Today we conclude our pilgrmiage to the Holy Land. The scedule is light as all of us are fatigued from a wonderful and busy pilgrimage. Tomorrow we have Mass at 5:00 AM at the Holy Sepulcher and then return to Notre Dame Center to pack and take our bus to Televie for our three hour flight back to Rome. When we arrived in the Holy Land, we lost an hour, but when we visited Bethlehem we gained it back for a few hours, but Saturday night all of Europe and the Holy Land went back to standard time and so we gained an hour but when we return to Rome we lose that hour.
I have to say that Jerusalem has been a favorite of mine. I liked our experiences in Galilee, Nazareth and the vicinities around there. Of course most of the places that are significant to our Lord have long sense been built over, torn down, buried, built again and so on. Most have basilicas or churches over the site to memorialize where our Lord preached. Thus it is with Jerusalem. Almost every significant site has a huge basilica built over it. These are owned or operated either by the Greek Orthodox Church or the Catholic Church.
In fact, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the Franciscans of the Holy Land who have done a marvelous ministry of maintaining the sites entrusted to them. Our Holy Land collection on Good Friday is quite important to them. I have a new sense of what this money does here.
While being in the Holy land has given form to my imagination of what it was like here during the time of Jesus as I have heard the Gospels proclaimed at Mass all my life, the one thing that I really appreciate about our Catholic Faith is that the Mass, both major parts of it, The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist make present our Lord. Of course in the Liturgy of the Eucharist we enter into the one Sacrifice of Calvary in a timeless, eternal way. No matter where we are, we are there in the Mass. The Eucharistic Banquet following the Sacrifice of our Lord, now in an unbloody way, allows us to receive our Glorified and Risen Lord, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity as we strive to do so worthily, with our sins forgiven and not conscious of any mortal sins that need our Lord to forgive us in the Sacrament of Penance.
But we are there in the Holy Land in an eternal and timeless way when we heard the Scriptures proclaimed at Mass. This truth has been magnified for me. While it is a great blessing to actually be here, only a minority of us Christians do come to the Holy Land in a physical way as I have had the blessing to do. But all of us are in the Holy Land when we hear the Scriptures, especially the Gospel, proclaimed at Mass. We are there in a timeless and eternal way and we should allow our spiritual imagination to form images of what it was like during the time of Jesus.
So while I never was in the Holy Land until now, I always have been in the Holy Land through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the other liturgies and devotions of the Church that contain the words of Sacred Scriptures.
Below you will see the Eastern Wall of the Jerusalem old wall and two gates that have been blocked centuries ago by the Muslims with graves placed in front of it. Jews believe that when the Messiah comes he will come through these gates and the dead shall rise from their tombs. The Muslims when they gained control of the Holy Land in an act of spite, closed the gates with stones and placed graves in front of it for they knew that no good Jew would enter a place with graves, so this would prevent the Messiah from using these gates. But the Jews and we Christians know that nothing could stop the Messiah, not even blocking the gates and closing them in. The reason for all the graves in front of this area is that the Jews who wanted to be buried here wanted the best place to rise from their graves. Makes sense to me. Will the Second Coming of the Messiah be here. I believe it will be here.
The inside photos are of the Upper Room where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper and where the Blessed Mother and the Apostles gathered for the Pentecost event.
The camel photos are Holy Land props for tourists.
One can be a tourist or a pilgrim here or a combination of both. I've taken pictures while here, but I hate doing so. I think it would be wise to ban photography inside these shrines and to make the experience truly religious or spiritual. We tend today to act more like tourists rather than pilgrims and that is a shame.