I'm pleased to post the Holy Land reflections of the Hon. Andrew Guilford of St. John's Church. In January, Andy and Loreen completed their second St. John's pilgrimage:
By Andy Guilford
The Holy Land is a powerful place filled with confusion, but bringing clarity to pilgrims seeking to know God. The confusion starts with what to call this land of milk and honey. Israel? Palestine? The West Bank? Samaria? Judea? But there is the clarity of all three Abrahamic religions agreeing that something's happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear, to some, and there's a man with a gun over there. Actually, there are many there with impressive automatic rifles, but they are just boys and girls, and we can call this place Israel only because of them.
As for what's happening, for many this is where the physical meets the spiritual. Theophany is a powerful thing. Incarnation even more powerful. And it is in this physical place that these physical and spiritual things happened. That gives this place a Holiness like no other place.
There is no sign of a "post-Christian" world here, as diverse folks of many colors from around the world piously pilgrim to where the Holy One walked. Wavering Christians who seek holiness or truth or beauty or discipline elsewhere should first fully appreciate the Christianity that thrives around where He was born in Bethlehem, where He preached in Galilee, and where He was crucified and resurrected at a rock and slab honored under one roof at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
The calming Holiness of this place contrasts with the confusion of the conflict all around. The conflict may come from the desire of so many to control such special land. And perhaps it is fueled by the inability to forgive, and reconcile, and together move closer to the One God.
There is also the striking physical contrast between two cultures, with one producing the sparkling indicia of achievement, and the other stumbling thorough the rubble of poverty, even a poverty that remains full of the spicy richness of life. How can this be side by side? Are we witnessing cultural bias, the oppressor and the oppressed, or those who are left free to achieve and those who are not?
Surrounded by all this, in the end, with the Creation thriving here in all its glory and pain, this is indeed THE place to find God.
Photos: Pilgrim Andy at the Western Wall; Andy and Fr. John at a spot where the three Abrahamic faiths converge; Israeli soldiers drilling for a ceremony at the Western Wall plaza; Andy watches as pilgrim Loreen touches the stone of Mt. Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; woman selling parsley in Jerusalem's Old City