Sojourn in the Land of the January 27‐ May 14, 2009

A Diary of My Sabbatical Fr. John Rowan

First Letter

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I am in my sixth day of arriving in this place. I have been tired and busy at the same time. On Saturdays the program is not in session, so I have a chance to think over what I have seen and heard. It is too soon for me to open the door of my heart and express what these initial sights and sounds and people will mean to me. I have to begin with the “outward sign” (very Catholic). Then I pray for the inner sign, the mental impression, and finally, hopefully, for the grace, ’s gift of understanding, conversion and peace. So, dear reader, be patient with me, as I will try to be with myself. My initial account may appear to be simply factual, impressions and anecdotes; hopefully, their inner truth will emerge for both of us.

Sunday, January 26, 2009: I left New York JFK on ElAl Flight 2 at 6:20pm. I want to thank you all for praying for me, and for your concern for my safety coming to Israel at this time of strife. I believe I did my due diligence on the issue of safety, and in addition I overcame my scruple that I should come to a land of conflict to study and relax. My reasoning is, that if everyone stopped studying their sacred texts, peace would be even more elusive.

My flight was uneventful, very comfortable. The flight time was about ten hours; and adding the seven hour time zone difference, I arrived in Telaviv around 11:00am. My ground transportation to the convent gives a hint of the détente here: I took a Jewish shuttle to the Notre Dame Centre in . From there I hired a Palestinian taxi to bring me to the convent, which is in the Arab section of the Old City. At the city gate (Lion’s Gate) a military guard told us we could not enter the city. “Closed”. No small problem: the convent was just a few blocks away, but up a steep cobblestone hill which, in connection with my heavy luggage, would keep my chiropractor in business for a year. I got out of the taxi and insisted that I was a resident in the old city, and the sergeant relented, but made the driver surrender his license which he could retrieve on his way out.

The convent is called , getting its name from the moment in ’ passion when Pilate brought Jesus out after the scourging and said to the crowd: “”. (Jn 19:5) This place is called in Greek Lithostrosos, meaning pavement, and it is observed on the convent street () as the third station on the Way of the Cross. (Yesterday afternoon at three o’clock, the procession went by with many Franciscans and pilgrims, one of the friars holding up a board with four loud‐speakers, saying the prayers in Latin. I said a little prayer for Brother Brendan Patrick, FSC, my high school Latin teacher. Maybe this connection is what he had in mind. The convent is occupied by two communities of sisters, one, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Sion, who are running the biblical formation program attending; the other community is called The Chemin Neuf Community. Both orders of sisters are dedicated to greater understanding of Jews among Christians. The convent has been in this old building for 150 years (actually, a series of buildings with many levels; a street runs through it; you can stand in the archway over the street and watch the Arab families bringing groceries from the market. Even little children have to carry some bags.) The Sisters of Sion who shepherd our program are from Australia, originally from Ireland: Sr. Bernadette Lynch and Dr. Mary Reaburn. I will tell you more about them and their mission later.

There are thirty people on the program, from thirteen countries. The largest contingent is from Ireland, 8; the next largest, Canada, 4. There are nine from the far east. Just three from the U.S. Seven are women, all sisters except for one lady from Perth, Australia (originally from Scotland); she’s a grandma. The men are all priests (one bishop) except for a brother from India. We each had to team up with a “buddy”, so that, when we boarded a bus, we would have a check that everyone was there. My buddy is Fr. Patrick O’Keefe, a Redemptorist from Ireland. I never attended kindergarten, just started with the first grade at St. Joseph school in Babylon. So the buddy system allows me to fill in a missing experience in my education, perhaps one of the purposes of a sabbatical. I am caused to think of all the known and unknown buddies who throughout my life have looked around to be sure that I was on the bus. Thank you all.

We have had a few orientation meetings in which the invitation is repeated to slow down and enjoy. The theme is: “Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy” (Abraham Heschel). I was asked to do the first reading Leviticus 25:1‐6a, about the sabbatical year. “While the land has its sabbath, all its produce will be food for yourself [and others].” These are challenging texts for me, maybe more than others. One of my favored standards of value in life is that I have been found “useful”. In the sabbath year, the field is left completely at rest, no plowing, sowing or reaping: the farmer appears useless. Still, the field gives him food for himself and his family. I have to discover the shadow side of “useful”. I’m sure I will have more to say about this later.

I was taught a really fine word: Makhloket. It means to share by dividing. To converse, to debate, even to disagree with the purpose of learning from the other. It is the ideal of teaching and learning. Our group was advised to notice how the people of this culture, both Arab and Jew, do not spare their expression of emotion or conviction or opinion, with voice rising and hands gesturing. For us, dialogue tends to be subdued; there is a fear of bruising the other’s feelings. I doubt that I will change my manners, but I do appreciate the force of this kind of dialogue.

