The Day of 21,000 Steps
Mapping the Holy Land Study Abroad Program
Pilgrimage: What distinguishes a pilgrimage from any other journey is that it can be understood only by someone who lives in a foreign place, in exile, and longs for a spiritual home. The Jews believed God’s presence was confined to the Temple, and their greatest desire was to be near Him there. The pilgrim needs the company of other people who share his/her faith, with whom he/she can pray and sing together to prepare for the great adventure—an adventure in depth, an adventure within. A pilgrimage cannot be made alone; it is made by the family, the kinsfolk, the village, the Corporate, so that their community might be blessed.
In my Blog to Israel
Here, I chronicle the pilgrimage of nine UST students on a 10-day [study abroad] adventure. Together, we attended classes in the spring in preparation for the journey. And together, we walked, napped, learned and processed the Holy Land in all of its complexities—politically, culturally and spiritually.
With gratitude to the University and especially The Herzstein Foundation, which awarded each of us a scholarship, I offer the following reflections from one day of our pilgrimage.
June 1, 2018
We began the day at the Carmelite Monastery Pater Noster, which is Latin for “Our Father.” Tradition says Christ taught his disciplines how to pray in a cave beneath the Crusader-era chapel. The morning was still cool when we arrived, and we walked the peaceful grounds high on the Mount of Olives, taking in the Lord’s Prayer posted in 63 languages.
We continued on foot down the Mount of Olives to the Dominos Flavit Church, Latin for “The Lord Wept.” This exquisite chapel, designed in the shape of a teardrop by Barluzzi in 1955, is maintained by the Franciscans. It commemorates the site at which Jesus lamented over Jerusalem during his descent into the city and his eventual crucifixion.
After conducting our morning readings here, we continued down the “Palm Sunday Path” to the Church of the Assumption—the first century tomb believed to be that of Mary—and the adjacent Grotto of the Arrest. In this cave, where Christ was betrayed by Judas’ kiss, we held morning Mass. The remains of frescoes on the ceiling, as well as the sculpture of a disciple sleeping, added to the sad beauty of the site.
Up above, and separated by the steep road we descended, is the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations, so named because donations from Catholic communities in many countries helped build this basilica in 1919. While these mosaics are colorful, the stained glass is not—only a purple hue is used, setting a somber tone in the location where tradition says Christ prayed and awaited his fate alone. Pilgrims, including our group, can place their hands on the rock where Christ uttered: “My Father, if this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, Your will be done.”
We walked back up the Mount of Olives to meet our bus and new Israeli tour guide, a requirement for groups in Jerusalem. Ron, our tour guide, greeted us with small purses stocked with shekels, so we could roam the Mahane Yehuda Market in the Jewish Quarter. Breaking into groups of three, we set out into the chaos and cacophony of sellers and stalls. Our first stop was for what Ron said was the best falafel in town, courtesy of the Levy Brothers.
Ron also led us to the Western Wall to witness the beginning of Shabbat, or the holy day of the week in Judaism. After our group divided into men and women to pray at the Wall, we ascended into the Jewish Quarter again, this time by the Temple that has been destroyed and rebuilt three times.
Our marathon day concluded with a Shabbat dinner in the home of a young Orthodox couple from Brooklyn who fed us and shared the prayers and songs associated with this weekly ritual.
This story first appeared on the blog MappingHolyLand.wordpress.com.