I must first say that today started with a bit of pain. But this seems appropriate for where I was headed. A painful, early morning, half-conscious decision proved to be the right one, however. This morning, despite having gone to bed at 2 am, I arose at 5:30am to attend the 6:30 Mass at the Holy Sepulchre Church in the Old City (old Jerusalem). And I am so glad I did. Early morning in this church is cold. The entire church is made of massive stones, too, so that intensifies a cold that already chills you to the bone. The readings, if you recall, could not have been more appropriate for a pilgrim visit to the Holy Sepulchre. I, like Mary Magdalene in today's gospel found myself rising early and making my way to an empty tomb. I, too, this morning celebrated Easter!
The history we covered today would (and does) take a four-year university degree to even begin to unpack. In one day, we covered the city of Jerusalem from the time of Abraham to the present! As I sit here in my room in “downtown Jerusalem”, the thought that I am standing on land that has seen over 17 sieges (Jerusalem has been captured and destroyed that many times) is too much for me. Today we visited the City of David, toured underground tunnels that date back to the occupation of the Canaanites (the people occupying Jerusalem before King David) and we then did our fair-share of museum-hopping.
Remember the reading we get every year outlining the genealogy of Jesus? Today I made a step towards not only tolerating that reading, but even welcoming it! When asked by an Israeli how she was enjoying her trip so far, one of the other journalists in our group summarized her experience of Jerusalem beautifully. To quote her loosely (sorry, Bernadette): “Have you ever known someone by reputation only? Maybe you've spoken to them on the phone, or heard of their honour through a friend. Coming to Jerusalem is like meeting one such person face to face. I can't shake this feeling that I have finally put a face to the name.” She got me thinking! The satisfaction that such a meeting brings is palpable. Now: apply that feeling to the Living God and you can understand how much Jerusalem's wealth is underestimated by those Christians who have yet to experience their “homeland”.
Today, we also toured the ruins of King David's castle. King David who lived in approximately 1000 BC! Ruins from over 3000 years ago! This kind of
history is unheard of in Canada. At the foot of his castle ruins, we found ourselves as the pool of Siloam. Sound familiar? This is the pool where Jesus cured the blind man with spittle and mud (John 9: 1-7). Our Jewish guide had me read the scripture from the Gospel of John on site. “ As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes, saying 'Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which means 'sent')'. So, he went and washed and came back seeing.” We stood at that pool, with chills running down our spines. The waters still flowed there. I washed my face with the water and then read the scripture again. I am still reeling from the power of this moment.
While I was there, I thought about how this city was even old at the time of Jesus. It was a city rich with history and ancestry, even then! Jesus knew that He was a descendant of David and that He had a very special earthly heritage. The Jewish people are the cradle of Christianity; our beloved Jesus was himself a Jew. Their faith informed our Saviour from His youth. I can't stop thinking about this. His beautiful Jewish mother and father went to the temple to present their son, as was customary. The humility!
The best part about today, though, is that I have fallen in love with the scriptures. All day I couldn't put my Bible aside. I must be honest in saying that scripture has been an uphill battle for me most of my life. Today, though, I found Jesus the Man and the Christ in the words His followers left for us. I switched my tourist book for the Bible; a truly symbolic moment. Jerusalem is, after all, a living, breathing bible to be tasted, touched and seen.
A few weeks before leaving for the Holy Land, I watched S+L's documentary on the Holy Land: Within Your Gates
. You should really check it out. Maybe after you watch it, you'll get a call four days later inviting you to go to the Holy Land--it happened to me and it could happen to you! In any case, I highly recommend this documentary. You won't be disappointed. Shalom, my friends. Until next time....