Wednesday, December 26, 2007
"Once in David's royal city," a pattern for how we are to live was set for us on our pilgrimage.
Emmanuel is with us!
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
"Lord, be the companion of our journey," is a simple refrain echoed in a certain litany I learned among the brothers I walked with to Chimayo, NM in 1999. In this season of Advent, on the eve of the celebration of twelve days of Christmas, I look forward to honoring the birth of the Pilgrim God who walked--and continues to walk--upon this earth, this very day.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
What I re-learned from Noriko is a lesson I am constantly re-learning with pilgrimage: it only works by taking people by the hand and showing and telling them, in the very context in which you want them to learn about an art or practice, what is behind the art and act of working-out...and pilgrimage.
Then yesterday, while strolling through the new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism, wandering among the works of beautiful art by Monet, Courbet, Renoir, and Childe Hassan, that I almost bumped into three women who were speaking, er, French! By that, I mean two of the women were learning to speak in conversational French by a personal trainer-of-sorts, who was teaching these two women French in front of a French impressionist painting! In other words, as Noriko was teaching me the finer arts of lifting weights in the context of the weight room, the French tutor was teaching French in a very French context, viewing French art!
I proposed, in depth and great detail, the art and act of teaching the gestures of pilgrimage in the context of life's pilgrimage in both CHRISTLY GESTURES (Eerdmans, 2003), and SCHOOL OF THE PILGRIM (W/JKP, 2007). I was reminded of Henry Carse taking Dean and me up to a bluff overlooking the Sinai desert, and asking us, "What is a miracle?" as we looked out over the miracle of God's creation. Our discussion of what is a miracle took place in a land in which the tracts of pilgrimage, including the pathway of Moses and the people of Israel, along with countless Egyptian people, have traipsed. We talked about the miracle of the mountains dancing as more than metaphor but as reality, describing the way mountains shake, rattle, and roll during and after an earthquake...as if they are dancing.
But it was in the midst of the Sinai, taking us by the hand, that Henry taught us a new way of understanding miracle...much like Noriko taught me a new way of understanding my physical exercises, by taking me by the hand and showing me a new way, and the French teacher taught her students the art of speaking conversational French!
Friday, November 9, 2007
I began with talking to a large group of students, reading from the book FOLLOW ME! I've begun adding stories of my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela in Spain, telling the story of the large incense burner, the botafumeiro, wafting over the crowd of pilgrims seated along the transept, leaving the scent of Jesus on our skin, while protecting the noses of the clergy who had to smell the pilgrims close at hand. I still marvel at the large pendulum swing of the metal beast, gliding through the air with the greatest of ease as it is hoisted by four young men.
This was followed by the true joy of talking with a class of students who had actually read portions of the book SCHOOL OF THE PILGRIM in their Christian education class. It was great to show the power point images that inspired the writing of that book.
I came out of my time with the good people of LaGrange convinced, all the more, of the power of the ideas found in the multivalent practice of pilgrimage!
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Watching Shawn slip effortlessly into his stride within the first mile--a stride that was far faster than my stride--I was agog at the sheer size of the crowd of us runners, thousands of people beating the sidewalk pavement and road tarmac of the Washington, D.C. area's thoroughfare. The undulating crowd of onlookers was large and intoxicating, cheering everyone on the race, ringing cowbells, and holding up signs for various teams who were running together. There were teams of folks supporting autism research; running for a friend who had died in Iraq; running for the Fisher House, where many vets stay while going through rehabilitation. There were twenty or thirty Marines and volunteers passing out Gatorade and water every few miles, with other stations passing out oranges and gel packs. Now and then I would run by a Halloween reveler, with one young man dressed as one of the young women from the musical "Hairspray!", blue hair and 1960s poodle skirt.
Like the pilgrimages I've taken earlier in life, I found my stride, and stuck to it. After being jostled in very narrow passageways in some parts of the race, I stuck to my running stride. I also struck up a conversation with a new friend, Rick, from nearby Saxapahaw, North Carolina (48 years old and doing his third marathon)...just like a pilgrimage, it is the most wonderful experience when perfect strangers soon become old pals. Like the pilgrimage to Santiago, I watched with fascination as the shadow on the road's surface let me know what time it was, and which direction I was pointed throughout the race. And like the pilgrimages I've been on before, I felt the presence of God carefully, tenderly protecting me each step of the way.
My running time? Oh, well, a little bit over 5 hours. But I hit no wall, felt emotionally and physically great afterwards, just a tightness in the right upper thigh that was soon gone after walking around the fantastic William Turner exhibit at the National Gallery with friends Matt and Laura that very same afternoon. Maybe it was because of the runner's high that some people get after a race. As for Shawn, he did amazingly well, as he had really trained well for this race, and was looking forward to it. He too felt that runners' high.
The very concept of the marathon is an allusion to the ancient Greek Pheidippides, who ran 26-mi. (42-km) from Marathon to Athens to carry news of the Greek victory over the Persians in 490 B.C. Perhaps that is where marathons and pilgrimages meet: we have important messages to tell...and live!
Until the next marathon, "Bien Camino!"
Friday, October 26, 2007
For me, the month of October is a month of liminality! Without much fore-planning for what would be happening in my life, I decided in July 2007 to go on pilgrimage to Santiago, wanting to finish the "trifecta" of Medieval European pilgrimages: Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago de Compestela! I did not know at that time that I would also be moving out of the position as interim pastor of Ernest Myatt Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, and making way to be and live the School of the Pilgrim full-time...but that is exactly what happened! As one friend reminds me often, "Sometimes God does for us what we ourselves cannot do." Call this "God's timing!"
The month of October began with an extraordinarily powerful pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela! I was reminded of the physicality of pilgrimage with blisters on both heels and three toes, carrying a 20 lb. back pack up and down hill. I remembered the connection of the pilgrim to the land, in awe of the misty mornings that would only allow a streak of Monet pink in the early morning horizon. I was thrust into the Medieval pilgrimage rituals as I watched the large incense burner, the botafumeiro, swinging across the transept of the Cathedral of St. James.
And in the middle of the month, I celebrated with great joy the work of God and God's people in a Presbyterian congregation called "Ernest Myatt Presbyterian Church." Though we have no saints in the Church per se, or name our churches after saints, the saints are spread liberally among the congregation of that Church. By November 1st, I will no longer be interim pastor at that church.
The month concludes with one more reminder of the liminal state of pilgrimage and pilgrim-life: I am running my third marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, in Washington, D.C., on October 28th. The blisters have healed well on my heels, and new toe nails have conveniently replaced the old black and blue nails. Marathons are pilgrimages of a different sort, because there is no back pack (physical), but an opportunity to run (or trot) and remember and muse upon what the Spirit is doing in our world today among the pilgrims who follow the Pilgrim God.