To advance our sharing, there is a curriculum of courses, each about 18 hours. I think it will be best to list them for you so you can see the treasures that are in our future here: Paul’s Letter to the Romans Judaism, Ancient and Modern The Introduction to Islam Introduction to Oriental Churches The Torah or Pentateuch The Book of Job: Human Suffering In the Footsteps of History: Exploring 4000 Years of the Land of Israel The The Book of Amos

Can you believe it? Each of these courses given by a member of one of the several distinguished faculties that work in Jerusalem. I will tell you more as each of the courses begins. For now, I will describe the beginnings of two: The Footsteps of History, and the Gospel of Mark, as these began in our first week.

We were introduced to Jared Goldfarb, a young Jewish teacher who lives here with his wife and three little children (oldest 6; youngest: 2 weeks). Originally from New Hampshire (believe it or not: a Jew from New Hampshire). He directed a bus ride which circled the city, at each of the points of the horizon, we got off the bus and observed the city from that perspective. We began at the eastern side, a high place called the Promenade. We had to imagine the view as it would have been 4000 years ago, when God lead Abraham there and spoke to him: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, and go to the land of Moriah.” (Gen. 22:2) Moriah is identified with the Mt. Sion, Jerusalem, the place of the binding if Isaac. This would have been Abraham’s entry point into the land, and the place of his testing. Abraham is the foundation point of the three major monotheistic religions that occupy this region, Judaism, and Islam. Some people pray that Father Abraham will be the point of unity for his disparate tribal families.

On the tour we visited a site overlooking . The Bible reference is 1 Samuel 16 where the prophet is sent to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse to look over the several sons until he settles on David, the shepherd. (Be sure to read the text, or you won’t be able to answer the questions on the quiz I will administer in May or early June.) An intriguing point: in this semi‐ arid place, with rocky, compacted dirt and just some ragged gray ground cover coming up here and there, this does not seem to be the ideal place to raise sheep. Jared told me that sheep and goats will eat anything, and that on our various excursions we will surely see some flocks grazing about in the most unlikely terrains. The last time I encountered flocks was in Assisi, in the month of May. There, the grass was high in the olive grove, and the sheep moved slowly through the grove like a pastel mirage.

Bethlehem is a Palestinian community with both Palestinian Islam and Palestinian Christian inhabitants. There is an Israeli policy of separation which forbids Jews to go to Bethlehen, and which requires Palestinians to get prior approval before coming to Jerusalem, for example, for medical attention. The result of this policy has been economic crisis for the residents of Bethlehem, and an exodus of the Christians. Our group will be going to Bethlehem soon, and I will tell you more then. Although Bethlehem is a suburb of Jerusalem, we will need to present our passports at the entry point, as if we were entering a foreign land. (Just imagine our having to present our passport to leave New York City and enter Newark. On the other hand, why would anyone want to enter Newark?)

I think I will save until later any further description of the political situation and the cease‐fire boundaries which have prevailed here. These figured in our tour of the horizons of Jerusalem and are ironic developments in relation to biblical history.

The Bible reference for the Mount of Olives is Mt 21. This is the point of entry for Jesus into Jerusalem and into his passion and death. Jesus was a Passover pilgrim and he gathered with the others at this traditional place of staging their prayerful procession into the city after coming from many places. They would sing the Psalm of Ascent, 122, a Psalm of David:

I rejoiced because they said to me, “We will go up to the house of the Lord.” And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem‐ Jerusalem, built as a city with compact unity. To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, According to the decree for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. In it are set up judgment seats, seats for the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your walls, prosperity in your buildings. Because of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you!” Because of the house of the Lord, our God, I will pray for your good.

I found this visit to the Mount of Olives and the psalm of ascent to be very powerfully connective with the event of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem which we commemorate on Palm Sunday. You have to realize that the places in Jerusalem which are claimed to be identified with events we read about in the Bible may not in every case be correctly and accurately identified. For example, the Pavement (Lithostratos) which is commemorated at the convent where I am staying, as the place where Pilate said to the crowd: “Behold the man”, is more accurately placed at another part of town. But the commemoration does not become false because of the mistaken geography, especially since believers enter more into the event through the Word of God which is a living word that takes us into the mystery of Jesus. At the Mount of Olives, we know that it was the staging area for pilgrims to enter Jerusalem for the Passover, and we know that the psalm of ascent which we call Psalm 122 was their prayer. And so there is an especially powerful connection with the event which we get with the confluence of the geographical site and the psalm and the . I took some pictures with my new camera which at some later date I will add to this verbal account. (If I can remember which picture relates to which horizon!)

