Today we fly home, with an overnight lay-over at Heathrow. Many thanks to all of you for your prayers. As God wills, I’ll be posting photos and writing more when I reach home. Doubtless there will be parish matters to attend to – thus how quickly I get back into rhythm is anybody’s guess. May God grant us all to make pilgrimage to the true Jerusalem of the heart.
A pilgrimage cannot be measured in photographs or souvenirs – though I have invariably acquired both. The acquisition that I think will be most lasting became clear yesterday as we visited the Tomb of the Mother of God (which, of course, is empty). My wife and I were discussing the Feast of the Dormition, which we celebrated just last month. She remembers many of the hymns for the day (she sings in our choir). In one of the hymns Mary speaks to the Apostles to “take my body to Gethsemane.” Prior to the pilgrimage those were words to simply know and sing, part of the Traditional teaching surrounding the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. But to have stood at her tomb, as did the Apostles there in Gethsemane, suddenly gave a proper form to the words. For though the words have theological meaning – meaning is not divorced from place in the Orthodox faith. Meaning transforms place as grace makes of earth the Paradise it was meant to be – one place at a time – one heart at a time.
It was this realization that made me know that none of the feasts associated with the Holy Land will ever again be quite the same for me. They will doubtless carry a double-meaning – both the memory and knowledge of the reality they proclaim as well as the memory of place, full of darkness and light, smells and sounds.
The places I have been and prayed now take their place in the silence of the heart where I may still stand and pray in wordless contemplation of God made man.
May God have mercy on us, forgive us, and may we all forgive one another by the resurrection.