Jerusalem, the City of Cities

If ever we encounter people from beyond the orbit of the moon, of course, we will have the happy job of announcing to them that the entire earth is holy, for here in the Holy Land, God walked as a man, breathed, ate, slept.

By Chris Sparks

Every so often, I have to remind myself of the extraordinary gift I received earlier this year.

I have seen the Holy Land with my own eyes, and touched her rivers, her seas. I have breathed the air of the Holy Land, home of prophets, of saints, of God. I have seen Jerusalem the Golden, walked her streets, seen some few of her wonders. I have touched the Wailing Wall and prayed beneath its shadow; I have prayed before the Lord, present in the tabernacles of the churches of the city and on the altars where priests say Mass.

God has not left Jerusalem, for the Eucharist is still celebrated there. Jesus has not departed the city, for all that He ascended into Heaven more than 2,000 years ago. He is there in the Word, in Scripture; He is there in Sacrament; He is there in the poor and homeless; He is there in the members of the Mystical Body of Christ who are there throughout the city. “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).

He has been true to His word.

God’s hometown
Many, many years have passed since Christ walked the earth in the time before His resurrection, but still we call that land holy. God’s Providence has had it crisscrossed with prophets and judges, with anointed kings and inspired servants, with sinners and villains whose names we still remember, and with saints the likes of which we pray to see again.

Of course, the mustard seed of faith planted by Jesus has blossomed and grown, spreading out its branches to the four corners of the earth, and all nations find a home in the Church, on God’s holy mountain. Of course, the faith is greater than the Holy Land, but the Holy Land will always remain in a sense the homeland of humanity’s covenants with God, and the homeland of God Himself. He chose to be conceived there, born there, to live and die there. God has a hometown, and a family, and a name that shall be remembered till the end of time. 

The shrines and pilgrimage places of the Holy Land bear witness to the historicity of faith. Christianity isn’t simply abstract philosophy or unrooted theology. Christianity came about because of a Man who was more than a man. We are Catholic because Simon met Jesus, and was renamed, and a Church founded upon him. We are Catholic because of people, and places, and historical events. Out of that has grown much beautiful philosophy and theology, but the people and places came first.

It’s all simple enough to tell to children, and complex enough to challenge the finest brains humanity has ever produced.

Holy Land of the Cosmos
If ever we encounter people from beyond the orbit of the moon, of course, we will have the happy job of announcing to them that the entire earth is holy, for here in the Holy Land, God walked as a man, breathed, ate, slept. Here is the Holy Land of the cosmos, this earth of ours, for the Creator of everything — of every star, every planet, every distant galaxy — lived and died. He did not die against His own plan, but because of it, for the redemption of all. Beginning here on earth, a transformation of everything has begun. We are the tabernacle of the cosmos, the place where, even now, God is present, Body and Blood, soul and Divinity. Here on earth, and so far as we know, nowhere else in the physical cosmos, God Incarnate resides, by the grace of the Sacraments.

We are the Holy Land. We are all in the Holy Land, on the Holy Land; the whole of the earth is a temple of our God. Here God offered God to God, as Marian Fr. Chris Alar says of the Mass and Calvary. Here, the impossible happened in the sight of angels and humanity. Here, God descended, and ascended, and draws the cosmos into the divine life and love from eternity.

Be adored, O Most Holy Trinity, now and for all time. Be adored in all Your works and all Your creatures. May the greatness of Your mercy be admired and glorified, O God (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 5).

The Holy Land is center stage for the drama of Divine Mercy reaching into the world from beyond time and space, from outside creation, to become so at one with that same creation that Scripture speaks of the final consummation of history as the marriage supper of the Lamb. Christ is the Bridegroom, and the Church, obedient creation, is the Bride.

But all that gets into the mysteries.

More simply, I have seen the Holy Land; a gift, one that I will carry with me for the rest of my life and, God willing, into eternity.

Want to do the same, but can’t make the physical journey? Imitate Our Lady, and ponder the Mysteries of our salvation through reading Scripture, praying the Rosary, or making the Stations of the Cross. In prayer, we can be present in ways greater than the physical. Go visit Jesus in the tabernacle or in Adoration, and know that something greater than the Temple, than the Holy Land, is here. 

Photo by Christian Burri on Unsplash


You might also like...

Brother Josh, MIC, ponders the various arguments for and against the existence of God, and the study of metaphysics suddenly becomes entertaining.

Saint Cecilia's feast on Nov. 22 is a good day to reflect on what music is and does - particularly sacred music.

Thanks to the continued generosity of Marian Helpers, doctors now have lanterns to use when the electricity is cut, no longer performing open-heart surgery by flashlight.