The second faculty member we met was Fr. Flavio Gillio, a Jesuit from Italy who is working on his doctoral dissertation at the Jesuit Bible Faculty here, called the Biblicum. (An extension of the school of the same name in Rome.) The name of the course is The Gospel of Mark. I”m sure that I will tell you more about the content of this course when I have had an opportunity to reflect on the material. After one session (almost three hours) my impression is that his approach is meeting me exactly where I am, and taking me forward. The method in no way discards the historical‐critical method which with minor variations I have come to rely upon largely through my attendance at the annual Georgetown Scripture Institute, but incorporates all those insights into a method which accents the Scriptures as communication between subjects and participates in the kind of freedom which characterizes the traditional Lexio Divina.

I am finishing up this first letter at around 6pm on February 2, three days after I began it. Around this time of day sounds of strange horns and sometimes human voices go out into the city from powerful loudspeakers in the high towers of the mosques. Since our convent is in the Arab quarter of the Old City, and since we are right next to a large mosque, the sounds tend to dominate all other sounds and voices, even when we are celebrating mass in our chapel. Everybody is being called to prayer.

JR Sojourn in the Land of the Bible January 27‐May 14, 2009

A Diary of My Sabbatical Fr. John Rowan

Second Letter

Saturday, February 7, 2009

We are in the 12th day of the program, which is intended to go 110 days. The routines are like those of a religious house: I get up at 6am, go to breakfast at 7am and classes begin at 8:30am. (This week we had an excursion on Wednesday, and breakfast was at 5:30; on the bus at 6:30). Classes go to 12:15pm; we have lunch at 12:30pm, and then we are free. Some of us gather for mass at 6:30pm, dinner is at 7:00pm, and the day is over at 8:00pm. The group of thirty is very congenial. In this recent period we had three celebrations, which means wine or cake at supper or a gathering in the common room: the birthday of two of the participants, the founder’s feast day for a sister, and again for the founder of the Don Bosco Salesians. Very pleasant, and we learn a bit about the history and work of these congregations at home and in the missions.

Next Tuesday there are general elections for the Israeli legislative body, the Knesset. There are so many splinter parties it would be impossible to try to get it straight. Out of the elected representatives a coalition will be formed sufficient to put the prime minister in office. Yesterday, I was sitting at the Damascus gate, a major entry point to the old city and an active market, watching the crowds go by. Near me was a young man apparently trying to make a political video; he had a friend training the camera on him, and he began the speech about twenty times in my hearing, trailing off because he didn’t get it right. He probably thought he could turn his passion into a coherent message but couldn’t get beyond the first sentence. He would then turn away in frustration and mutter under his breath, regroup and begin the same speech again. I left before he got it right. He was a Palestinian, some of whom are Israeli citizens, although not enough of them to make a difference.

The City of Jerusalem is filled with pilgrims and tourists. About 2.5 million people will visit Israel this year, half of them pilgrims. From my perspective, the pilgrims are mostly Christian, then Jewish. At the airport I encountered a huge crowd of Nigerians. They were dressed in a bright cloth especially dyed with their pilgrim purpose. There are many African groups here, mostly Protestant Christians. They add to the very diverse appearance of humanity, religiously and ethnically, making its appearance here. What are they seeking? What am I seeking? Why do we feel that our religious quest will have some relation with a particular piece of land called Jerusalem or Israel?

I went to the Western Wall to observe and to pray. If you don’t have a hat, you can borrow a cardboard skull cap. I had a hat. (Dr. Moynihan, please note.) An elderly Orthodox Jew with a long scruffy beard asked me: “Is God in the heart of the devil?” I answered: “Do you mean, does God abide in all his creatures, because then, yes, the devil is a creature; or do you mean, by the devil’s intention, because perhaps he (or she) has forsaken God?” He said: “Both, in every way, is God in the heart of the devil?” I said: “Yes, that is what the Book of Job says.” He said: “But what do you say?” I said: “Job is good enough for me.” He said: “Then, how can you believe in the man who was not found in the tomb? He wasn’t there, right? And if he wasn’t there, he couldn’t be God, right? Because God is everywhere!” I said: “Your logic is off.” (This is a question of the middle term: ‘everywhere’. You may say “God is everywhere”, but you cannot say “Everywhere is God”. ((Hat’s off to Bill Hughes, my Logic teacher in the Seminary.)) The fellow then said: “It’s simple.” I said: “Too simple for me!” A lesson I take from this playful experience is that in this city, God is important, much of the conversation is about God and what is God’s will for our lives and how we may make our submission to God more complete and more integral. That same delightful dimension is what makes this sabbatical program such a rich experience. Whether we gather for class on the scriptures or on history, or come together for group meetings to review our experiences, or engage in small conversations with our fellow pilgrims, we are part of that mysterious conversation which has drawn people here for centuries. It’s not that we don’t have this conversation at home, we most certainly do. But in this place, it seems to be the way of life, multi‐faced and many‐layered and constant. I am reminded of Tevya’s song in “Fiddler on the Roof”:

If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack To sit in the synagogue and pray And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall And I’d discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours each day. That would be the sweetest thing of all.

