2020 Theme: The Jerusalem of Your Heart and Soul
In recent years more than four million travelers visited Jerusalem annually. This year travel is not recommended but we can still visit this sacred place in spirit and thought. We can consider our fellow Christians in the Diocese of Jerusalem, and their neighbours, to ask a blessing for them.
Blessed is the one whose strength is in you, O God,
Whose heart is set on the pilgrim way. (Psalm 84:5)
I was glad when they said unto me “Let us go into the house of the Lord”
And now our feet are standing within your gates O Jerusalem. (Psalm 122:2)
Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land:
The earliest recorded special visit to Jerusalem occurred in the year 170 CE. Melito, Bishop of Sardis (Sardis is near Ephesus) made a scholarly visit to confirm aspects of the Gospel accounts for himself. Thirty years later, Alexander from Cappadocia visited the land “to inquire of the places” and “to pray.” He demonstrated the principle aspects of pilgrimage; the desire to engage a geography of spiritual significance and to do so devotionally. Over the following thirty years further recorded visits occurred by Origen and other Christian leaders and scholars. Then in the early 300’s Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea Maritima (located on the Mediterranean coast about a half hour drive north of present day Tel Aviv) produced a gazetteer of the holy land listing 340 locations that corresponded to the gospels. The Onomasticon (places names in scripture) became a handbook for the swell of Byzantine Christians making pilgrimage to the land. Eusebius is credited as the first to refer to the biblical lands as the “Fifth Gospel.” What this means is that the land itself, its topography, climate, agricultural variations, locations and proximities all together serve as a fifth gospel that can inspire startling fresh insights into the other four gospels.
By the 4th century Christian pilgrimage had come of age. A new devotional practice had arisen in the imagination of Christians sending thousands to visit the land and prayerfully encounter the gospel accounts on location so as to return home with renewed vigor and faithfulness.
Without exaggeration, Christian pilgrims to the biblical lands since then, over 17 centuries, always joined in the worship of the local Christian community, sought the comfort of Christian guest houses and monastic centres and requested local Christians to present the places of spiritual significance. Oddly, this cannot be said of many Christian pilgrimage tours to the holy land today. Very often now Christian pilgrims are not taken by their Guides into Bethlehem, are not allowed to shop in the local Christian shops but are taken to the shopping districts of another ethnicity, are not taken to worship with the local Christian community on Sundays, and are presented with an experience and commentary that cannot easily be described as “multi-narrative.” Christian Pilgrims to the land of the Holy One need become informed; need to ask for a Christian guide, ask to worship on Sundays with the local Christian community, ask to visit for instance one of the magnificent outreach ministries of the Anglican church in the land such as the centre on the Mount of Olives serving children with disabilities called the Princess Basma Centre.
Jerusalem Sunday invites particular attention and prayer for one of the principal global partnerships of our Anglican Church of Canada; the people, churches and ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Who are they? They are a remnant community spread thinly across the Middle East and Jerusalem. They are part of a Christian minority in these lands. They face complex contextual challenges affecting every aspect of their lives. Even though millions of Christian pilgrims, for instance, visit the land of the Holy One in hopes of walking on the stones where Jesus walked those Christian pilgrims rarely pause to notice, or worship with, or learn about the “living stones” of the local Christian community.
The Anglican Church of Canada has had a long and meaningful relationship with the Anglican (Episcopal) Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East. They are a diocese of some 7000 members formed into 30 parishes who worship in the name of Jesus and serve faithfully in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. They oversee an enormous outreach ministry of some 30 institutions, employing more than 5000 people providing education, vocational training, medical care in hospitals and clinics, rehabilitation for the hearing impaired, care for children with disabilities, and residential support to the elderly. They are a vibrant faithful community offering a bold witness to the compassionate love of God in action. They need to know that they are not forgotten, not ignored, but recognized and valued as part of our oneness in Christ.
So today we will pray for them. Donate now to the Diocese of Jerusalem by using the online donation form here. All Jerusalem Sunday offerings and donations support the work of the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, operated by the Diocese of Jerusalem. Please be generous, as you are able.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: may they prosper who love you! (Psalm 122.6)
Worship at the Cathedral for Easter Seven / Jerusalem Sunday is available on the Cathedral Facebook page, where it will be live streamed at 10:25 a.m., Sunday, 24 May 2020.