Day 2


People from home often ask us: "What is it like to be in the Holy Land?"

Today, there were two powerful moments for me. Seeing the panorama of Old Jerusalem and offering Mass at the Garden of Gethsemane. The really shocking thing about being in the Holy Land is that, as a pilgrim, you are seeing the actual sites of salvation history – not churches that are dedicated to these sites, but the actual places.

The first thing we did today was to drive to the Mount of Olives where there is a scenic overlook of the Temple mount area of Jerusalem. It is really breathtaking to see – in one field of view – the outline of where the Temple once stood. Currently, there is a Mosque there, the Dome of the Rock, but with some imagination you can “see” Solomon’s Temple or the rebuilt version that existed at the time of Christ. You can even see where the gate once stood that Jesus entered on His triumphal entry into the city.

So much of salvation history happened on that humble rocky area of the earth: the Last Supper, the trial of Jesus, the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Pentecost, and Mary's Dormition, to name a few things. Also, great events of the Old Testament occurred there. There’s the sacrifice of Isaac, the original site of the City of David, the simple fact that the Temple existed there and, you can think about how, at different times in the Old Testament, God consumed the sacrifices offered there with fire. It is thrilling to remember how God acted and wrought powerful deeds of salvation in this relatively small area.

In reflecting upon the day now in our hotel room, I am struck by the fact that we looked upon the concrete evidence that God delivers on His promises. He brought His people up from slavery in Egypt and settled them on the Promised Land. The people built a Temple to worship God that testified to that fulfillment. It is really true. It all happened. Not that I doubted it before, but the reality of God's Love penetrates the heart a little deeper when one sees the concrete evidence of what He has done for us

The Holy Land is full of this evidence. Today, from the overlook, we saw where Melchizedek offered gifts of bread and wine and blessed Abraham. We saw where Hezekiah's tunnel lies. Later in the day, we saw where David leaped and danced before the Ark of the Covenant. That reminds me: we actually saw the location where the Ark of the Covenant was housed in the Holies of Holies, the inner sanctum of the Temple. The Temple no longer exists and the ark was lost in the Babylonian Captivity. But it was there, and, among other things, it actually held the Ten Commandments with the mercy seat above the cover of the ark. The mercy seat is where God spoke to Moses. Yes, God spoke to His people. He revealed Himself to them, formed them to be His people.

At dinner tonight, someone was recounting their conversion story, and the climatic moment was her awareness that God really exists. Here, we see the physical evidence of the one, true God acting in human history. He is not a God who watches man from afar, but He “jumped in” to save us from sin and death.

Another powerful moment for me was at the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed before His crucifixion. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” He sweat blood here. His human nature recoiled at the suffering He was going to undergo.

I had the privilege to be the main celebrant at the Church of the Agony, there in Garden of Gethsemane. The rock that Jesus prayed on is right in front of the altar, and after Mass I was able to take a few moments and kneel on the rock and pray that God’s will be done in my life. Every Christian, who seeks the will of God in his life, knows of the struggle of doing God’s will. We know from experience of the necessity of praying for the knowledge of His will and the strength to carry it out.

I could not help but think of my decision to enter the monastery. I remember praying for God’s will to be done in my life and the strength to carry it out. I remember praying for it before I was even considering the religious life. It was something that God inspired in me. Today, I was reminded that Jesus won that grace for us in the garden. Where Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation in the garden; Jesus triumphed. He obtained the grace for us. We can rest on His laurels, and beg the grace from Him that God’s will is done in our life.

Another pilgrim from the group, said that she was given the meditation once of comforting Our Lord in the Garden. I heard Mother Angelica say the same thing once, and certainly many writings of the saints speak of Lord’s desire for reparation and how faithful people bring Him consolation. We might be tempted to think this is above us. But, as it was explained to me, we comfort Him by our desire to comfort Him. I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to have the desire within my heart to bring Him some comfort, as you would in seeing any person suffer. It means so much to Our Lord if we are simply willing “to watch and pray with Him.” Seeing the two-thousand-year-old olive trees in the garden somehow makes it seem possible. It somehow puts it within our reach

 

Day 2 - Photos

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View of where the Temple stood from the Mount of Olives.  The Gold Dome is now a sacred place for the muslims because they believed that Mohamed ascended into heaven from there."
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A closeup of the Dome of the Rock.  This is where the Temple once stood.
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Jews at the Wailing Wall.  This is the western wall of the Temple and is the last exterior wall remaining of the Temple from the time of Christ.
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Br. Pio and Fr. Mark in front of the Church of the Visitation.  This is where Mary greeted Elizabeth and John the Baptist leaped for joy in his mother's womb.
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Church of the Visitation
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Church of the Visitation
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'Hill Country of Judah' which Mary had to cross to see St. Elizabeth.
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'Hill Country of Judah' which Mary had to cross to see St. Elizabeth.