Tevya’s idea about what it means to be rich may be peculiar but here it makes a lot of sense.

Four of the five days of this week were under the direction of Jared Goldfarb, whom I introduced in my first letter. His course is called “In the Footsteps of History: Exploring 4000 Years of the Land of Israel”. At times, we will begin in the classroom and then head out into the city, where the land becomes our classroom, as we did this week when we went to the place outside the walls which is called The City of David and is the place where the local history here begins. (1000 BC) Jared’s purpose is to show us how each of the civilizations which has occupied the land of Israel has left its imprint, its evidence, in the land. As a pilgrim you simply walk by a site, for example, the Damascus Gate. A guide will help you distinguish the evidence: this column from the Roman age, 63BC to 325 AD; this wall from the Ottoman period 1561 AD.

The principal periods we are interested in are the following:

1800BC Abraham and Sarah 1500 Moses and the Exodus 1200 Settled in Canaan/Judges 1000 David 722 Assyrian Conquest 586 Babylonian Conquest/Exile 333 Greek Conquest 167‐164 Hasmonean Revolt/Maccabees 63 Roman Conquest/ time of Jesus 67‐73AD Great Revolt/Temple Destroyed/Masada 132‐135 Israel= Palestina, Jerusalem= 325 Constantine/Byzantine Christianity 638 Early Muslim Empire/Dome of the Rock 1099 First Crusades 1187 Late Muslim Empire/Saladin 1250 Mameluke Empire/Continuity of Muslim Rule 1516 Ottoman Empire/Suleiman/ 1917 British Mandate after WWI 1947‐8 UN Partition Plan/State of Israel

The principal school of archeology follows the method called Stratigraphy, which means that the archeology team, having identified the likely place of prior civilizations, marks off a square and then painstakingly brushes aside the sand to uncover the smallest item, a piece of broken pottery or a tiny copper coin, taking careful note of the level on which it was found, so that they may relate it to a particular time in relation to the findings below or above it. The likely spot to start digging would be a “tel” which is an unnatural hill, with a flat top and sides sloping at 45 degrees. It has gotten its height from the accumulated debris of the civilizations that have been located at this place. The rubble of one settlement becomes the foundation of the next. A good description of this phenomenon is found in the novel The Source, by James A. Michener. (He also wrote Tales of the South Pacific; so, if you want to have “many enchanted evenings”, get a copy of The Source and plow through.) Archeology is a relatively new discipline. At first, archeologists were working almost exclusively to confirm the Bible texts. More recently, archeologists are engaged in critiquing the Bible text, for example, asking why there is no evidence of a conflict at the gates of Jericho. War and conflict always leave a lot of debris; why is there none at the walls of Jericho. How does this archeological finding cause us to modify our interpretation of the text of the Book of Joshua?

On Wednesday of this week, the day of our early rising, we set out in a bus, going north near , to the Megiddo National Park. This is an archeological site, important in Israelite history but also in the whole archeological world. Here have been uncovered twenty‐five layers or strata going back 10,000 years, to the beginning of agriculture by humans. (This is probably the model for the fictional city “Makor” in The Source.) A visitor goes into the City gate, notes the defenses. Megiddo is on a high hill overlooking the fertile plains. After the enemy gets up the hill, even if he gets through the city gates, there is still a narrow passage to manage before you come to the settlement. This would be one of the explanations why one settlement after another chose this site. Along with the availability of water and the fertile fields.

The earliest biblical text referencing this place is Judges 1:27, “Manasseh did not take possession of Beth‐shean with its towns or of Taanach with its towns. Neither did he dislodge the inhabitants of Dor and its towns; those of Ibleam and its towns, or those of Megiddo and its towns.”

In a prominent part of the settlement is a place called the Sacred Compound, with a round altar, which each settlement, except the Israelites, maintained as their worship space. The Israelites would not have used such space for that purpose, because that would have been competition with Jerusalem.

