Thursday and I’ve been in Jerusalem for one week. Not only has it been a task getting over jet lag–the worst case I’ve had in decades of travel…but it has taken time to adjust to the beautiful routine of the Dominican friars. Their prayer schedule is not as taxing as staying in a Benedictine house. We say Lauds in the basilica at 7:30 – Vespers at 7:30 pm and Conventual Mass at noon. Breakfast informally on our own. Lunch and Dinner in community. Adjustment to Jerusalem and Israel has also taken some time and energy. I am realizing I am not the youthful 31 year old who first traveled here. In 1987, while still an Anglican priest, I took three months and hitch-hiked to Jerusalem from England staying in monasteries en route.
Now that was an adventure! It was one of the experiences that convinced me that I should eventually take the step to become Catholic. Moving to England had been a step back (from modern America) into the early Reformation world. A step back, if you like, 500 years to England and the Anglican Church. Traveling across Europe overland and mostly on foot I was walking back further–into the early Middle Ages, then into the Roman times and finally, on arrival in the Holy Land–to antiquity. The further East I went the closer I seemed to be getting first to the Church, then to the apostolic age, then to the Bible lands and Our Lord and his Blessed Mother–and eveywhere I went there was the Catholic Church waiting for me like a great, unavoidable home.
Now to be in Jerusalem again this time as a Catholic priest, is an amazing experience. I hope to say Mass one day in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at the site of our Lord’s sacrifice and offer the sacrifice there.
What an unbelievable world we live in! Last night when I couldn’t sleep I was texting my family. I’m in Jerusalem. Ali, my wife, was on her way to England. Elias, our youngest, is in Northern Thailand teaching English in a Jesuit School. Maddy, our daughter lives in Salt Lake City. Ben in Greenville and Theo in Charleston.
This morning I wake up to find that Ali’s flight to England is cancelled and she is in airport hell with hundreds of others trying to re-book flights, get hotels and survive. Poor her! She will finally fly out on Saturday evening.
It is the last Friday in Lent here so a fasting day. Jerusalem next week is likely to be super hectic as Ramadan, Holy Week and Passover all come together at this time. Crowds of pilgrims will be here. Businesses will be open or closed in unpredictable ways depending on the religion of their owners. I’m looking forward to joining the procession from the Mount of Olives with thousands of others on Palm Sunday. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram for pictures.
One of the amazing things about Jerusalem is the realization of just how ancient this city is. When you walk around the South side of the Old City you can see the archeological excavations where they are searching for the remains of the City of David–where King David and Solomon had their palaces. Very cool, and here at Ecole Biblique was where the Dead Sea Scrolls were first brought for preservation and study. They are not here now, but this is still a location for the study and analysis of the scrolls. There was a lecture here last night on the scrolls that everyone at dinner was chatting about. Alas, it was in French and I am now kicking myself that I didn’t work harder to learn French well enough. I get by in the liturgy because I already know most of what it means. Conversation and listening not so good. Add my darned hearing loss to the mix and I’m pretty much lost.
I hope you are enjoying these ramblings. Until next time…