As I prepared to go to the Holy Land I was preoccupied with packing the right clothing. And I was concerned about seeing invasive tacky souvenir shops capitalizing on our Lord’s life. But my concerns were misplaced. Aside from a good pair of walking shoes any clothing was fine, and my fantasies about what it would be like were vastly different than what it truly is like. Visiting the Holy land is a graced experience.
While Grace is based in what is true and real, it seldom is discovered in what we expect, the nature of grace is surprise.
Part of the grace was to quickly learn that people all over the world were sharing my precious moments by the sea of Galilee, the church of the Annunciation to Mary, or visiting the tomb in which Jesus was laid. Every language and culture was present. People more devoted than me and annoying tourists shared these moments with me as I gazed at ancient frescoes and sat in prayer in holy places. I don’t think I have had a more multicultural experience than when I put my feet in the Jordan River.
Grace is what is truly real and precious that simply appears prior to and without ones efforts to achieve or produce it". – James Finley
Our tour leader The Very Rev. Dominic Barrington has been planning pilgrimages to the Holy Land for 25 years. And he masterfully guided us. His contacts created an experience where we could find quiet and prayer amid busy places. His leadership was part of the grace that enveloped our days.
Our guide, Ghassan, a Palestinian Christian, called visiting the Holy Land the 5th gospel. The written gospels Mathew, Mark, Luke and John support the 5th gospel of actually being where Jesus did and said all the things they proclaim. He had a wonderful memory of the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Historic teaching combined with teaching about the present day social, religious and political conflicts of Israel and Palestine added a new dimensions to familiar stories. Ghassan is likely one of the most dedicated Christians I will ever meet.
And then there was a bus of people that shared the journey with me. All of us Episcopalians, we prayed together and shared Eucharist. We sang together our most beloved hymns in ancient churches. We supported each other physically along the challenging paths. We became a community of grace for each other.
So much conspires to reveal God’s grace in our lives. Grace is the same here and now as it was in Israel and Palestine waiting for me to receive what is true and precious that simply appears without my efforts.
I cannot wait to tell you more about the journey. I can’t wait to explain why Christmas will never be the same for me. How the most holy church in the world, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher impacted my life.
Grace is always present waiting for us to notice and step into its truth that transforms any moment into a moment shimmering with God’s life.
What grace is God revealing to you to you?
With you on the journey,