A Journey to the Land of Jesus
August 28, 2008
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On the third evening of our trip to the Holy Land, I went to a lecture in the Olive Tree Hotel titled “Galilee in the Time of Jesus” and given by a young American who has lived in Israel for a number of years. He had gone on a pilgrimage to see the land of Jesus, decided a short trip wasn’t enough, and went back for several months of study. He is still living there years later, now speaking to pilgrims.
Our teacher mentioned that we can be moved by the Scriptures anywhere in the world and be good Christians, but seeing the places where Jesus lived and taught enables us to see the Bible in three dimensions (like going from watching television in black and white to color, or even high definition!). I found this to be very true. It was very moving seeing the same mountains, lakes, and rivers that Jesus saw, to walk on roads that he traveled, to be in places where he was born, lived, taught, and died.
Being with a wonderful group of pilgrims, enjoying meals and bus rides, and traveling together in a journey of faith made all the difference. The highlight for me each day was the great privilege of celebrating Eucharist at these holy sites with our group of pilgrims. We always celebrated the Mass of the place (for example, Mass of Christmas Day in Bethlehem). We went through the mysteries of the liturgical year in the places where they occurred.
Another beautiful and moving element was the great faith so evident in these holy places. First, there was the faith of pilgrims from all over the world, who were reading Scriptures, praying, and reverently visiting these sites. We saw people from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
Second, I noticed the faith expressed in the beautiful art and architecture. Many beautiful works of art (paintings, sculpture, mosaics, icons, etc.) expressed very powerfully the sacred events that unfolded at each location. Many of the churches, so elegantly yet simply designed, were wonderful sacred realms for prayer, meditation, and liturgy. They lifted the soul to God.
Finally, the faith of centuries of Christians who have handed on the memories of where these holy events took place. Many sites have a current church built over crusader churches from the centuries past, over churches built in the time of Constantine, over ruins from the first century. Through all of those centuries of destruction and rebuilding, Christians handed on these memories from generation to generation.
Some memories I will carry with me for a lifetime: being at the empty tomb of Jesus, standing on the Sea of Galilee where the Risen Lord appeared, celebrating Mass at the Church of the Visitation early in the morning, touching the Western wall in communion with our Jewish brothers and sisters, standing on the Mount of Transfiguration. Now I see the Bible in color, maybe even high definition!
Rev. Mark Beckman lives in Franklin, Tennessee U.S.A.