All in all, living the pilgrim life is to live life liminally...forever more!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Saturday, October 20, 2007
The lessons of pilgrimage are plentiful, right where we live!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
She was correct...of course.
The signs of being a pilgrim to Santiago are evident in many places of my life. For example, on the subway trip to the Madrid airport, a young Argentinian noticed my three pins stuck to a strap on my day pack: an arrow; the cross of St. James, and a scallop shell. "You're a pilgrim to Santiago, yes?" he inquired. "Si!" I said excitedly. In part-English, part-Spanish, we conversed about the pilgrimage, in which the young man he would rather ride the pilgrimage on bicycle rather than walk. I smiled, still feeling a tinge of "sensation" from my healing blisters.
I returned from the pilgrimage to preach and lead the church's Session meeting on Sunday; present the School of the Pilgrim to Waldensians on Monday; visit with church members on Tuesday; and run errands all over town (Chapel Hill and Carrboro) on Wed. What kept my grounded were the words, "One step at a time, one day at a time," which pilgrims use a lot, as do many others in our world. I was able to simply step into the next task, the next place, and do what I was expected to do.
This held true on pilgrimage as well: I learned to move one step at a time, without worrying (as much) as to what would happen in the next few miles down the road. This allowed me to enjoy the beauty of northern Spain, which is incredibly hilly...to say the least.
Pilgrim lessons abound!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The pilgrimage lives on in my memory...a memory of mind, body, and spirit, individually and collectively, with all those I have been pilgrim with over the last few weeks, months, and years.
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Friday, October 12, 2007
Morning soon led to one more Mass at the Cathedral. The larger-than-life incense burner was swung again, because it is a national holiday! I smelled of incense all day...could have been worse, since I also need a shower.
I got on the Madrid train from Santiago at 1:30, with two other pilgrims, Tracey and Laurie. We had a great time talking about the pilgrimage to Santiago, and its effect upon our lives. Many of us will now begin the work of actively remembering the act of being pilgrims of Santiago!
Made it to the hotel by 11:30, and I´m ready to grab a quick bite, and then head on to bed after soaking feet a little bit.
Tomorrow: North Carolina!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Plan B! I´ve learned on this pilgrimage that life is full of options, including Plans B, C, D, E, and keep the alphabet flowing! So Plan B miraculously showed up and unveiled itself. I went to the Museum of Pilgrimage, and my friends Jackie and her partner Allen said, ¨Don´t worry, we have a room for you, all paid for!¨ That was easy! So I went with the flow, went back to the train station, got my ticket for tomorrow at 1 in the afternoon, and went back to the Cathedral for a 6 in the evening walking tour of the Cathedral roof top!
It was breathtaking: we walked through the dining-reception area for the cardinals and royalty, followed by literally climbing to the roof top and looking up close at the towers and bells of the Cathedral. The bottom of the Cathedral is Romanesque; the middle is Gothic, and the top portion is sheer Baroque! We traipsed over the length of the nave, followed by the transept length. We noted the ram with the cross at the top: they used the ram for sacrifice in ancient, biblical times, and they would burn the clothes of the pilgrims in view of the stone ram, burning not only the past, but also burning the clothes that carried the plague! Of course, those who were selling clothes in the squares and plazas made a killing!
After that, a stop for coffee, and then de-bunking at the new place for the night, followed by a wonderful pilgrim dinner at Casa Manolo near the Plaza Cervantes!
Tomorrow, I leave for Madrid, and probably won´t be able to blog until I get back to the States on Sat. evening! Thank you, again, for the prayers and support!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Yesterday we walked around the Cathedral, after having gone to 12 o´clock Mass. We will go today again to Mass, in which they use this huge incense burner, in Spanish known as a "botafumeiro," that they originally used to delouse the pilgrims while also making them smell sweet to the noses of the clergy at that time. It is used only 20 times a year. We also walked around to the various chapels of the Cathedral, seeing the reliquary of St. James, touching the columns and statues that we are supposed to touch. Outside the Cathedral, in the middle of the plaza, is a shell cemented to the floor of the plaza, in which you are supposed to say, I have arrived! Did that last night as well.
We had a disappointing last pilgrim meal, after bounteous amounts at small villages along the way. But we had sheets, no bunks, and not much snoring...well, I didn´t hear myself.
Today: cover the parts of Santiago we haven´t seen after a good breakfast, and then going to 12 noon mass, and hunt for gifts for home, and at 10 tonight, the night train to Madrid. Tomorrow, Friday, is a national holiday, so I´d rather be in Madrid, seeing parts of the city I´ve not seen, than Santiago. Then I fly out Sat. at 1!
Again: thanks for your prayers and support! The feet are healing, though I can´t wait to show the remains of the blisters!
Pilgrim peace, and Bien Camino!
Long story short: Jackie (NZ) and I were heading on the 20 km a day schedule from Palas de Rei to Ribadiso to Arca to Santiago. Ribadiso, the lovely little Albergue, had no internet, so I blogged the next day on the way through Arzua, and we kept hiking onward to Arca for the night. It was 20km a day, or thereabouts.
We kept walking and talking, passing people by, feeling in our stride while walking, and we passed through Arca before we knew it! Dilemma: We could either turn back and find a place, or keep walking. We kept walking...30 km in one day! The most ever! But then it was only 10 km to Santiago the next day.
With aching feet, tired backs, and hungry stomachs, we made it to Lavacolla, outside of Santiago. We found a hotel! It had a big bath, in which I nursed my aching feet! And we had a bed to ourselves, which was great! No bunk beds! And a nearby restaurant-cafe! We hit it big time!
After a restful night sleep, cafe con leche guzzled, I put on my Chacos sandals (no boots today) and we strode into Santiago by 12 noon!
There was a Mass at 12 noon! The sanctuary in incredible, with more gold and silver than I have seen in a long time. We are to be blest by a large incense burner tomorrow at Mass, which they used to use to de-louse the pilgrims, and change the odor of the day!
Three of us found a quaint pension for the night, and tomorrow I´m catching the night train to Madrid!
Again, thank you for prayers and peaceful thoughts! I offer your prayers to blessed Jesus, the Pilgrim God as well!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Yesterday´s pilgrimage was up and down, but we are slowly entering the count down to Santiago. Everyone is becoming nostalgic, suddenly seeing it all coming to an end. Tonight we will go to a city outside of Santiago, in which there will be a lot of reminiscing, I´m sure.