Another biblical reference to Megiddo is found in the , Revelation 16:16 “They then assembled the kings in the place that is named Armageddon in Hebrew”. (Armageddon is a corruption of Megiddo.)This was to be the final war‐of‐wars, good against evil. While we were in the park on Wednesday, I mentioned to one of my fellow pilgrims, that I had it on good information that the battle of Armageddon was going to take place this very day, and we were just unlucky to be here, and that I was trying to line up one of our confreres to hear confessions so we would be prepared. Well, as it turned out, we got out of the park before the battle started, so I am happily able a few days later to write this account in the peace of the library at the convent.

While we were in the north we stopped at the Zippori National Park, an archeological site of the utmost importance. It is a few miles from Nazareth, a sprawling city which we could see in the distance. For Christians, Zippori suggests an interesting possibility: that during a particular period of development and repair there, under funding from Herod Agrippa, the son of , Jesus may have apprenticed as a carpenter. The availability of work for tradesmen over a long period of time could explain why Jesus’ family stayed in Nazareth rather than migrate as many working families did. The craftsmen on this project brought the skills and specialties of their nation or region, so it is possible that Jesus as a young man would have encountered people of different languages and religions, and had a broader experience of humanity than would have been available to him in a provincial backwater town like Nazareth in the first century. Just one of those interesting possibilities in the mystery that is the historical Jesus.

Where Zippori (also referenced as Sephoris) emerges into great prominence is as the center of rabbinic Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. Jerusalem had been decimated and the center of Jewish religious practice had been leveled by the Romans. The future of Judaism was in peril. It was to Zippori that the center of Judaism moved, not as a second temple because that could be rebuilt only in Jerusalem. The new center was that of study and prayer. Zippori is mentioned frequently in the Talmud as a Jewish city with 18 synagogues and a number of study houses. During the period of the Mishnah and the Talmud, many sages made their home in Zippori. The moved from Jerusalem to Zippori and remained until the second half of the third century, when it moved to Tiberias under the leadership of Rabbi Yohanan, one of the great Talmudic sages. This form of Judaism, without the Temple, without priests and sacrifices, is the form which continues in all our communities to this day. Reading and studying the sacred text, interpreting it with the help of all the sages who have gone before, under the leadership of a teacher, the rabbi, this is the memory which Zippori has etched in the land. I remember with affection and respect the several rabbi’s that I have encountered in my professional life, as members of local clergy associations in Bay Shore and in Sayville. I always learned from them, and very often felt more kinship with them than with some Protestant members of our association, especially since our Catholic tradition was enriched by the Vatican Council II “Declaration on the Relationship of the to Non‐ Christian Religions” (Nostra Aetate), which says, in part: “Nevertheless, according to the Apostle, the Jews still remain most dear to God because of their fathers, for he does not repent of the gifts he makes or the calls he issues (cf. Rom.11:28‐29).

A side note: last week, we were advised that a demonstration would be taking place on our street at 8pm. On the convent balcony overlooking the street, plastic caution tape was stretched across so that we could not get near the roof’s edge and peer down. The demonstration was conducted by a fringe group of Jews who want to build the Temple again in its original place, which is on the Temple Mount, presently owned by the Muslims and observed as the holy place from which Mohammed ascended to heaven. (Non‐muslims are not able to go into the precincts at all.) So the new temple group is very controversial and disruptive. The reason for our staying back from the edge of the roof is that the demonstration is very carefully monitored by the Israeli army. If we should by chance drop anything off the roof, e.g., a candy or a cigarette, it may be interpreted as provocative and the patrol would be required to enter the convent and search it completely. So the sisters have struck a deal with the police: we will stay away from the roof edge, and they will not have occasion to enter the convent. That evening we heard the demonstration go by; it sounded small in number, with several people shouting things out.

At Zippori there was a little outdoor theatre with a stage and several rows of seats for the audience. Jared asked us to take a seat, and then asked for three volunteers to take part in a little instructive performance. It will surprise my friends to know that I was one of the volunteers, not the first, or the second, but I did, at last, volunteer. Jared had a bag with some costumes, mine being just a skull cap and a bib with braids (I was a rabbi). The costume of the priest was pretty elaborate, but about three sizes too small for the volunteer. But he gamely put it on, which made for even more fun. The third costume was for the zealot (people of the daggar): he looked like a desert dweller, like Lawrence of Arabia.

The issue of the little performance was: how to respond to the Roman threat in 70AD. The priest simply saw Judaism as being so related to the Temple that without it there would be nothing left. The zealot thought any compromise with the Romans was out of the question: kill them. The rabbi thought that there was a way, first of speaking to the Romans to suggest that there might be accommodation; then the promise that even without the Temple, Judaism would continue through the preservation of the holy texts and the study of them and the faith of the people. So you see that while I had the least elaborate costume, I had the best lines! The review of our performance was very favorable locally, but I could find no notice of it in the Tel Aviv edition of the International Herald Tribune. You see the bias of the press.

