Let us go to the place where His feet have stood (Psalm 132:7).
That short verse (from Eusebius’s Greek translation of the psalm) sums up the entire reason for coming to the Holy Land. It’s as simple as that. To simply visit the places where the Incarnate Word walked, talked, performed miracles, died, was buried, and rose again.
As a result of His coming, the world was never the same. Neither will I be, after this pilgrimage.
Having only been in Israel for a few days, I can already say that I have gone to several places where Our Lord has stood. Mount Tabor, for one, which
tradition marks as being the site of Jesus’s Transfiguration. Seemingly towering above the rock strewn, green fields of Galilee, it is fitting that a church has been built on the site where St. Peter proposed building tents to Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.
After all, a permanent structure is more appropriate.
Today, we traveled to the church that has been built over the site where the wedding at Cana took place. Therein, my wife and I renewed our vows to one another. Cana is down the road a piece from the hills of Nazareth proper. Later on we returned to the Sea of Galilee, and visited the churches built where the feeding of the five thousand took place, as well as to the site where Jesus, in the glory of His resurrected body, cooked breakfast for the apostles, who until that time had probably wondered what they would be doing with the rest of their lives.
That has always been one of my favorite passages from John’s gospel. Now, in my mind’s eye, I can see the scene as clearly as if it was yesterday, and as if I was there.This is how pilgrimages to the Holy Land can enhance one’s prayer life, see? Simply by being where these events took place, the faithful are given a grace to understand what once was obscured.
The same holds true for remembering things that, in the first place, were perhaps just vague sketches, but by virtue of being where they took place, they are now as easily recollected as a vivid dream. You know, the kind of dream that one wakes up from having thought that what was dreamt had actually occurred.
Contemplation is no longer a word for a lofty and unattainable practice. Instead, it is a simple way of prayer that anyone can obviously engage in. No longer just reserved for the saints of renown, on pilgrimage contemplative prayer readily comes to all who believe.
In these past few days, I’ve stood where some of His most illustrious servants have trod the Way too. From the cave on Mount Carmel where Elijah heard God as a whisper, to the sandy shores of Caesarea, where St. Paul was tried and appealed the sentence by virtue of his status as a Roman citizen, sending him on a voyage to Rome, imprisonment, and eventual martyrdom.
Prayer comes easily when in the midst of these places. Especially if Mass is being celebrated there. Words that once fell flat on the pages of the scriptures leap to life right before your eyes. How can one sleep, and not awaken to this call?
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.
Truth has spoken. Them that have ears, let them hear.
*All photographs belong to the author.