As we approach the Paschal Triduum (the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday), I would enjoy sharing about visiting Jerusalem.
Walking through the busy streets of the Holy City can be a feast for the senses. There are so many sights, sounds, colors, tastes, and smells that are so foreign from our Western experience. As a baker, amateur cook, and lover of food, I found my senses often overwhelmed. I also found my emotions to be stretched to great depths.
I have had the great opportunity to travel to many places all around the world. I’ve even been given the great gift of living and working in another country (which I consider like a second home). My brief experience with travel to Israel changed me more than any other journey I’ve experienced. When people have asked me about it, I’ve told them: if I was getting off the airplane after a very long flight from Tel Aviv and met someone in the airport who said, “I have an extra ticket to Israel you can have, but we are leaving now,” I would get back on a plane that very day!
I have aways experienced a connection when visiting somewhere “foreign.” At Faith Journeys we suggest people prepare for their pilgrimage by reading tour books or watching videos about the places they will visit. And that’s all well and good, but there is something about Israel that I felt tied to my very being. Maybe its from hearing Bible stories as a child or reading and studying scripture as an adult. But the first time I visited a biblical site in Israel, my mind connected me, immediately, to a story I knew from the Bible. (And, when I returned home, it works in reverse! When I hear or read scripture, my mind takes me back to that place and I remember exactly what it looked like. Not only does my mind remember, but my body and spirit FEEL re-membered, like there is a one-ness that has happened.
When walking in Jerusalem, you’ll see so many meaningful scriptural places, from the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane, to the Upper Room and the Pools of Bethesda. You may feel as if you are walking in the very footsteps of Jesus and his disciples.
A not as known site to visit while walking in Jerusalem is the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (the literal translation of which is, “rooster’s crow”). This is the church commemorating Peter’s denying Christ three times. Below the church is an old cistern that was converted into a prison cell before the time of Christ. The church is built on what was thought to be the site of the High Priest’s palace. It is believed that when Caiaphas was High Priest he would love resided in the palace
and that this may have been where Jesus was imprisoned prior to being turned over to Pilate.
Today, there are steps built into the wall so only a few people at a time can go down into the cell. The room is bare, except for a few candles and a small lectern with a book of psalms. The verse we read on our visit was Psalm 22, which starts: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me and from the words of my groaning?” To be in the cell where Jesus may have been held before his trial and to read that psalm was an unbelievably powerful experience that flashes back to me every time I hear, read, or even think about that verse.
There were many other meaningful experiences throughout that trip, from sheer wonder and awe, to joy and elation and, of course, to sorrow, and love. So, if you want to read the Bible with a deeper understanding and walk in the footsteps of Jesus, consider a visit to Jerusalem. As Jesus told the followers of John the Baptist, come and see!