The day is sunny! Just had my caffe con leche, banana, toast, and all the blisters are bandaged. Can´t wait to go back to just walking in sandals!
Pilgrim blessing and peace, Brett
Sunday, October 7, 2007
The gift of pilgrimage, the el camino, came at the end of the evening, when the table included five Canadians--Mary Ellen, Dale, Peggy, and Al--plus a wonderful woman who read scripture earlier in the week from Canada, and the Kiwis--Jackie and Sue--and Lee from England. The conversation was alive around the table as we talked about Canada, the States, sex (all part of the camino, especially around certain farm animals on the way, OH MY), and the effects of being pilgrims for this time. There was never a lull in the conversation as each person wanted and had their say. Incredible that we all found 0urselves in a bond of friendship, heart to heart, soul to soul, that kept us all engaged. The miracle? We have only met each other throughout the pilgrimage.
Panic has set in as we realize there are three days left of this fantastic pilgrimage.
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Saturday, October 6, 2007
The scenery today was one small Spanish village after another. Rocky to walk, but beautiful to look at and behold. Cows, dogs, cats, chicken greet us around the corners, along with their ¨gifts¨of waste! What a smell!
We are all excited about reaching Santiago! Four more days. Those who began the trek earlier, in France especially, can´t believe it. They are starting to dance down the way, while I still trudge, though my step is quicker.
I am learning to live in the unexpected of life. The gifts of friendship, of hospitality, of great food and delicious coffee (et leche) continue to pop up unexpectedly, but just in the nick of time. Meeting people along the way and close bonding with them is also the unexpected gift. Some people in the villages are use to seeing our kind, while others smile and simply say ¨Bien Camino¨.
Off to a pilgrim meal: salad, trout, and flan, with as much red wine as you want for 8 euros ($1.40 is equal to a euro).
Pilgrim blessing, Brett
Friday, October 5, 2007
The blisters are better...thanks for the prayers. Walked in marvelous countryside with patchwork quilt farms on the hillsides. Loved looking at the beauty of northern Spain.
I am reminded that the body needs time to remember that it is on pilgrimage, and that I am being re-memeber, re-connected with God´s followers as pilgrims. The lessons of pilgrimage and Chrisitan daily life are flooding over me, e.g., remembering that life is one step at a time, and be where your feet are planted. I am expecting down hills around every corner after going up hill all the time, and only greeted with more uphill. But I smile, and trudge on, one step at a time.
To Portomarin tomorrow, and Santiago by Wednesday!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Jackie is a co-sojourner from New Zealand. She and I walked down the mountain top of Cebriero, and recounted for me how her body had to get used to the walk, as did mine. How quick I forgot the first pilgrimage I was on, in which my body ached the first two or three days, and that it wasn´t until day three that all seemed to go better!
That would be the lesson: pilgrimage begins with the foot, but it begins with re-learning the steps of the pilgrim as if I have never been on pilgrimage before. The true spirit of pilgrimage, with mindbodyspirit working together, comes on day three. And it came today without fail.
I am spending the night in Tricastelos, and tomorrow Sarria. The town is quaint and beautiful. The morning began with a walk in the mist over mountain ranges, with the sun breaking through the mist and showing us the beauty of northern Spain. Villages and farms were the way through for pilgrims, and I stepped in the residue of the presence of lots of cows, meeting cows coming down the way, and being greeted with home made crepes by a farming wife. The weather has been glorious, showing us the green mountain side of Spain, with farm life well intact. The small chapels and walls reach back to the Roman and Moroccan influence, with walls built by Romans during their occupation of this land.
Feet are better. Spirits are better. It is fun watching those who began their journey at the head waters of the pilgrimage drawing close to Santiago...their excitement is palpable.
Bien Camino! Good way! Or Good Pilgrimage! This is the greeting throughout the days.
Pilgrim blessing, Brett
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
I met the couple of women who saved my feet, which are better today. I had a great conversation and walk with two women from France and the Netherlands, who happened to be at a small bodega on the side of the camino in the middle of an apple and fig orchard, with tomatoes as big as your fist being cut up, with fresh cheese slices. This is the camino! And the conversation between English, Spanish, French, and German at the bodega was great.
In order to be a true pilgrim of Santiago, or a ¨schnell pilger¨in German-fast pilgrim, you have to walk the last 100 km. That´s what I am doing!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
My left heel had been bothering me with my walking shoes, so I had popped the blister in Madrid, and thought I´d taken care of it. On the train ride up to Ponferrada, the right heel also started to feel hot. By the time I finished a good stretch of the road, my left heel was bleeding through the mole skin, and they both hurt as I walked. I ducked into the Farmacia, got bandaids that were more adhesive, and put on Vaseline ointment...and my Chacos (sandals). That worked for a mile or two until the bandaids now kept slipping off. New friends gave me another protection, and they´ve held up better, though the strap in the back of the shoe brings it down over time.
The rest of the body is feeling fine! Spirit is good! Your prayers, friends and family, matter. So, um, pray for healing!
Finally: the weather is fine, the scenery beautiful (wine growing area and lots of little and old villages), and the camraderie is starting to happen. I am becoming one of ¨those pilgrims.¨
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Monday, October 1, 2007
I am also reminded that this is not only a very Catholic country, but Madrid is an incredibly metropolitan city, with a breadth of people from all countries. In attire, customs, and food, there is much to experience of the world.
I am off to Ponferrada tonight, catching the 10:10 P.M. train, arriving at 4 in the morning. Pilgrimage has begun!
Thank you for your prayers, friends!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Sunday, September 30, 2007
After a quick 6 (plus) hours across the Atlantic, the excitement for Santiago hit when the pilot said, ¨We´re flying over Santiago...40 minutes to Madrid.¨ And in no time we were here.
After landing, customs, and getting money from the bank, purchasing the train ticket to Ponferrada, my beginning point for the pilgrimage (leaving Madrid at 8 in the evening and getting in at 4 in the morning), and after arriving at the hotel via the Metro, I arrived to the hotel, napped, washed up, ate some breakfast, slept some more, ate lunch, it was on to the Prado!
The Prado was impressive! Largest museum of its kind in the world in terms of all the Goyas, Vazquez, with a smattering of Durer, Rembrandt, and other wonderful artists! I spent a good five hours in the museum, with stops in the cafeteria to keep going. There was a great deal of religious art from generations of artists, all inspiring, and giving me a taste of what is to come.
Dinner was with a new friend, Sinjin (St. John), a young man in his 40s from Seattle. Growing up Catholic, he knows enough about pilgrimage to be praying for me, and me for him, on this most excellent journey .
