Many of you have been asking about my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was absolutely wonderful, even though I had a bout with my sinuses while we were there. This was my second trip, but I have to say that I enjoyed it more than my first one. Many of the impressions were similar.
This time we also spent a couple of days in Jordan, which I had not done before. Amman, the capitol, is a truly beautiful city and our hotel there was really elegant. In the New Testament, we hear of a place called the Decapolis, which is basically Jordan today. The word “decapolis” means “ten cities”, and we also hear about many of them in the New Testament as well. The city of Amman was called Philadelphia at the time of Christ. We also had a chance to go to Petra the first day and it was really wonderful. It is the site of an ancient city where they carved their tombs and memorials into the sides of cliffs along a gorge. The size and scope of the tombs, bas-reliefs, and statues is awe inspiring. The city was famous throughout the ancient world for its wealth for its production of frankincense and myrrh. It is likely that the three Wise Men stopped off here to pick up some gifts for the baby Jesus. The second day in Jordan we went to Mt. Nebo where Moses looked across the Jordan River into the Holy Land, but was never allowed to enter. He died near there.
I won’t have room to tell you about all of the sites we saw in Palestine, but there are two major impressions that I had the first time I went to the Holy Land and were reinforced this time. First of all, it is the beauty of the landscape and how radically it changes in very short distances. The areas of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan that we visited are smaller than half of Wisconsin, but the terrain varies wildly the amount of rainfall from one place to another, only 15 or 20 miles away varies considerably. The other great impression is that we still know where all of these places are, because the native Palestinian Christians (mostly Catholics) have venerated them since the first century and their locations and sacredness have continued in the living memory and tradition until today. Along with this, one notices that all of these places belong to the Catholic Church—now why is that? Because they always have! It only makes sense that the one, true Church established by Jesus Christ cares for all of the Sacred places of its founder.