Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Day 4 - Ein Kerem and Via Dolorosa

Today we left Notre Dame Centre at 8.30am and arrived in good time in Ein Kerem. We climbed a steep hill to reach the church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth and there we sung the Magnificat.

Back down the valley for some refreshment and then to the Church of the Nativity of St John. At the spot of his birth we prayed for the Parish and Mass was celebrated on the High Altar of this Shrine.
Lunch was at an Orthodox Nunnery dedicated to St Elijah the prophet. From there we went to Herods Gate and walked to the Antonia Fortress where we started the way of the cross in the places in which they really happened. We had some free time in the city for sight seeing and shopping. Some fine incense was bought to burn at Sevenoaks for Holy Week.
After Supper we celebrated our last night in Jerusalem by an excursion to enjoy the Holy City by night.

Today's homily:

We come here with utmost joy; this is the place where our Saint John was born. We come today to give thanks to God for giving us St John as our Patron and also, why not, to say thank you to St John and to ask him to enable our Parish to follow his example and to continue to be aided by his prayers from heaven.
In the courtyard in front of this church you see written in several languages the “Benedictus”. This was the canticle that burst forth from the freshly opened lips of St Zechariah, the father of our saint. It speaks to us about God, about His relationship with us, it revives our memory and outlines our identity and it speaks of John and tells us how to be like him.
The opening line sums it up. Blessed be the Lord; the God of Israel. The God of Israel is to be blessed always. This echoes the first commandment. There is only one God. For Zachariah it was the God who identified himself with Israel. Our God has a history; he delights in His people and works through them and with them. For us our God is easily identifiable too, he is the God of Jesus Christ. This God is always to be blessed. In joy and sorrow, in tears and laughter we say with Job: “God has given; God has taken away; blessed be God forever!” We all know that this is not easy, but our God, the God of Israel and Jesus Christ is always with us and whatever is thrown at us in life our relationship with God is one of blessing Him. This will set us free, by being with us, by us blessing Him and He blessing us, He sets us free. This giving and receiving of blessing guarantees freedom, and in freedom alone we can journey and grow as the memory of Israel tells us. At the core of our identity is a freedom and a blessing, and memory show us that we achieve this when we are free to bless God rather than shackled by self-imposed structures.
God knows that we are not able to achieve this freedom on our own steam so He sends His Son a mighty Saviour that descending in the experience of the hell He will shatter the gates of sin and death.
This Saviour is not an innovation but an organic development. This is the model of how the Church works not in innovative measures but in organic development. This Saviour was promised to the House of David, he was proclaimed by the prophets. This Saviour saves us from our enemies, from the demons that want our destruction, from all the structures of sin and death.
The life handed to us by the Saviour shows mercy to our ancestors and renews the holy covenant. Our Saviour brings together with us in this moment all those that came before and all those yet to come. In every Mass, in an instant, all people are made one, time and space is immaterial, we are given freedom to worship God. And as we bless Him, we live in holiness all the days of our life.Finally our own John is called, like us, to be a prophet of the Most High. How do we do this? We do it by preparing hearts and ways for the Lord to triumph, to offer forgiveness and freedom to all. Why? Because our God is tender in compassion, he is the light after a dark night, a light to all and for all to live in the way of peace. Indeed the memory of John points us to our identity.

Holy Land Day 4

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