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Monday, September 24, 2007
Currently, I am a period of living in events that are happening--and must happen--in order to move toward living in the reality of the School of the Pilgrim. For example, I am currently preparing to leave for a ten-day pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestela, which is also the first fund/pledge drive for the operating costs of the School of the Pilgrim! While I do believe that God is breathing life into the School of the Pilgrim, I walk in faith, hoping each and every day that the funds for the School will follow soon after.
As I walk into the School of the Pilgrim, I am also walking from my time as an interim pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA). While I have enjoyed the challenges and joys of being an interim pastor since I left Duke Divinity School, my time as an interim, or the call to being an interim, has come to an end. While I have enjoyed my time at my last interim position as solo pastor of Ernest Myatt Presbyterian Church, the time has come to say good-bye.
Dear reader: I invite your prayers for the upcoming pilgrimage to Santiago--and life!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Located in southern Illinois, I preached a sermon on pilgrimage during their mandatory chapel service/worship on Monday, September 10th, followed by a colloquium on pilgrimage, death, dying, and people with disabilities on Tuesday, September 11th.
But it was on Wed., September 12th, that I had an "aha" experience: since 1912, the entire campus(or most of the campus) takes off for a six mile "all college hike" to a nearby Free Methodist retreat center outside of Greenville. While there are around 1100 students, a good four hundred or so made it out to the camp grounds, where lunch was served, canoes were paddled, zip lines were zipped, and volley ball was happening. But the beauty was the gathering of faculty, students, and staff who walked out in the beautiful summer weather of Illinois, passed rolling farm fields filled with soy plants and old corn stalks. Water was distributed by the basketball team members along the way; people in cars and trucks waved at us; new and old friends walked together...and a good time was had by all.
In my closing sermon at the camp ground I preached about the wonder and miracle of God's presence in the unexpected moments of an otherwise predictable life. I reminded those gathered together about the times we had on this "all college hike" that reflected the very same movements of pilgrimage. Toward the end of the sermon, I had the "nerve" to suggest a new name of this hike: an all college pilgrimage, for that is what it has become! The people of God from Greenville College did something subversive and radical: they moved as one body out of the predictable college behavior of having classes, and dared to become closer with one another through a common experience, book-ended by the practice of Christian prayer! I reminded them of the Benedictine monks of Esquipulas' statement, "The Christ you seek you will not find unless you bring him with you," and told them that this hike has become a holy pilgrimage, because they brought within them to this camp ground none other than the Pilgrim God: Jesus Christ.
Here's to a re-naming venture, in the name of the Pilgrim God!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Thursday, September 6, 2007
The entire weekend's theme was on pilgrimage! Under the direction of Dr. Kay Collier McLaughlin of Lexington, KY, the community of great leaders, and the community of participants, fused and became one during the weekend as I lectured and all of us went on an actual pilgrimage, with music, a great homily, re-affirmation of baptism, all led by a beautiful rendered cross. By the end of our time together on Monday, September 3rd, we had all moved from being individual "I's" on pilgrimage, into being a community of pilgrims, following the Pilgrim God, Jesus Christ.
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Now the next step on this pilgrimage begins in earnest: creating a community of soul-full, creative, artistic, stimulating, smart, like-minded and like-hearted people, and staying on the pilgrim road in letting other people and communities of faith know about the work of the School of the Pilgrim as an alternative approach to educating and nurturing people of faith. In the very near future, there will be (hopefully) two of us who are going to be working full-time on making connections with donors and benefactors, finding a place to work in creating and sustaining this community of pilgrims, and promoting the School of the Pilgrim in churches and other religious communities. Keep looking at the School of the Pilgrim website for more information in the coming weeks, including a new “donor” site (www.schoolofthepilgrim.com).
Thanks, one and all, for the support and prayers!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Monday, July 9, 2007
It is summer time in North Carolina, and the hats are out of the closet and on our heads. Many of us work outside wear hats during all seasons of the year, like hard hat helmets, or baseball caps to keep the sun out of the eyes. When playing sports like baseball and golf, we wear hats that show which team, or brand, we are rooting for. When the sun feels like it is keeping the temperature near the boiling point, many of us wear summer hats outside with broad brims to keep not only our faces, but ears and the back of our heads protected from the now-damaging rays of too much sunshine. And for those of us who drive small convertibles, hats are a must when the wind gets good and strong, and the sun is beaming down on us.
This column on hats is sparked by my recent pilgrimage to
However, the Egyptians did not wear a kippah but a keffieh, which is a folded cloth made into a triangle, then wrapped around the head, in which the Bedouin who wears this headdress could keep pocket change or documents in it, as well as roll it up at night and wear use it as a pillow. Unlike the Jews, a keffieh could be worn by Muslim and Christian alike…and even those who are Jewish would wear the headdress of the Bedouin.
What was interesting was that in
What this sparked within me is simply this, in a place and age in which our hats say some things, but not all things, about us: what are the outward signs and symbols, pointers and indicators, that let other people know we are of God, followers of Christ, inspired by the Spirit? As we sit under trees seeking shade, drinking iced sweet tea, relaxing in rocking chairs and holding babies, let us think, and be more purposeful, in letting others know about the God who loves us most.
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
In order to be home to preach the next morning (Sunday, May 20th), we left this morning on Continental Airline, which does fly on Shabbath, though Ben Gurion Airport was a ghost-town.
We caught a taxi this morning from Ecce Homo B&B. What was amazing was this: we went on a modern highway from Jerusalem, in which we never saw any of the Palestinian areas, even though our driver was Muslim and Palestinian.
The issue of his religion, ethnicity, and nationality came into full-view when we drove up to the airport. At the entrance, we were pulled over not because we were Americans, but because he was Palestinian. The security detail asked us a lot of questions, and checked a few bags. Given the permission to go to the airport, the driver (who did not speak from Jerusalem) opened up: "This is silly! This is 2007! How can they treat people this way? If you were Arab, then they would have frisked you, checked my taxi's doors, roof, engine, trunk, and side panels. They would've made us wait for two or three hours. And for what? Nothing! Nothing! This is insane."
The anger is palpable. The chaos that is about to be sparked is going to be insane. On this day, the Israeli's have been bombing Hamas strongholds in Palestinian Gaza Strip. Later today, Lebanon would be bombing Palestinian refugee camps where terrorists were hiding. The violence is all around us.
The airport was almost vacant, because most people don't fly on Shabbath. Many of the small shops were closed in the airport. While we were flying back home, the memories of this time and place, people and holy shrines, will last forever. After all, the School of the Pilgrim has been born in Israel and Egypt, as well as North Carolina!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
We arose at a decent time this morning after yesterday's early wake-up call. We had a delicious b'fast, and soon prepared to make our way up to Taba passport check-point, with a ride from Moussa and Ead!
