the Pope's writing of his concern of the growth of Secularism and materialism. By 1998, the world was seen spiraling down into darkness. To understand the gate that bridges between the earthly and heavenly realms are symbolic of that Eastern Gate. The Theology of the body in the Pope's mind represented the mystical Body of the Church, the Bride of Christ.
The East Gate of the temple from ancient times of the Church would be seen as a type of Mary, the Tabernacle of God. In Christian tradition, the east symbolized the Resurrection and ultimately the Lord's Second Coming. That is why traditionally, our Sanctuaries and Altars are set up with the honoring the east in mind. When Jesus does return, I do not think the Muslims will be able to prevent Jesus from coming through the Eastern Gate.
Our Lady of the Gate at Dawn, pray for us!