Our Holy Land pilgrimage is drawing to an end. We are currently resting in our hotel in Jerusalem before our farewell dinner and a late night flight back to the United States. But just because today was our last day here doesn’t mean it was empty. We began the day with Mass at an outdoor chapel at the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. Located on top of what was the house of the High Priest Caiaphas at the time of Jesus, it was here that Jesus was imprisoned after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was also here, in the courtyard of the house, that Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Gallicantu means “the chanting cock,” an appropriate name for this church. The outdoor altar where we celebrated Mass has as its backdrop a view of the Temple Mount and the Mt. of Olives – a beautiful setting overlooking places significant in the life of Jesus. Today is also the Memorial of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, which we celebrated at Mass while being able to see what remains of the steps of the very Temple where Mary was presented as a young girl by her parents. It was a beautiful final Mass for our pilgrimage in a place where we could look around and see many of the places we had visited and prayed at.
Following Mass, we visited the Church itself and read the portions of the Passion Narrative that happened here. A particularly moving moment came when we descended into the underground dungeon where Jesus had been imprisoned and read there Psalm 88, which I could imagine was on the mind of Jesus that night. We then traveled to the Israel Museum where we viewed a large outdoor model of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus and also visited the Shrine of the Book, where we were able to see some of the actual Dead Sea Scrolls. After a stop for lunch, we headed for Bethany, home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, where we read the account of the raising of Lazarus in John 11 in the Church built over the house where these friends of Jesus lived. Before departing Bethany, many of us took the opportunity to ride a camel that is there outside the church – a bit of culture and fun before leaving the Holy Land.
It will take time for all of us to process and reflect on the past ten days. I am sure I will have some further reflections to post here at some point. But as rich and spiritually fruitful as these days have been, I think we are all ready to return home and to continue our journey of life and faith, strengthened by this pilgrimage to the land of Jesus.