Jacob’s Ladder

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In the book of Genesis, Jacob dreams of a ladder set up on the earth with its top reaching the heavens. Upon this ladder, the angels of God ascended and descended, whilst at the very top the Lord stood proclaiming: “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac… and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen 28:13-14). On waking up, Jacob erected a pillar and called the name of that place Bethel, meaning the house of God and the gateway of heaven (Gen 28:17).

This is the same promise that God made to Abraham (Jacob’s grandfather), who showed great faith that God would give him a son, when both he and his wife Sarah were very old and beyond the age of childbearing (Rom 4:13-25).

We obtain some insight into this promise from the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. The evangelist Luke reports that Archangel Gabriel told the Virgin that her son the Messiah will “reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:33). The Theotokos, realising that this prophecy is fulfilled in her, expresses: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour… He has helped his servant Israel

[the name Jacob received later]… as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever” (Lk 1:46-47, 54-55).

In other words, the ladder which Jacob saw is symbolic of the Theotokos, by whom the Lord Jesus Christ would be born and through whom all people would be blessed forever. She became the link connecting heaven and earth, to make possible the condescension and incarnation of the Word of God and His ascension again as God-man. Furthermore, this vision seen by Jacob, and fulfilled in the Theotokos, is for all people – the spiritual Israel – who would believe in Christ. It continues to be fulfilled in our own days, since the house of God (Bethel) is none other than the Church – the gateway to heaven – leading all the faithful on the blessed path to the eternal heavenly kingdom.


Source: August-September 2014 Lychnos Edition