Compared to the serenity of Galilee, we found Jerusalem to be crowded, busy, and a bit chaotic. Yet the chaos seemed appropriate, reflecting perfectly the dramatic end to Jesus’ earthly life. As the crossroads for the world’s three monotheistic religions, Jerusalem is an intense, interesting, and diverse city. For Christian pilgrims, there are countless places to encounter the Lord in a multitude of holy sites. Both the Scriptures and the person of Jesus come alive in a very tangible way.
Because of the presence of Christians, especially the Franciscans who have been entrusted with the care of many of the holy sites, these places haven’t become museums. We were amazed that nothing was behind ropes or barriers, or somehow inaccessible to us. We were able to place our hands on the rock that formed the table for Jesus and His disciples on the shore of Galilee, we rubbed our fingers across the “holy graffiti” etched into walls by the Crusaders, and we venerated the stone where Jesus’ body was laid after it was taken down from the Cross. In fact, many of the holy places are marked by stones, and thus have been preserved for all generations.
As sensory beings, it’s important for us to be able to engage our senses when we worship God, to make the intangible a bit more tangible. This is why things like music, incense, and bells have always been used in the celebration of the Holy Mass. All these elements help us to enter into the mystery of what is taking place before us, to not only see with our eyes, but also to hear, taste, and smell. Thus we experience our faith in all its richness, not merely as an exercise of the intellect. Understandably, not everyone will be able to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but we can all keep Jesus and His Blessed Mother close to us. Using different sacramental objects – a candle, holy water, a scapular, or rosary, for instance – we are reminded that our Lord is alive, He is very near, and that He wants to touch our lives in a real and tangible way.
– Kelley Holy
“Christ made Himself the Bread of Life. He wanted to give Himself to us in a very special way, in a simple, tangible way, because it is hard for human beings to love a God whom they cannot see.” Mother Teresa