After we waved good-bye to Henry, who was off on a three day camel trek, we were soon on our way to Taba. The images of the empty hotel resorts on the coast, along with all the check-points, and the need to hire a security detail for the ride up, was a lot to think about. The beauty of the Sinai was all around us, but the sense of fear is high in a land that has been gripped by insecurity and war for ages.
In Eilat, we re-traced our footsteps of a few days earlier. We got a taxi at the passport check-point; got to the bus station and I purchased a Herald-Tribune to read on the five hour bus trip back to Jerusalem. The ride back was quiet, though the ride is wild because of all the twists and turns of the road.
Back in Jerusalem, we were surprised to find everything shutting down at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem: it was Shabbath! Nothing was open! Buses were shutting down; restaurants were closed; shops were empty; banks were shut tight: all of west Jerusalem, the Jewish section, was literally shutting down. People were running home before dinner was served.
We met John Leonard, a Carolinian who is living in Tel Aviv, and is a graduate of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. As he reminded us, Tel Aviv is the European city of Israel that never sleeps, while it is Jerusalem in which the laws of the Jewish community hold sway, though not even the airline El Al flies on Shabbath.
Of course, dinner that night was Az Ahara in east Jerusalem, which was open for our final supper!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
We awakened around 2:00 A.M., and finally roused ourselves out of bed by 2:15 A.M., in order to be up and ready for our 3:00 A.M. CAMEL RIDE! Meeting Henry outside our B&B room, Moussa and Henry escorted us to "Camel Central," in which we were paired up with a camel driver who led two or three camels, and their riders, up Mt. Sinai. Of course, I had the loudest, most nasal, and most abrasive and thoroughly Egyptian camel driver, right from "Star Wars"! For two hours we rode up Mt. Sinai, following a snaking path up to the top. We went by hundreds of pilgrims going to Mt. Sinai, including South Koreans and students from Australia and Europe. At 4:00 we could hear the bells call the monks to morning prayers.
After two hours, we dismounted from our camels at a wonderfully crowded tea house, where we met a mother and daughter couple from Poland, by way of Washington, D.C. When my camel driver and were about to have our photo taken, a camel stuck his nose into the picture frame, and the driver just whacked the snout of the camel, who let out a dull "ugh"!
We walked up to a bluff just below the top of Mt. Sinai because of all the tourists (hundreds) encamped on the top, waiting for the sun to rise over the east at around 5:15 A.M. After watching shooting stars going up on camel back, now we were given the treat of watching the sun rise over the Sinai on a clear blue-sky day. Amazing.
Like a few days earlier, we celebrated Eucharist, remembering that this is Ascension Sunday, and that a few days earlier we were standing on top of Mt. Tabor, the place of Transfiguration, and now we were on the top of Mt. Sinai, again a place of Transfiguration, in which Moses received the Decalogue, and his countenance was pure light after meeting God. Henry called this the "St. George and School of the Pilgrim Chapel"!
After watching hundreds of tourists skedaddle down from Mt. Sinai, we slowly made our way up to the top of Mt. Sinai, where there was now nary a tourist. We saw two clefts in which Moses could have hidden himself, with a chapel at the top of the summit. From the top we could see a snaking trail that was possibly where the people of Israel followed themselves to Mt. Sinai.
It was here that Henry spoke to my heart, mind, and body: the School of the Pilgrim is happening! This is a land rich in pilgrimage trails, explored and unexplored. Moussa (his name means Moses), knows the Egyptian Coptic trail where the Holy Family fled from their homeland during the killing of the young innocents soon after Jesus' birth: and no one has written or filmed or documented this trek. There are still many "Gospels according to" parchments throughout this area. Stories still need to be written and recorded. The entire way down from the top of Mt. Sinai was taken up with possible new pilgrimages in the future, starting next September 2008, with another full-blown pilgrimage of the School of the Pilgrim in 2009.
That afternoon, we said good-bye to St. Catherine's. Though the museum was closed, which holds the beautifully mysterious icon Christ of the Sinai, Moussa gave me a postcard of the image that now watches me in my office.
That night, we encamp at the Red Sea resort of Nuweiba! Dinner was shared with Henry, Carol, and our motley crew after we had a wonderful swim and freshened up from our morning trek to Mt. Sinai!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
After the quick and sudden down pour yesterday, the evening was cool and gentle. This morning, awakening in the Bedouin tent, looking straight out I could make out four camels in the distance, parked near the local sheiks jeep.
This morning, our friend Ead was preparing b'fast, with hot water for tea and coffee! We are surrounded by the beauty of the desert rock formation and sandy bluffs. The sky is blue, with nary a cloud in sight. We wear long sleeve shirts, but will soon shuck them off for t-shirts and shorts. Nice to wear shorts after wearing long trousers in all the churches and monasteries.
Last night, the sheik's wife came and spread out her wares and trinkets for the tourists to purchase. This morning, the daughter of one of the sheik's wives brought a new collection, along with her sister. Henry would just say, "Looks like the mall is open," and over we would go to purchase a gift for home.
While Moussa drove the jeep to meet us at our next destination point, Moussa and Henry took us on a hike. Asking us, "what is a miracle?" we looked out over the mountainous terrain of the Sinai. It was not the Sahara or the Gobi, but the starkly alluring mountains of the Sinai. We caught sight of our first snake, along with lizards. We learned that Moses' trick of sticking the rod into sandstone, releasing water, is an old desert trick as water gets caught in sandstone. We knew better than drinking the water, and learned that if you stamped your feet where camels dare to trod you call up camel ticks!
The hour of silence in the desert was a gift to behold. Sitting against a rock wall, with a rocky overhang, looking out over a small oasis, was sheer wonder.
And to think: Moses, a pilgrim indeed, camped in these very spots.
How do we know? We actually came to Hashmonah, mentioned in Numbers 33: 29: they set out from Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah. Hashmonah had one other tourist group (Europeans) among the Bedouin encampment eateries, and our group. Underneath the overhang of bright colored cloths, with soft cushions, we rested our heads after eating and took a lovely nap.
After Hashmonah, we climbed to the top of a rocky pinnacle, and looking back we were swept up in the beauty of the thousand shades of brown, white, red, pink, black, and greenery of oases.
Before getting into our jeep with Ead behind the wheel, we came upon a large rock formation. Scratched into many of these rocks are ancient scripts mentioning where the oases are with images of camels pointing to the place, along with ancient Byzantine and Coptic scripts, with a jot from a Crusader, mentioning the Hashmonah oasis over the nearest pass. Again, like Kilroy of American fame, we would say, "Egeria the pilgrim was here!"
