To walk where Christ had walked, to see so many of those places we have read about in the Gospels, to be able to visualise the scene of so many of Christ’s miracles, this had long been a cherished wish for me, ever since my father had told me about his experiences in the Holy Land, after WWII.
The pilgrimage took us to some of the most poignant, atmospheric places which had played such an important part in Christ’s life.
For me, personally, as I look back on all we did, it wasn’t so much the larger, most imposing shrines devoted to His birth and death which had the deepest spiritual significance, but rather the desert and many high places we visited which were less crowded and noisy, where I was able to find the peace to pray with moments of grace.
A few of these places which are particularly memorable were the Mount of the Beatitudes at Tabgha, Mount Tabor, scene of the Transfiguration, and the Mount of Olives, with the most wonderful view across the Kidron Valley to the old city walls of Jerusalem and the golden Dome of the Rock. We are told Christ wept as he viewed the city from here. Even today the political situation in the Holy Land should cause us all to weep, as nothing has changed since the time of Christ.
Another delightful afternoon was spent sailing on the beautiful, tranquil Sea of Galilee as the sun went down. It was easy to imagine Christ preaching on its shores, where he met his disciples fishing and told them to follow Him, and where the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand took place. I was particularly touched to visit the crusader Church of St Anne at Bethesda, (my patron saint). believed to be the place where the parents of the Virgin lived and it is thought this is also the site of the Pool of Bethesda, where, according to St John, Christ healed a paralytic.
There was so much more……………………………………………………………………………………….!
These few, inadequate lines cannot do justice to what was a most wonderful, uplifting and prayerful pilgrimage which I am still trying fully to digest. Many of us would love to return to Israel again, with more leisure to spend in those places which definitely deserve more time and study. We must all pray for lasting peace in this most troubled land.