|CCR 40th anniversary pilgrimage to the Holy Land Walking in Jesus’ footsteps - Sep 18|
|2011 - Features|
|Saturday, 17 September 2011 22:47|
A pilgrimage is defined as an extremely long journey that is meant to strengthen and expand someone's religious faith and beliefs, or made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion. The CCR as part of their 40th anniversary celebration organised a pilgrimage to the Holy Land – “In the Footsteps of Jesus”.
The invitation to families and friends of CCR was to pay homage to Our Lord in a special way by walking in His footsteps from His Annunciation to His Resurrection. One hundred and four pilgrims, each with a different level of expectation but great anticipation, after months of spiritual and physical preparation, set out in two groups under the spiritual leadership of Fr Cornelius Phillip FMI and Fr Wilfred John with Sr Deborah de Rosia as the tour coordinator.
The groups departed Piarco airport for London on August 14 and 15, via British Airways, arriving at Gatwick airport on Aug 15 and 16. They then left London from Heathrow airport on the evenings of the 15 and 16, finally arriving at Ben Gurion Tel Aviv airport in the early morning of Aug 16 and 17. This was truly the start of a pilgrimage as the joys and frustrations of present-day air travel were experienced by one and all.
We were finally in the Land of the Bible: Where Abraham 4000 years ago journeyed with his wife Sarah; where Joshua crossed the River Jordan; where David brought the Holy Ark to Jerusalem; where our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was born; where He played as a child; where He enjoyed family life as a teenager with his mother the Virgin Mary and His earthly father St Joseph; where God became man – where faith becomes reality.
The next eight days were spent truly “in the footsteps of Jesus,” though not necessarily in a chronological order. We walked the winding, cobbled lanes of Nazareth to celebrate Mass at the church of St Joseph and then walked over to the Church of the Annunciation built on the spot where the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary. In Bethlehem at the Basilica of the Nativity we descended the curved steps to the tiny Grotto to pay homage to the spot of Jesus’ birth and where Mary laid Him in the manger. We visited and sang carols in a cave replicating the one in which Christ was born. We visited where Joseph was commanded by the angel to flee Egypt and the chapel commemorating the massacre of the babies killed by Herod. Marriage vows were renewed at Cana in the chapel commemorating Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast.
At the River Jordan we renewed our baptismal vows even though not at the site where John the Baptist baptised Jesus. One hundred and four pilgrims, with tour managers and boat crew, sang praise and worship in true Charismatic style as they crossed the Sea of Galilee. On the shores we celebrated Mass at the Church of the Multiplication of the loaves and fishes; at the Mount of the Beatitudes we celebrated the Eucharist outdoors on the plains as Fr Cornelius gave us an additional beatitude: Blessed are they who mind their own business for they shall not see the courthouse. We read scriptures seated where Christ, after His resurrection appeared before his disciples for the third time and we waded in the shallow waters of the sea of Tiberius.
We climbed by coach and then by taxi to the top of Mt Tabor to the Basilica of the Transfiguration and reflected on what it must have felt like to be present at the transfiguration as we celebrated Mass. Fr Wilfred exhorted us to make this pilgrimage a transformational journey with significant lifetime changes. We left our petitions at the Western (Wailing) Wall and the more adventurous of us bathed in the Dead Sea, near the Qumran caves, after a visit to the Masada. The pilgrims gathered in the Upper Room just as the disciples and followers of Jesus must have done after the crucifixion. As we prayed we were moved to intense praise, worship and the prophetic word. The presence of the Holy Spirit was almost palpable.
Our extremely knowledgeable tour guides Fabricio and Sam filled in the historical, political, geographical, etymological and spiritual background of every step of the tour. Of course they guided us to the best shopping and bargains. They took us from the North of Israel at the foot of the Hebron Mountain to the south as far as the Dead Sea, explaining, clarifying, demystifying, pointing out and providing so many “Aha!” moments in our daily visitations and travels.
A most moving spiritual experience was praying the “Way of the Cross”. We followed the same sacred route, the Via Dolorosa, while carrying the cross for the first nine stations as Jesus did more than 2000 years ago. The next five stations are in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre where one is left in awe by the grandeur and richly decorated chapels and altars, but more so by the holiness and reverence of the place of the crucifixion and the tomb where the Resurrection took place.
The daily celebration of the Eucharist by Frs Cornelius and Wilfred and the reading of Scriptures at the places held most sacred to Christians, made the Gospels literally come alive. As the invitation promised we walked the footsteps of Jesus from the Annunciation to the Ascension. This was a journey of faith and this account does not begin to describe the unique and spiritually uplifting experience of each pilgrim. Those who said “YES” to the invitation, I think agree unanimously that this was the most invaluable gift to self.
Yes, the journey was extremely long. The two groups left the Holy Land on August 24 and 25 and arrived home on the 25 and 26 respectively; but it strengthened and expanded our religious faith and beliefs, and was made to the most sacred place on earth for Catholics. This was a Pilgrimage! – Patricia Bevan
Travel arrangements were made through Superl Travel Service Ltd. of 86 Duke St, Port of Spain
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