HOLY LAND - The Holy Land is the only historical place where the momentous Divine Presence manifested in the flesh. The land where we can experience the 5th Gospel, as Pope Benedict XVI once said. Our salvation history is there, in the land of Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles.
A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is indeed a life-transforming experience, where we rediscover hidden treasures, such as the life of Jesus and the Christian communities, the living stones.
Historically, people would always travel on pilgrimages in times of difficulties, given that “faith travel” was one of the first forms of tourism, where the journey was as important as the destination itself.
The pilgrimages are of great importance in a time of great division in the world. The journey to the Holy Land becomes a unique time, where we can reach out to the communities, sharing common faith and values. The need for a human and spiritual connection is greater than ever.
The five pillars of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land are: praying in the Holy Places in union with, and for the intentions of our brothers and sisters in need; renewal and increase of our faith in Christ with the help of the catechesis heard in the very places where the sacred events occurred; visiting and supporting the local Christian communities through implementing humanitarian and development projects; after the return to our countries, giving testimony to the Risen Christ of a renewed life; finally, encouraging our friends and relatives to repeat the same experience.
We know Jesus lives in the suffering places.
The streets of the Old Cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, empty of pilgrims for almost a year and a half, show deep signs of the fragility experienced by those communities, which highly depend on pilgrims and visitors. Families and individuals need their dignity and faith restored. Healthy spirituality and employment contribute enormously to restoring dignity. A dire situation, indeed.
As the Holy Land and the holy places prepare for a full recovery, let us prepare our hearts in charity and compassion, and return to Bethlehem and rejoice where the Christmas miracle is actualized every day. Let us join our souls to Jesus at Golgotha again and again, seeing Him in our suffering brothers and sisters of the Middle East. Let us meet again at the Sea of Galilee and reach out to Jesus, who taught us to trust Him during all life’s storms and turbulence.
There is no virtual replacement for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The return of pilgrims would be a light of hope to sustain the Christian communities and the Church’s mission. One of the spiritual gifts we will have is the profound sense of gratitude for experiencing these holy places again.
When travels resume to the Holy Land, we will need to regain those experiences that we once lived. We can rewrite our history, reaching our hand to our communities and being part of the Mission Jesus entrusted to all Christians: to live for one another as brothers in Christ.
Pilgrim Knights and Dames of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher can embrace the core of our mission towards the Mother Church and the Holy Land’s Christians, enriching our spirituality and emerging more robust in the faith.
Henrique Abreu - KHS, former Head of Project Development Office at the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.