Jerusalem is the City of Peace, and today is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. For me the connection is a profound one. As Saint Symeon had spent his life desiring to see Christ, I have spent my life with the “someday it would be nice to visit the Holy Lands” sort of attitude.
Holy Lands 2020 Pilgrimage
Today is our final day in the Holy Land, but it was no less filled with inspiration and memories. Our first stop today set the tone for the completion of our journey.
I’ve heard it said many times about museums, “You can’t see it all in just one hour; you need an entire day!” Well, so far this week at any site that we have visited, whether it be monastery, Church, or ancient ruins, “You can’t see it all in just one hour. You need the entire day.” In fact, You can’t do the Holy Lands in just one week! I could have spent an entire day at every site, if not more. I know now why Egeria spent three years on her pilgrimage.
I don’t really know where to begin today. We visited several monasteries today. As we draw closer to our Lord’s Tomb, which we will visit tomorrow, the depth of our visits hits me more with each visit. Forgive me for admitting, but if my phone did not timestamp each picture, I would never remember what I was looking at. Not only have we seen so many holy places, but I almost ashamed to admit that at this point caves look like caves and ruins look like ruins. I don’t say that disrespectfully, but honestly.
Today was a whirlwind day. I even got more than 11,000 steps in before coming back to my hotel room after dinner. I was ‘warned’ about all the walking, but it hasn’t really been that bad, and when you consider where we are walking, it is more than worth the steps. We began today with a Blessing of the Water on the banks of the Jordan River. Due to exceedingly high rainfall the past few weeks, the actual river was blocked off so we used the area the Patriarch uses when he blesses the water each year on Epiphany.
We began the day as usual with a delicious buffet for breakfast. The food here has been fantastic. The ‘law of the land’ is Kosher, so there is no dairy when meat is served. So no bacon with my eggs, and no butter with my bread. I’m sure I’ll survive. Our daily stop for lunch has been local favorites and staples, falafel or shawarma. Lucky for me, I like them both, but have kept the falafel for Wednesday! After breakfast we board the bus for the day’s excursions.
Today’s journey began boarding a boat “for the other side” for an hour on the Sea of Galilee.
Our first visit today was the city of Caesarea by the Sea. This ancient city, founded by Herod the Great, the same Herod who was King when Christ was born, is my first testimony to better understand the reality that life goes on from generation to generation, and the physical places are in a constant state of change. This is a concept that most Americans simply do not appreciate only because of the short time our society has been in existence.
Our travel to Israel was uneventful, thank God, but long. We left Tampa International Airport at 11am Friday, January 24th, and arrived at Tel Aviv International Airport 9:30am on Saturday, January 25th. We were warned in America that arriving on the Sabbath would create a few delays as most Jews do not work on the Sabbath, as they keep the Mosaic Law. Thankfully, the longest part of passport control was waiting for them to open the booth. Once opened the line, our line anyway, went quickly and we were soon comfortably sitting on our bus.
You never know what to expect when you're traveling. This morning, I got a late start thanks to the snooze button, and there was a bit of traffic, but by God's grace, I was able to check in and get through security quickly, and still have time for a cup of coffee. People have asked me what I'm looking forward to, but I still have no answer. In fact, I'm fighting the temptation to have "any" expectation, I think so I won't be disappointed. Nonetheless, I'm quite excited to be on this journey. I've never been to the Holy Lands, but God physically walked on the ground there.