Faith · pilgrimage

From Jerusalem, The Center of the World

A Père Blanc at St. Anne’s, traditional birthplace of Mary.  A beautiful example of the joyful, faithful energy of Jerusalem.  (And an example of the march of religious history here.  This 900-year-old Crusader church has Arabic writing over the door, from the time it was a mosque after the Muslim conquest.)
Dear Anne,

Greetings from the center of the world! I know Times Square tries to claim that title, but I think it’s Jerusalem. Here I am, about to head off on another pilgrimage, savoring the sights and sounds and feel of this exotic, even mysterious, city.  There is an energy to Jerusalem, especially in the Old City, an energy that goes beyond it’s Middle Eastern hustle and bustle. It’s the energy of faith in a place where God so often revealed Himself.

I’m not talking about the negative energy of hate, division, and violence. Plenty of ink has been spilled about that. I’m talking about the day-to-day experience of those in the Old City, where religious expression is the norm, woven into the fabric of daily life.  Even the secular tourist sees it. You can hardly swing a cat (dogs are unclean to a big chunk of the population, sorry Sadie) without hitting someone in religious garb, and public prayer is common. When the sight of a man with a prayer rug walking past a monk in full robes chatting with an orthodox nun doesn’t even turn your head anymore, you know you are in a special place.

Friday night at the Jaffa gate.
This is the place where you hear the Muslim call to prayer when you are on your knees praying the Hail Mary in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is the place where a Friday night dinner near the Jaffa gate is accompanied by the joyful singing of a group of Hasidim walking home after Shabbat services. This is the place where an Armenian ceramicist told me that he stops by the Holy Sepulcher, the very site of the resurrection of Jesus, each morning before he opens his studio.  This is the place where a team of scientists and architects were stunned by the literal, unexplained energy recorded during the renovation of Christ’s tomb.

On the often chaotic Via Dolorosa, an iconographer nun peacefully works her sacred craft.

Need a cleric’s stole?  A Jewish prayer shawl? A rosary or an Orthodox icon?  One stop shopping in the Old City!
So off I go, pilgriming once again.  I’ll miss you in Bethlehem, in the Valley of the Doves and on the Mount of Olives, all those places Jesus walked.  But the energy of this place, God’s energy that connects so many believers all over the world, connects us, too.  You will be by my side in spirit.  And when I have some of that Golan Heights Pinot!



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