We drove up to St. Catherine of the Sinai Greek Orthodox Monastery after our desert trek. Egyptian tourist authorities have made this a little city, with many check-points. Checking in at the monastery, we learned that the monastery would be largely closed tomorrow because it is the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ! Eastertide is drawing to a close. However, through Moussa's friendships with the monks, we were given a rare treat: we got into the monastery walls, saw the well where Moses met his wife, as well as the burning bush, and were in the presence of the monks chanting psalms during vespers in a chapel that boasts of being built in the 6th century, during the reign of Justinian! The icons were amazingly beautiful, with gold leaf design and images of the Christ in beautiful repose.
But that wasn't the only amazing part of the journey: we met Father Justin, an American Greek Orthodox monk from Texas! He is the librarian of the monastery, which holds the largest collection of the oldest Greek manuscripts in the world, along with an impressive collection of Arabic writings. This even supersedes the collection in the Vatican. Fr. Justin was a wonderful host, only too eager to show us around.
The beauty of these historic pilgrim places is overwhelming!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Monday, June 4, 2007
One dream of mine was to visit Egypt! I didn't realize that this would be the year to do it until Henry asked me (with a wink and a smile in his voice), "Wanna camp out in the Sinai?" "Sure," I said with enthusiasm.
At 7:15 A.M., we found ourselves on a bus cruising south along the shore of the Dead Sea, headed to the seaside resort of Eliat. We passed Massada, a place of great political significance, in which a renegade group of Jews held out against the powers-that-be in the ancient of days.
Eilat is like Atlantic City, NJ! There are hotels that look like skyscrapers reaching for the skies, with all kinds of water activities on the Red Sea. After a quick lunch following the five hour ride, we crossed the border at Taba, Egypt! What a change: air conditioned passport office in Israel, fans blowing and an old out-post, circa 1950s, in Egypt. There was a Hilton Hotel with casino on the Egyptian side, but the area was vacuous after the hub-bub of Eilat. Israelis have been scared off by the violence in the area over the years, and are waiting for it to subside before they invest again. Meanwhile, there are hotels upon hotels that look like ghost-towns all the way to Nuweiba.
An hour later, in Nuweiba, we met Moussa and Ead of Abu Noud Travel Agency, our pilgrim guides for our next venture: off-road camping in the desert! The desert was mountainous, with no one hill like any other. We saw Bedouin encampments in the middle of the desert, and were amazed at the ability for people to live in the middle of absolutely nowhere! Moussa and Ead were gracious hosts, showing us the way of the pilgrim, like Moses and the people of Israel.
We planned to camp outside, with the canopy of stars overhead, until it began to rain. This was a blessing for the people in the desert, and the Bedouins rejoiced for the rain! Quickly, we made it to a Bedouin tent, covered with goat hair blanket that quickly closes up when wet. We ate a wonderful dinner that night, the rain stopped, and the stars came out. In the middle of the desert of the Sinai, we were amazed at the plethora of stars, starting with Venus and the moon coming out first, followed by a panoply of twinkling jewels.
Egypt! A land of pilgrimage!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
We made it to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum, this morning via bus in Jerusalem. I've seen photos of the eternal flame of this Holocaust Museum, and was eager to see what was the story of this place.
When entering the entrance hall, I came to see how nationalism and religion can mix together from a totally different perspective than that of the States and Christianity. The various halls of Yad Vashem in the display area were filled with tourists as well as school groups. Young and old, able-bodied and disabled, jostled to see the evidence of the atrocity that were committed in Hitler's Germany.
The displays were overwhelming. It felt like someone took an attic full of memorabilia and threw it around a small room. From floor to ceiling there was plenty of evidence of what had happened: photos, brick-a-brack, newsreel photos, books, posters, all capturing the horrors of Nazi Germany. By the time we left, we were exhausted by the display.
But what stood out were the walls around the ghettos of Warsaw and other cities, and the walls of the concentration camps, which resembled the walls around the Palestinian enclaves of Israel. I struggle with the cognitive dissonance, in which the ones who were once victims were now the victimizers of others.
After lunch, we went to the Israel Museum. The display of the city of Jerusalem, circa the first century A.D. was powerful. The art in the Museum was gorgeous: impressionists like Corot and Monet, along with the modern art of Picasso and Mondrian, near a collection of the baroque art of Europe, and a Rembrandt thrown in for good measure. Beautiful!
That night we found ourselves on Jaffa St., near Ben Yehuda St., which was like a big down-town mall. We ate dinner this night in this part of west Jerusalem. It is here that we were frisked when entering a restaurant, and there was no Palestinian beer on the menu. Welcome to the divided city of a divided people!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
It is Mothers' Day in the States, and so we thanked God for all mothers around the world, especially this day the mothers of those who have died or been killed in the bloodshed in this part of the world.
After a full German breakfast at the Pilgerhaus, because it was raining lightly we ran to the small Chapel of Pilgerhaus to celebrate Eucharist. The Chapel looked out over the Sea of Galilee. Taking the bread, breaking it, and drinking from the cup of love (white wine!), I am somewhat in awe of eating this meal of salvation in the land of Jesus, the Palestinian Jew who changed the world!
After Eucharist we high tailed it to the Primacy of St. Peter Chapel, that was next door to Pilgerhaus. As we walked down to the Sea of Galilee, lo and behold two fishermen in their fishing boat came to shore! This is the place where the risen Christ reportedly fixed a meal for the fishermen. This is one of the places that Egeria met a group of Byzantine Christians, who cared for the table-rock where Jesus fed the disciples. After Henry read John 21, we hiked up our pants and stood in the Sea at the Primacy of St. Peter, smiling for the camera.
Then, next door to this Chapel was Capernaum. With wonder we walked around the synagogue that was most likely standing when Peter lived in this small town, looking down at the 1st century ruins of this once-thriving town.
With no time to spare, by lunch time we made it up to Mt. Tabor: the Mount of Transfiguration! Unfortunately, it closed early on this day (Sunday), but we nevertheless looked at the field below where one of the wars of Armageddon was to take place. We smiled as Henry read from the Gospel of Luke, in which we read that it was here that Jesus set his face, and his foot to Jerusalem, on his exodus to his death...for us and our salvation, in the company of the disciples along with Elijah and Moses.