The question of religious people living in the world without being contaminated by it, is the issue here. How far could the first century Jews cooperate with the Romans without losing their soul, without their children being assimilated? This is the question for Jews and Muslims here in the Holy Land, it is the issue for Catholics and Amish in the United States, where each seems to have found a different measure of going along and getting along. There is also the issue of how much change a religion can endure without losing its identity. This was the challenge of the first century Jews at the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. The priests, employees of the Temple, saw the destruction of the Temple as the end of Judaism, as indeed it was the end of sacrifices and priesthood. But Rabbinical Judaism emerged from the ashes, and flourished around the world, in a sense freed from the geographic, physical boundaries of the Temple. Maybe an analogy may be found in the Catholic Church being unloosed from the classic European worldview of the 19th century by the leadership of Vatican Council II (1961‐65). I would like to make reference to a masterful new book on the subject, What Happened at Vatican II, by John W. O’Malley, S.J. The great issue here: if the Church let go of its attachment to monarchy, and its opposition to science and biblical research and democracy, how could it survive? The Holy Spirit is our teacher and guide. Here are some examples of this dilemma: in the political news, a hard‐liner Israeli on the Hamas issue: “Today’s compromise is tomorrow’s norm”. A scene on the street: a Palestinian mom, covered head to toe with only her eyes peering out, walking with her teen‐aged daughters, who are dressed in tight jeans and tank tops.

Before ending this letter I want to make a record of my sad impressions going to the north. If one looks to the west (toward the Mediterranean Sea, toward Tel Aviv) you see Jewish cities and settlements. As one looks to the east you see Arab (Palestinian) cities. They are in the West Bank (the West Bank of the , actually east of the north‐south highway), and they are surrounded by high walls like the sound barriers we use along the Expressway. There is no entering these cities except through check‐points, at which you have to show your passport as if you were crossing a border into a foreign land. A sorry situation about sharing the land.

JR Sojourn in the Land of the Bible February 27‐May 14, 2009

A Journal of my Sabbatical Father John Rowan

Third Letter

Saturday, February 14, 2009

We are in the 19th day of the program. The routines of the daily life have become second nature. The weather has been generally pleasant, but very hard to relate to in what you wear. If you walk in the sun, and uphill, it becomes laborious and hot, and you shed some clothes. But if you reach a shady place, and there is a breeze, you cool down immediately, and become cold. On Wednesday, we had a day that was partially rainy and cold, and so our bus trip to the Dead Sea and Masada was cancelled. I spent the day resting in the hope that I could beat a head cold that was starting up, and for the most part I was successful. It seems foolish to spend a day in bed while Jerusalem is right outside your door, but this is a hilly city, and almost any walk takes real energy.

On Friday afternoon after classes and lunch, I headed out to the Damascus Gate, which is about a half mile from our residence. This happened to be the hour for the mosque schools to be closing, and the Muslims leaving the city to go home and begin their Sabbath. The slow procession of people along the narrow cobbled streets, with the little shops open on either side, was a dense mass of humanity shuffling along one tiny step at a time. What I thought was to be a five minute walk, took a half hour. If there had been a disturbance, there would have been nowhere to go. Somehow, I relished this experience to be swallowed up in their march.

I haven’t really spoken to any Arabs, except possibly the young people who serve at our table in the convent dining room. The shopkeepers are very aggressive, and do not hesitate to touch your arm or back to try to steer you into their shop. I did have two unfortunate encounters with children. In one, I was in an isolated alley and four boys, about 12 years old, began to circle around me saying things I could not understand, but conveying menace and not playfulness. When I remarked on it at lunch, someone said that the attitude of the children toward a non‐ Muslim may reflect what they had just heard in school. In the other incident, I was in the Muslim cemetery writing some notes; it was very isolated. Two boys came down the path and stopped by me, and came right up into my “personal space”, and said: “You will give us one dollar?” I said: “No”. “You will give us a cigarette?” (They were at the time passing a cigarette back and forth) “No”. I reached for my stuff which I had placed on a nearby wall and began to prepare to leave. They lost interest and walked away. No big deal, but it makes you think twice about going into an isolated place. The Arab boys, coming out of the Mosque school across the alley from us, are very rough with each other. In every group of three or four, one appears to be crying. It’s not a pleasant scene, but I don’t think it would be wise to intervene.

