Friday, April 29, 2016


Yesterday afternoon after a full day of a compressed "Holy Week" we traveled to one of the oldest monasteries in the Palestine Desert, founded in the year 455 by the abbot, Gerasimus. While there, Brother Curtis told us this wonderful story of Gerasimus and the lion. And then he invited us to the holy practice of wonder.

Each of my trips to this land of the Holy One has been special. All have been intense. I've not said too much in these posts about politics - not because I am afraid to talk about politics, but because the issues here truly are so complex. There are not just two sides. There are many, many sides - and each time you feel you have some sense of where things are, things shift. It would be hard enough if it was just Israelis and Palestinians left to figure this out: but there are the surrounding Arab nations, and all of the global interests (including and perhaps most particularly US interests) in this region that make it so very challenging. Each time I come here I find myself recommitting to respect the dignity of every human being. But what that means in practice, in terms of finding peace in Jerusalem, is not so easy.

So it's easy to feel overburdened. Our hearts have felt quite heavy, and even broken, on this pilgrimage and more than a few tears have been shed. Some member of our pilgrim flock asks each speaker we encounter, "what can we do?" The answer is always the same - pray and tell our stories. Tell how your stories are intertwined with our stories. But that does not seem like much in a world with so much pain.

And so Brother Curtis invited us to wonder. And then he said something he has said to me privately many times in the years he has been my spiritual director. "It is possible to have more than one emotion at once."  We can feel the pain of this land, and all of us do. But he encouraged us to also make room for wonder in our lives.

Today we travel to Emmaus. (If you don't know the story, from Luke's Gospel, click here.) I am not sure yet if it will be the same Emmaus I visited the last time I was here, because more than any other place, it seems, Emmaus is a movable feast. I've always appreciated what Marcus Borg says about Emmaus, suggesting it's not the same kind of historical event as the birth of Jesus or the resurrection. To paraphrase, he says something like "Emmaus didn't happen, Emmaus always happens; Emmaus is nowhere because Emmaus is everywhere."

I wonder if another way to say it is that the Emmaus story is something like the story of Gerasimus and the lion? That it requires of us that we make room for wonder, to know that we are always on the road to Emmaus, not just in the land of the Holy One but wherever the bread is broken and shared. The risen Christ does meet us on the road, and our hearts do sometimes burn within us. And every now and again our eyes are opened as the bread is blessed and broken and shared, not only in Holy Eucharist but in wherever a meal is shared and strangers become friends.

Below are some photos I took on the grounds of the monastery yesterday - signs of wonder as the journey continues.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

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