Racing back to Jerusalem, slipping easily through check-points, Henry dropped us off at the top of the Mount of Olives as we walked the Via Dolorosa to Ecce Homo, our B&B. The view of the old city of Jerusalem was magnificent. We watched Orthodox Jews walking among the burial plots of the dearly departed; we witnessed a group of Filipino Catholics praying at the chapel where Jesus wept, followed by a group of evangelical Christians from the States praying that they would be ready for the second coming of Christ! We interrupted a folk mass in the Chapel of All Nations, and ducked into the Grotto where Mary died. We were silent before a group of Italian tourists who were reverently walking the Via Dolorosa in the chapel commemorating the whipping of Jesus. We finally made it to Ecce Homo, ready to put our feet up. Dinner tonight was at Az Ahara!
Again, what struck us as significant was that Jesus, this Palestinian Jew, whose life made such an incredible impact upon the lives of others who have all different kinds of perspectives on this man of God.
Pilgrim peace, Brett
We arose quite early this morning to meet Henry by the Lion's Gate, taking one bag each for our trek to Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee! Henry promised us a great breakfast, with strong coffee, and croissants...which would've been great if it weren't for Shabbath. Everything in this area that is owned by Jews is closed!
We left Jerusalem, traveling east toward Jordan, going through a check point because we were entering--or are we leaving--occupied territory. Soon out of Jerusalem, we pull over to the side of the road, to a small viewing area. We see before us nothing but desert, but are equally intrigued with the faraway city of Jerusalem. Reading Ps. 55, Henry tells us that it was supposedly here, in this area, that Jesus was tempted by the Evil One! The beauty was that of the arid areas of New Mexico and Arizona in the States. Hostile yet gorgeous to the eye, and brown, black, with specks of green as far as the eye could see.
We found an "oasis," a gas station that was open, and so we ate some b'fast. We are seeing more camels and Bedouins, and the poor of this area live in small hovels and tents. Jericho is in the distance, and we dare not go there because it is Palestinian and thus an impregnable fortress with its prison gray wall.
Snaking up north on highway 90, we see the country Jordan across the Jordan river. It is lush and green where there are farms and fields of grain. We make a long stop at the river Jordan. At first, no one was there. But before we left, a bus load of Russian Orthodox pilgrims donned on long white t-shirts with an image of John baptizing Jesus and (with swim suits underneath) the pilgrims went down into the Jordan, blessed by their priest, coming out wet and a little wild.
We supped at a handsome Bedouin tent nearby, eating a hearty lunch that we keep us going through Nazareth.
In Nazareth, we were surprised at the congestion of a busy city. We went first to the Roman Catholic shrine to the Annunciation: the building hung over the small grotto where Mary was told that she would give birth to Emmanuel. But then Henry took us down the street to the Greek Orthodox chapel, in which Mary was supposedly by a river, drawing water, when she was told by Gabriel that she was to give birth to the source of abundant water, and thus the church was situated over the source of water! Not only that: they have found the ruins of a Roman bath, suggesting Nazareth was not a small town, but a busy city: imagine Jesus as a city kid of middle-class parents!
We then made our way to the Sea of Galilee, spending the night at the Benedictine Pilgerhaus! I met a Benedictine sister who knew of St. Benedict's Monastery, where I am an oblate! Small world! We hiked to the chapel of the Beatitudes, imagining this golden-grained field full of disciples. We hid in a small grotto where Jesus may have hung out after withdrawing from the crowds.
Dinner was superb, and there was an internet for us to use. While Henry went off with his friend that evening, we sat and enjoyed the cool breeze coming from the Sea of Galilee! In the distance were the Golan Heights of Lebanon! We just cannot believe we are in this part of the world of such thick, interesting, and turgid history amid Gospel wonders.
Pilgrim peace, Brett
As I write this posting, I am still filled with emotions that are raw yet tender. What I saw, heard, felt, and was moved by was not in the travel books I read before I went on this trip.
Bethlehem, which is only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem proper, is a walled-off prison, a.k.a., Palestinian refugee camp. "O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie," does not exist anymore. The high grey wall that encircles this Holy City is horrendous. I call it a snake that is trying to kill off life in this City.
Henry drove us to one of the few entry places into the walled-off city. While we went through numerous scanners, x-ray machines, and gates while being televised, all in a few minutes, it can take a Palestinian hours to go through the very same thing. Henry could not come with us because he is Israeli.
Our new friend Elias Ghareeb met us on the other side of the wall. A Greek Orthodox Palestinian, Elias had just returned from vacation. Instead of flying out of Ben Gurion airport down the road, he has to go to Amman, Jordan and fly out of Jordan because he is Palestinian.
First place to go was Manger Square. Along the Church of the Nativity you can see the bullet holes from the battle that went on in this city a few years ago. Instead the Church we saw the beauty of the mosaic floors that Helena had built, along with the icons of the Crusaders. Underneath the main floor, in a small alcove, was the spot where Jesus was born, and the spot that the cradle inhabited. Hundreds of pilgrims filled the tight space. Elias reminded us that most people lived in small caves or grottoes, which explained the tight space that felt like a rocky enclosure.
Near this site is the place that St. Jerome wrote the Vulgate version of the Bible near the chapel of St. Joseph, Jesus' father. Again, like so much in Jerusalem, we saw the Russian and the Greek Orthodox sections, the Roman Catholic section, and the Coptic sections of the Church. Protestantism does not have much of a hold on these Holy sites.
Picking up Elias' car outside the Milk Grotto (where Mary's milk touched the floor of the cave, making the entire cave white), we went to the Palestinian Refugee Camp. We specifically spent time at the Lajee Center of the Aida Refugee Camp. We heard of the stories of oppression of the Palestinian people, and went to the top of the building to see the snaking, meandering wall that is dividing the people from the land. Within Bethlehem, the medical, educational, and civil services are being constricted. Life is tense among and in families. Israel is not building a wall along the Green Line (an agreed upon line between the Palestinian people and Israel), but is taking whatever land they want.
We talked a great deal about the oppression of the Palestinian people. The wall is meant to "protect the Palestinian people" says Israel, but the Palestinian people are growing restless within these walls, and the days of the next intifada are coming. Over lunch at the Grotto Restaurant we looked at where Elias hopes to move to, though it may be torn down in order for the Israeli's to build their wall.
We sang "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" in the Shepherd's Chapel, with Elias, a group of Filipino nuns, and ourselves. After we picked up some gifts for people at home at a beautiful gift store, and tried to visit the Greek Orthodox Church in Bethlehem, Elias turned me on to kanahfay (sp?), a sweet dessert that is high on my list of "must haves."
We left Elias that day angry about the sense of victimization that is going on among the people, and lost in the question: why would a people who were once victims now turn around and become the victimizers of oppression?
Pilgrim peace, Brett
After yesterday's brief introduction to "old" and "new" Jerusalem, today's focus was on the "Old Jerusalem."
