God Resides in the Holy Land
One of the holiest Christian sites, the Basilica of Annunciation.
God Resides in the Holy Land
RENDEZVOUs - Christine Dayrit (The Philippine Star) - May 27, 2018 - 12:00am

God is everywhere. But nowhere in the world is God more felt than in Israel. In the Promised Land, I renewed my covenant with God.

The very essence of faith is in believing God even if one does not see Him. Faith is the communion between God and man and from it a covenant is sealed.

The facade of the church and the Corinthian columns in Jerusalem.

God is everywhere. But nowhere in the world is God more felt than in Israel. In the Promised Land, I renewed my covenant with God. What a humbling honor it was to be able to trace the life of Jesus — where he was born, lived and died for us. Going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is not just a trip of a lifetime, it is a dream come true.

From the Jordan River, we proceeded with newfound excitement to visit the holy and historical places in Israel.  The tours were made possible by Akram Albasel, president and owner of Olive Tree Tours, Israel and his business partner in the Philippines, Ching Nejal of Holy Land Tours. Our group, led by Catholic Travel Inc.’s amiable and charismatic priest Fr. Dave Concepcion and my winsome friend Carmina Orbe, enjoyed this 10-day pilgrimage through the Holy Land.

The ceiling of Nave and vault of the Church of all Nations.

On the day we arrived in Jerusalem, we had breakfast in the hotel and we learned that the Dome of the Rock is actually an important reminder to the Muslims because it is believed that Prophet Mohammad’s journey to heaven started from the center of the rock. Then to the Pool of Bethesda (associated with to healing in the Book of John) we proceeded. And fortunately, we were able to visit the Holy Sepulchre before it was suddenly closed to everyone due to some protests.

The Church of St. Anne prepared us to walk on the grounds where Jesus Christ lived and languished. Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow) is a relatively narrow street within the old city of Jerusalem believed to be the path Jesus walked on the way to his Crucifixion. No one goes to Jerusalem without visiting Via Dolorosa. The street is at once calming and numbing. It’s a reminder of to one’s faith — to hold on to the belief that God lived and died for us. And lives again. Forever.

“Peace,” a word written under this olive tree.

Each of the 14 Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa made me pray for loving kindness and mercy. I was reacquainted with the sorrows and sufferings of Christ when we proceeded to the Flagellation. At the end of the journey on this street is a promise of joy and happiness. On Via Dolorosa, it feels like you hear the word of God and your every step is directed.

We reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Church of the Resurrection, in the old Christian quarter of Jerusalem. It is believed to have contained the site where Jesus was crucified and Jesus’ empty tomb where he was buried and resurrected. The Wailing Wall, in limestone, is wailing in silence with people fervently praying, pleading to God to hear them, to have mercy on them, to look on them with compassion. The Wailing Wall is a place of deep prayer and solitude. I faced the wall and my unbidden tears flowed. It is a place where submission to God is felt instantaneously.

The rock where our Lord lay prostrate in prayer.

In Bethlehem, we visited the Shepherds’ Field  where the angels first announced the birth of Christ. We went to the Milk Grotto, which has grown in popularity over the years for new mothers and women who are trying to get pregnant.

There was a refreshing mood experienced at the Church of the Nativity, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ. In the Manger Square, we had a dinner in a restaurant before heading to the hotel. Personally, sleeping in the area where Christ was born made me feel very safe and secure. I was not feeling well that night but he the comfort Bethlehem gave me was more than enough to heal me. I woke up in solemnity, my body and soul refreshed.

The beautiful painting in the Church of Agony.

Perched on a hill in Jerusalem just outside the walls of the Old City is Mount Zion, which houses the Dormition Abbey, a Benedictine community. We then visited the Upper Room of the Last Supper. We proceeded to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, a Roman Catholic church located on the eastern slope of Mt. Zion.

I remembered vividly Matthew 1-17, the Geneology of Christ, when I offered prayers at the burial place of King David, the King of Israel. At the church of St. John the Baptist, we sent more pleas to the heavens until we reached the Church of the Magnificat where the Blessed Mary visited Elizabeth.

The door of Basilica of Annunciation that depicted the major events of Jesus’ life.

In Jerusalem, we visited the Mount of Olives, a mountain ridge near Jerusalem’s Old City.  It earned the name after the olive groves that once covered its slopes.

There was a feeling of lightness when we went inside the Ascension Chapel, the site where Jesus was seen before ascending into heaven. At the Church of Pater Noster, we mindfully recited the Lord’s Prayer, which is written in several languages including Filipino. To the Church of Dominus Flevit we proceeded next and it was as if we heard God weep over Jerusalem. We walked the Palm Sunday road to the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethesemane to see the Rock of Agony, the place where Jesus prayed before the Roman soldiers came to arrest Him.

Front row: Carmina Orbe, Ghee Panganiban, Jojo Rafer, Yoly Palanca (bending), Joey Palanca, Edu Manzano, Cor Cor Nodini, Fe Schlegel, Baby Palanca, Milette Marquez, Tes Mercado, Rina Palanca, Justice Zeny Laguiles, Meliss Bernabe, Avic Tan2nd row: Joseph Abdulla (guide), Fr. Dave Concepcion, Arlene Santamaria, Lorraine Feliciano, Randy Aruta, Kim Aumentado, Debbie Calupitan, Pepang Servino, Donna Cruz, Kristine Bañez, Tess Valdemoro, Tess Marquez, Baby Mercado, Inday Salazar, Ading Allayban, Mary Tamayo, Joan Angeles, Bona Lirios3rd row: Jun Palanca (beside Fr. Dave), Jayvi Aruta, Vito Aruta, Bong Aumentado, Danny Feliciano, Madz Ong, Teta Eugenio, Justice Tony Eugenio, Merson Mercado, Justice Lily Eugenio, Philip Gabay, Dante Bernabe.

The Church of Lazarus was next on the itinerary, then the Dead Sea Scrolls. We proceeded to the Dead Sea for a dip in the saltiest and lowest sea on Earth.   We continued to Jericho to see the Sycamore Tree where the tax collector climbed to see Jesus who was passing by. After lunch, we  viewed the Mount of Temptation, a high mountain west of Jericho. 

Oldest olive tree in the garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.

We had breakfast in the hotel and drove back to the border to cross back to Amman. At the end of our Holy Land trip, we discovered something new, something powerful, something spiritual about ourselves—faith.

Our eyes did not see God on this trip. But we felt him. After all, faith is all about believing in the power of the unseen.

The St. Joseph’s Church in Nazareth.

* * *

For more information please call Catholic Travel, Inc. at  523-2523 or 0918-9110748. Log on to www.catholictravel.com.ph.

HOLY LAND ISRAEL JERUSALEM NAZARETH
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