This week we completed our course called “In the Footsteps of History: Exploring 4000 Years of the Land of Israel”, with teacher Jared Goldfarb. We covered a very complicated period, coming up to World War I, when the Ottoman Empire sided with the Germans, and lost its hold on Palestine, which was then put under the British Mandate, which lasted until 1948, when the land in part was given to the Jews as a homeland by the United Nations. The UN map of the proposed State of Israel was never put into actual political use, because the war with the Arab nations which immediately followed the UN declaration, ended with a cease fire border which extended the territory of Israel, the “Green Line” which remains its borders to this day. The walled cities in which the Palestinian Arabs are isolated, such as Bethlehem, are hopefully not the final resolution of how these two peoples will co‐exist. Jared thinks there are reasonable people on both sides who are making small progress towards a peaceful coexistence and cooperation. The reference here is O Jerusalem!, by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre, a day by day and minute by minute story of the historic struggle for Jerusalem and the birth of Israel. Another reference is the great movie, “Lawrence of Arabia”. Where Lawrence fits in to the story is in the World War I era, when he gave military advice to the Arab nations to get out from under the domination of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Turks and the Arab tribes were both of the same religion, Islam, but they were different ethnically. In the end, Lawrence became disenchanted with the British, because they had made inconsistent promises to the Arabs and the Jews.

This week at the Ecce Homo Convent, a British group of Muslims and Jews and Christians spent a few days here working on their interfaith purpose. We all ate in the same dining room and it was a modest sign of hope and showed in part, the mission of this convent.

On Monday night our teacher Flavio Gillio, S.J., showed us a video based on the book The Bible Unearthed, by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman. This is going back to the idea I mentioned before, a major issue in biblical studies, as to what evidence archeology can bring to the question of the historical accuracy of the narratives of the First Testament. Archeology is a relatively recent science; in its beginnings it was used to confirm the historicity of biblical texts. But lately archeology has become a more independent discipline, sifting its evidence and then stating its (provisional) findings. For example, that Jericho at the time of Joshua (see Joshua 6:1) was not a major fortified Canaanite city, and that there is no evidence that any major military operation ever took place there. What becomes of “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho? We are reminded of the principle: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. Application: the fact that you have not found evidence of the military conquest and acquisition of the lands of the Canaanites by the Israelites after the desert sojourn, does not necessarily mean that it didn’t happen the way the Bible tells the story. But it may persuade you to look for another theory of how the Israelites got dominance over the land, for example, by simple infiltration and hard work on the land, and then later telling their story in a grand heroic way. I am reminded of the way in which national history is embellished after the fact. I believe that Patrick Henry’s great speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses, purportedly given before the Declaration of Independence (1176)in which he declared: “Give me liberty or give me death!”, was actually composed in the early 19th century, when elocution contests were the rage.

I spent some time at the Rockefeller Archeological Museum, in East Jerusalem. A fantastic collection in a beautiful building. It’s nice to know that the Rockefellers, from New York State, did such a noble service in the preservation of the antiquities of Israel. This museum is free, and just a short distance from the convent. In the days of the Roman governance of Israel (63 BC to 325 AD), the rich did not pay taxes, only the poor. (So you see, G.W. Bush did not invent this policy!) Instead the rich were expected to do some public work (liturgeia) like building a fountain, or a public plaza, or a temple, in which they could name themselves the first highpriest. This would appear to be easier than six years in the seminary!

We began a new course this week, on the Book of Amos. The teacher is Fr. Guy Theunis, a Belgian who belongs to the White Fathers of Africa. He lives in the White Fathers community which is attached to St. Anne’s Church, just a block away from us. Jerome Murphy‐O’Connor calls this church, which dates from Crusader times, the most beautiful church in Jerusalem. Its crypt is said to enshrine the home of the Virgin Mary and of her parents Joachim and Anne. Next to the church are the ruins of ancient medicinal baths where Jesus healed a man ill for 38 years. (:1‐13)All this is just a short step away from our residence.

Why the Book of Amos? For one thing (which I did not know) Amos is the first written book of the First Testament. Written in the days right before the Babylonian Captivity, (586 BC) co‐ incidental with the use of writing by the Israelites (somewhat later than the Egyptian use of writing.) So, our teacher suggested, when you want to read the Bible from the beginning, you would not start with Genesis, the first book in the canon, but with Amos, the first written entry, which would also give you a key to all the other 24 prophetic books. We began our critical reading of the oracle of judgments against the nations: chapter 1 and 2. You will see that the crimes of the nations (who do not have the benefit of the Torah) are what we would call crimes against humanity, slavery, ethnic cleansing, and violence. The nations should be aware of these offences because of their human conscience. The crimes of Israel and Judah (the divided kingdoms who have the blessing of God’s law) are idolatry and infidelity.

