Instead of setting goals, I have set out on another adventure and this first day of the New Year finds me in that holiest of lands, Israel. I have come as a pilgrim in search of healing, prayer, laughter, good food and the authentic company of people whom I love.
I walk the hippodrome and I listen for the cries of the bloodthirsty crowds and I smell the sweat of the horses bound to chariots racing for sport and the delight of Roman audiences. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of a Corinthian capitol, a piece of rock, a ruin now but once the proud capitol of sturdy limestone column that stood in this harbor looking over the sea.
As always on these excursions, we are moving from one place to the next at quite a clip. On our first day making stops at Cesarea by the Sea, Megiddo and Nazareth. I am always working towards entering into these moments as a worshipper rather than as a tourist in search of the perfect camera shot. I am taking shots with my soul, I am breathing deep and filling my lungs with the sea salt air of the Mediterranean and filling my spirit with sights that rival heaven itself with the waves crashing into the cliffs that cradle the limestone palace of Herod the Great.
In Megiddo twenty-five civilizations cry out from the rocks and tell the stories of war and the misery of death and depravity. There are sounds of victory and defeat there are stones that are 6,000 years old. So we touch them and pray for grace over the broken places in our own lives.
I am aware that this is the home of Pontius Pilate and that on this sand he lived and slept and ate and drank. He looked out at this sea while feasting on figs and wine and no doubt sought solace for his soul after his own condemnation of the Son of God. Did this holy water offer him comfort, did he find God as the waves danced and crashed and gave witness?
Church of Annunciation
I listen to the pulse of my own heart beating and I give thanks for Mary and her surrender and I beg to know her peace. I give thanks for the sea in all its majesty and testament to all that is eternal and beyond what I can know; I give thanks for the loss and the gains and for the One who is with us in the heat of the struggle.
At Nazareth we see her, regal and full of grace, Our Lady and we kneel with other worshippers who have come to celebrate the Eucharist in the shadow of her home and the place of the Annunciation. The glorious architecture pays homage to her in the angles of the A and the M; wood and cement, sing the Ave Maria. Here she stands with her foot on the snake, reversing the curse of Eve and redeeming womankind in her own surrender to the will of God.