Day 8/Saturday: Jericho, Qumran and the Dead Sea
Venturing out into what was called our “Day in the wilderness”, we went along the route that Jesus would have walked in the Jordan Valley. (We did it by bus!) It is also the area where the story of the Good Samaritan is situated. One especially interesting opportunity was to walk up a hill to be able to view St. George’s Monastery from across the ravine or the “Wadi Qelt”, a place of water (which ever means life in the desert). It’s a completely isolated Greek Orthodox Monastery that began in the 400’s for men who want to literally “get away from it all”. Even with interruptions for wars, etc., it has continued to this day.
On to the city of Jericho itself where the ruins of the Palace of Herod the Great (72BC to 4BC) were viewed (from the bus). He was the Governor of Galilee and Ruler of Judea from 37BC until his death. This was one of fifteen palaces that he built. He is also the ruler who had played a role in the Crucifixion of Christ and ordered the Massacre of the Innocents. After he died, his “kingdom” was divided among his three sons.
A visit to the Qumran ruins and caves revealed the interesting saga of the Dead Sea Scrolls in terms of how they were found as well as the original reason for their existence.
Next, “down time” included a “dip” in the Dead Sea for those so inclined while the rest of us “reclined” at the “World’s Lowest Bar”.
It was a delight to have some relaxed time together in very pleasant weather.
Day 9/Sunday: Jerusalem
First the Chapel of the Ascension, before beginning the Palm Sunday Walk of Jesus into the City of Jerusalem. Next, we walked and pondered the Palm Sunday experience of Jesus:
At one point, we paused at “Dominus Flavit” Church, where Jesus wept for the city of Jerusalem and its people who had been demonstrating that they did not “get” the message that Jesus had been teaching and representing in person. He felt like a failure! How human!
As is typical in a Greek Orthodox Church, there were several chains of Eucharistic lanterns. I asked the “sacristan” if I could do his job of removing the wicks from the lanterns on one of the chains.
Quiet time for reflection in the Garden of Gethsemane reminded me of how disappointed, if not crushed, Jesus was that his dear friends could not even stay awake to pray with him. How did he develop the courage to “carry on” to what he knew would be really unpleasant, even if he did not know the full definition of the agony ahead? His own “courage”, the expression of his heart, was his source of energy as well as his trust of his Father.
Day 10/Monday: Jerusalem/Calvary and the Via Dolorosa plus Emmaus
This day began with a walk into the Old City at 5:15 am for MASS at Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. After a group photo, we shared turns carrying or supporting a cross to walk the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, through the Old City stopping at each station to read and ponder the relevant parts of the Way of the Cross. Later, we drove to Emmaus to the Abou Ghosh site where frescos in this very special church reflect its long history. At one point, Muslims removed all the faces of the holy people in the frescos. Today, it is a working church for a co-ed community of French Franciscans.
Day 11: Ein Karem, Bethlehem and Shepherd’s Field.
Ein Karem is the place of the birth of John the Baptist. Since it is also the home of his mother, St. Elizabeth, it is the location of the visit of Mary and Elizabeth. (I don’t ever remember seeing a pregnant Elizabeth before!) It was interesting to learn that Mary stayed for three months, presumably until the birth of John the Baptist, or the first trimester of her pregnancy with Jesus.
The chapel at the top of (a steep, tall!) hill honored women. This was one of the wonderful murals:
On to Bethlehem (in Palestine) where we had MASS in St. Jerome Chapel which is in one of the “caves”. Next, the cave of the Nativity in St. Catherine’s Roman Catholic Church before visiting the Milk Grotto Church (referencing Mary’s milk).
After a walk through an olive wood workshop to learn more about how the olive tree is an ongoing resource for the area, we left Bethlehem. Our last stop was Shepherd’s Field and Chapel where it is believed that the Angels announced the birth of Jesus.
After a meeting to share individual reactions and graces of the pilgrimage along with our Evening Prayer, we enjoyed a “Last Supper/Birthday Party” for Father Anton that formalized the end of this rich experience.
Who doesn’t love celebrating his own birthday with friends?
On this final day of our pilgrimage, we pilgrims walked 4.2 miles.
Beryl B. Byles, MBA University of Dallas, worked as an Executive Coach, specializing in leadership development for senior executives in large corporations, CEO’s of small to mid-sized companies and leaders of non-profit enterprises, challenging and supporting her clients in making growth oriented choices. She wrote a professional memoir called “Authentic Leadership: An Inside Job”. Beryl co-teaches OLLI-USF’s leadership class and is the inspiration for the Operatunity SIG.