Please pardon this quick recap post… our travels here in Israel have been so full and amazing that I have barely had a moment to pause and take notes. I had a full post written yesterday detailing all of our travels, and it seems to have gone into the black hole… so here are simply a few thoughts about the past two days.
On Day 4, we awoke in Nazareth early and headed directly to the Basilica of the Annunciation to attend the 7 am Mass (in Arabic). To watch the consecration of the Eucharist directly before the site where the Angel appeared to Mary and to receive the Eucharist in this holy site was a grace without measure.
After checking out of our hotel in Nazareth, we began an amazing day of adventures. One remarkable thing was experiencing a drive along the West Bank of the Jordan, past security checkpoints and through Palestinian controlled territory. Along the side of the road we saw security fencing, through which we could peer across the border and see Jordan. At no time did I feel concerned for our security. In fact, what struck me most of all was the impoverished living conditions of the Palestinians by comparison to what we have seen in the Jewish controlled segments of Israel.
Our next stop was at Qumran, the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, where we learned more about the scrolls and the sect which lived on this site. while there, we had a chance encounter with a future cardinal of the Church! Archbishop Dolan is here with 50 priests of the Archdiocese of New York and we encountered him at Qumran.
After our history lesson, it was time for some fun! Our next two stops were a float on the Dead Sea and a Cael Ride! Both were extremely enjoyable!
Next it was time to head to Jerusalem, and you could have heard a pin drop on the tour bus as we entered this gem of a city traveling along the walls of the Old City.
Our day ended with a wonderful surprise – a conversation with and blessing by Archbishop Dolan. He explained to us that this pilgrimage is — for him — a time to spiritually prepare for his trip to Rome for his investiture as a cardinal. He also described the trip as a wonderful way to build bonds with the 50 priests with whom he is traveling.
Today — Day 5 — was a day of prayer and reflection for me personally. Our day began with a trip to Bethlehem, where we were able to pray at the Church of the Nativity and venerate the spot where our savior was born. Other highlights for me in this holy place where the Tomb of the Innocents, the cave where St. Joseph received his angelic message not to return to Nazareth, and the cave and tomb of St. Jerome, where he worked to translate the Bible.
After this trip, we were off to the Old CIty of Jerusalem. Our afternoon journey took us the the Wester Wall, along the Via Dolorosa, and ultimately to the Church of the Holy Sepluchre. To pray the way of the cross, to place my written intentions in the crevices of the Wailing Wall, and finally to venerate the spots where Jesus was crucified and laid in the tomb defies description. I pray that each of you will have the opportunity some day to make a pilgrimage to Israel.
We have yet another dinner planned tonight, so I will leave you with a sign that I saw today in Bethlehem which captures my feelings about this incredible journey in a better way than I could share with you myself.