We met Henry in the morning after a restful night's sleep. We began with a walk up and down the Via Dolorosa, starting at the Lion's Gate, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, with many places in between. For example, we walked up an improvised bridge to the Dome of the Rock, home of Mt. Moriah, and the Al Asque Mosque. Sadly, because of most recent violence in 2001, the interior of the Dome is closed off to visitors, though the glass-tile mosaic work, along with the gold leaf Dome are exquisite to look at.
The Dome area was once home to the Temple mentioned often in the Bible, and thus it is a place of great spiritual tension and continuing religious violence.
From the Dome, we walked to Bethesda Pool and St. Anne's Chapel. St. Anne's honors not only St. Anne but Mary herself. The beauty of the Chapel is that everything is a little bit off balance and not quite in perfect symmetry. It was also saved from being destroyed during one of the times that Jerusalem was under Ottoman rule by being turned into a Muslim school.
Bethesda was far larger than I imagined. Home to the story of the one who was paralyzed and waited for the angel to stir the waters, there were numerous levels of pools by which those with disabilities would sit and wait for the stirring of waters in order to touch the waters quickly and be healed.
After stopping for a quick cup of coffee, we went along the ancient Cordo, a corridor of shops, until Henry ducked into a sweet shop. "Give the gentleman five shekels, and come with me," and with that Henry opened a door in the back of the shop, and we walked into fourth century Jerusalem! Behind the door was an arch of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that dated back to the earliest pilgrim, Egeria, a Spanish nun of the fourth century, who not only wrote down the various liturgies used in the early church, but accurately wrote down where the Holy sites were located, maintained for years by the ancient Byzantine church prior to Helena (Constantine's mother), arrival. The sweet shop owner doesn't quite know what they will do with it all yet in terms of turning it over to the antiquity authorities.
Directly above us was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre! We entered the Church through the Ethiopian Coptics and Egyptian Copts Church chapels, which were, themselves stunning in their antiquity, with a visually stunning painting of the Queen of Sheba meeting King David.
We entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and were met by pilgrims touching and praying over the large marble slab that honored the embalming of Jesus (though the embalming was to have really taken place on the Sunday after his death). To the right was the stone known simply as Golgotha! The Greek Orthodox iconography was everywhere. Touching this stone, underneath it was another stone, the cleft of Adam, where Adam was to have "originated." Walking along this level, along a corridor, we came to a tomb that was once outside the City's gates, owned by Joseph of Armithea. Near this vacant tomb was a small tabernacle, which is said to be the site of where Jesus was buried and thus rose from the dead. In order to enter and touch the stone of the place where Jesus was buried I had to wrestle with the Greek Orthodox monk who wanted to pry my hand open over a burning flame, "the light of purity." Making a sign of the cross on my open palm over the sooty debris of the candle, I prayed over the site of where Jesus was said to have been buried.
All around us were mosaics and painted icons that were stunning to the eye. Chills now and then would pass over me as I contemplated not only the possibilities of Holiness entering terra firma, but also taking in the breadth and depth of the pilgrims who have come to this place in search of the Christ.
Henry left us to tend to matters at St. Georges while we went off to Papa Andreas for lunch. The view of the Old City from the restaurant was worth the cost of the lunch! Stunning!
For the afternoon, we had some history to learn! We went to the Citadel, that was once mistakenly thought to be a part of King David's fortress. In the Citadel we watched, listened, touched, and were mesmerized by the history of this City. Many cultures and countries have laid claim to this City throughout the centuries...and more likely there will be more changing of hands.
From there we walked to the southern wall near the Western (or Wailing) wall. At the Davidson Center, we walked along the current archaeological diggings and findings of the southern part of the Old City. We saw that as each layer of dirt and grime is removed there is something new being shown about the city's former inhabitants.
That night, exhausted, we ate at a wonderful restaurant, Az Ahara, in east Jerusalem. This part of the City is Palestinian and largely Muslim, whereas west Jerusalem is largely Israeli and Jewish. The difference? We could walk right into the restaurant, and I could order a Taybeh (Palestinian) beer, while on the west Jerusalem side I would have been frisked down and there is no Taybeh beer!
Like the inner domain of the Old City, the newer parts of Jerusalem are equally divided and unique unto themselves!
Pilgrim peace, Brett
Friday, May 25, 2007
We arrived in Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on Wed., May 9th! The sun was out, a cloudless blue sky was over our heads, and Henry Carse, our pilgrim guide for the next ten days, was only too happy to see us at the airport. Henry and I had talked about doing this pilgrimage a year ago, but the war broke out on the border of Lebanon and Israel, thus causing us to re-schedule this pilgrimage.
While our Palestinian brothers and sisters on the flight were held up in security checks, we whisked through security checks at the airport with nary a lick of attention.
Henry first showed us the money, instructing us that four sheckels equals a dollar, "Got that?" and he plunked some money into our hand. "We'll work on the finances later." Dashing out to the car he borrowed from St. Georges College in Jerusalem, we made our way out of the airport with brochures, pamphlets, and maps in our hands. Henry, with a wink of his eye, told us that he would take us along an older route into town. Knowing full well that we would soon meet the politics of the day along the old route, we were amazed at what we saw: drawing closer to Jerusalem, we were amazed at the walls rising up in the middle of treeless plateaus. The Palestinian people were being walled in while Israeli settlements were springing up on what was their land. The walls divide friends, families, land, and cultures. Check-points sprung up out of nowhere. Amazing.
Jerusalem the Golden! Henry drove us right up to the front door of Ecce Homo, our B&B while we are in Jerusalem. Managed by the Sisters of Notre Dame, we said "adieu" to Henry, found our rooms, and napped until we saw Henry at 4:00 P.M.
After a quick nap, we roused ourselves and walked along the Via Dolorosa, the very trail that pilgrims take following the mythical last walk, or "Dead Man Walking" pathway that Jesus followed to Golgotha. We grabbed some bread for lunch, and looked inside countless small stores in which people were hawking their wares.
At 4:00, we met Henry at Ecce Homo. Henry took us to the top of Ecce Homo, the Terrace, in which we got a grand view of the Mount of Olives, Dome of the Rock, and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We saw the straight line that these three monuments made, remembering the countless cultures, civilizations, and people who had lived, prayed, worshipped, fought, laughed, loved, and worked in this place.
Dinner that night was at the American Colony Hotel. Soup and a hamburger, and Taybeh beer (a Palestinian beer)! It would be the last time we saw such Western food for the next few weeks.
It was a great welcome to the Holy places and spaces that we were to explore in the coming days.
Pilgrim peace, Brett