Rita Perera shares the joy of a memorable pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Journey of life and faith
On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in October this year I was fortunate to visit a number of places associated with the birth of Christ.

Arriving in Amman we crossed the border to Israel and proceeded to Tiberias. The next day we toured Tiberias, starting with a beautiful mass at Mt. Tabor – The Mount of the Transfiguration. We had a lovely boat ride on the Sea of Galilee which took around 1½ hours, during which time we prayed and sang hymns.

After we crossed the Sea of Galilee we went to Capernaum, which is called the ‘Town of Jesus’. We visited the ancient synagogue there and saw St. Peter’s house. Then we visited the Church of Primacy, the Church of Multiplication, and the Mount of Beatitudes. In the afternoon we visited Nazareth and spent a wonderful hour at the Church of the Annunciation and the Church of St. Joseph.

The next morning we went on to Jerusalem, visiting Mount Carmel and the cave of Elijah, the prophet en-route. There was a beautiful mass in Cana of Galilee.

Arriving in Jerusalem in the evening, we were immediately taken to the Church of All Nations. This was the hallowed spot where Christ wept in the Garden of Gethsemane. We were also taken inside the garden which was in a separate enclosure adjacent to the church where the entire group remained in silent meditation for about half an hour.

Inside the church, the four priests in our group led us into a beautiful hour of prayer and praise. I have been three times earlier to the Holy Land but this opportunity for greater prayer and meditation had not been given to the group.

At Bethlehem our next stop, we visited the Church of the Nativity which is the birthplace of Jesus Christ. We had a beautiful mass there in the evening at the Shepherd’s cave. This was at the place where the Angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds to announce to them the birth of Christ. Next we visited the birthplace and Church of St. John the Baptist and the Basilica of the Visitation.
The next morning we enjoyed the panoramic view of the old city from the Mount of Olives, visited the place where Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and the Church of Dominus Flevit (the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem).

The organizers had taken the trouble of bringing palm leaves from Sri Lanka and we carried these leaves from the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane in the same route that Christ himself took on Palm Sunday.
After this for the second time we arrived at the Church of All Nations where Holy Mass was celebrated by the four priests who accompanied us. It was a beautiful celebration and our minds went back to the time that Christ wept on his own in deep agony before his crucifixion.

Next we visited the Church of St. Peter in Galicantu (the place where Peter wept). We were taken to the dungeon where Jesus was kept before he was taken to trial. In the early afternoon we visited the Church of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant.

The next morning, the penultimate day prior to our departure was the highlight of our grand tour of Jerusalem. Visiting St. Stephen’s Gate (the place where St. Stephen was stoned), the pool of Bethesda, and the Church of St. Anne, we retraced the steps of Jesus Christ himself on the walk along the Via Dolorosa with stops at all stations. At each station we had a short reflection on that particular station. This was truly a Way of the Cross with a difference.
We ended the Way of the Cross at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the very spot where Christ was crucified. We were given another hour in that church by the organizers for our private meditation.

The next day some of the group went over to Egypt whilst the rest of us took a coach to Amman in Jordan. In a fitting finale to our grand tour of the Holy Land the entire group was taken to the Church of Pater Noster where we parted company with the other group.

Our tour was arranged by Quest Destinations (Pvt) Ltd., and we had with us Brother Lalith from the Community of the Risen Lord (an arm of the Catholic Charismatic movement) together with a large number of his members and four priests, Frs. Lalith, Priyantha, Chaminda and Jayalath.

Every morning whilst we were in Jerusalem, our tour leader Lalanie had made arrangements for those who were fit and able to attend Holy Mass at 5. a.m. in Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was a privilege that had not been accorded to us on any of our previous tours. This was truly a pilgrimage, a journey of life and of faith.

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