Tell A Vision
August 10, 2023
Ésta es la juventud del papa!
August 10, 2023

A spiritual immersion in Israel

By Ruby Alleyne

PART 3 conclusion

Tired, sun-drenched, and thirsty, we made our way to the Church of Our Lady of the Mountain in the tiny village of Anjara, before the long drive to Tiberias and our hotel on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

This church is at the site of a cave where it is believed that Jesus, His disciples, and His mother Mary once rested on a journey between Galilee, Bethany, and Jerusalem.

In his homily here, Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon highlighted the church walls, beautifully adorned with large, vividly painted panel icons depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary, which carry the message of salvation history.  From here, we would depart from Jordan and cross the border into Israel.

There were many highlights of our travels through Israel which would culminate in our visit to Jerusalem. We passed our first night in Israel at a hotel on the shore of Lake Tiberias. Rising early the next morning, we sailed across the Sea of Galilee. This was a spiritually moving experience which evoked everything from jubilant cheers, to tears of joy, as pilgrims reflected on the historic significance of this location and the call that Jesus makes to us as His disciples today.

We visited the archaeological park at Magdala and the iconic Boat Chapel with the altar in the shape of a boat; drove to Mt Tabor on a very windy day to behold the breathtakingly panoramic view from the mountaintop believed to be the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus; and celebrated Mass at Cana, where the married pilgrims renewed their wedding vows.

The pace was fast, and the stops were many as our tour director, Felix Edinborough, tried to ensure that we would experience as much as possible in these far-off lands.

The pilgrimage would take us along shorelines dotted with date palms and eucalyptus trees, steep hillsides with sheep and goats, and highways through the desert as we visited Nazareth, the Mount of the Beatitudes, Capernaum, Haifa, Caesarea Philippi, and Jericho.

We would stop at Qumran, bathe in the Dead Sea, and drive approximately 150 kilometres through the Judean desert to take the cable car ride to the fortress at Masada. Truly breathtaking and overwhelming in many respects!

Enter into Jerusalem

We experienced so many memorable moments. In Nazareth, late one evening, feeling spent from the long drive and the heat, pilgrims would be immersed in a spiritually rejuvenating experience when we joined with locals and visitors for the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of the Annunciation.

What a grace-filled and healing experience that was! The act of renewing our baptismal promises on the bank of the Jordan River and being sprinkled with the water from this river, in which our Saviour Jesus Himself was baptised by John, will forever be etched in our memories.

The final leg of our journey would culminate in the most stirring experience of all. We walked along the steep hillside in the Old City where Jesus would make His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

In these days, the solemnity, and the historic significance of this part of our pilgrimage was not lost on us. Pilgrims devoted time and prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane, carried the cross along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering)), visited the Upper Room where Jesus shared the last Supper with His disciples and knelt in reverence and awe in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Calvary and at Jesus’ empty tomb.

In Jerusalem we visited many other churches and historic sites, through it all, silent, pensive, and awestruck but uplifted and inspired.

The journey ending, we would leave Israel to return to our homes with memories of the people and places we met along the way.

In his homily at Mass in the Church of the Good Shepherd in Jericho, the Archbishop would remind us that the Father gave Jesus a mission which Jesus has given to His church, and that we must not be afraid to accept the mission that God has for every one of us.

In parting to go our separate ways, these words and this call would resound in our hearts. What a blessing it was to make this memorable pilgrimage, following the steps of Jesus, through the holy lands of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.