Amos says: “Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong man shall not retain his strength; the warrior shall not save his life, nor the bowman stand his ground; the swift of foot shall not escape, nor the horseman save his life. And the most stouthearted of warriors shall flee naked on that day, says the Lord.” Note the seven categories: swift, strong man, warrior, bowman, swift of foot, horseman, stouthearted. Why seven? It’s a literary devise to say: every one of them will be routed. Seven is the perfect number.

This brought us to a little side bar on numbers in the Bible; here is my summary: 1 The Holy One 2 Humanity (Man and Woman) 3 1+2 Spiritual Beings 4 Non‐spiritual beings, the earth, the four corners 5 Action, like the five fingers of the hand 6 7‐1 Something incomplete, sin, 666 7 3+4 All creation, spiritual and material, the nations 8 7+1 The New Creation 9 3x3 10 5x2 The Ten Commandments 12 3x4 Something complete: Israel, the 12 Tribes 14 2x7 Complete (example: the geneology in Matthew’s Gospel) 40 Preparation, as in the desert 70 Complete human action, as in forgiveness 144 12x12 10,000 Incalcuable

I want to make part of my notes on this study of the Bible text and the application of archeology to help us date the text, identify the writer and determine his /her purpose, an important teaching from the Second Vatican Council document on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, which teaching is taken in large part from the encyclical letter of Pius XII Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943): “12. Seeing that, in sacred Scripture, God speaks through men in human fashion, it follows that the interpreter of sacred Scripture, if he is to ascertain what God has wished to communicate to us, should carefully search out the meaning the sacred writers really had in mind, that meaning which God thought well to manifest through the medium of their words.” In other words, we regard the intended meaning of the sacred writer to be the meaning which God intended, that is, inspired. So in determining the meaning of the sacred writer five hundred years before Christ, we do not assume that he/she was composing a work of critical, objective history, because that literary form had not yet been invented.

Today, I had a real treat. I had lunch at the Ecole Biblique with one of my heros, one of my lures to Jerusalem, Fr. Jerome Murphy‐O’Connor, O.P., a professor at the school, whom I had for a few courses at the Georgetown Scripture Institute over the years I have been attending that program. One of the participants in our sabbatical program, a Dominican from the same Irish province as Fr. Jerome, heard that I was interested in meeting up with him and invited me to this lunch. With this meeting I will have accomplished one of my foremost objectives in coming here. During our conversation, I told Fr. Jerome how I had used his analysis of Luke 9:28 (The ) as the main idea in my funeral homily for Jim Coffey, that Jim was an “explaining ” sent by God to help us get through mysterious moments in life. Jerome said: “I’m very happy that you remembered what I taught.” Golden moment.


Sojourn in the Land of the Bible

A Journal of My Sabbatical January 27‐May 14, 2009

Fr. John Rowan

It is Saturday, February 21, 2009. Last night there was a thunder storm of heroic sound, which I hardly heard. One of the blessings that has been given to me on this sabbatical has been to sleep soundly. Early to bed, and early to rise. That’s the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin and, while he was not the best example of it while he was our ambassador to Paris, it works for me.

The earliest sound we hear in the morning is the Muslim call to prayer. It is the song of the Muezzin coming from the minaret (tower) which is next to every mosque like a bell tower is near a Christian church. The word Muezzin comes from the muezzin, which means announcer or proclaimer. It is a call to prayer. The three religions represented here all have some means of alerting the faithful that it is time for prayer: Christians ring bells; Jews used the horn; Muslims, following the preference of Mohammed for the human voice, uses the announcer, now on powerful loudspeakers, singing out from minarets over the city. The first call to prayer comes at about 5am. After chanting a few verses of the Koran, there are some praises of Allah, and some advice to the faithful, as at 5am: “Now it is better to pray than to sleep”. No opportunity to dispute the wisdom of this advice; but we Christians and Jews, still in bed, are allowed to pray that the early morning call to prayer is finished.

The call to prayer is answered. A man may put down a little mat and kneel on it, touching his head to the floor, and offer his prayer. Or, as one of our colleagues saw on a bus, a young couple was sitting together, behaving affectionately. The call to prayer was heard, and the young man unwound himself from his girl friend, solemnly said his prayers, and afterwards, immediately went back to cuddling with his friend. It reminded me of the old joke about the difference between the Jesuits and the Franciscans. The Jesuit asked his superior if it was ok to smoke while he prayed; and the Franciscan asked if it was ok to pray while he smoked.

The convent where we are housed is in the Arab quarter of the old city of Jerusalem. The entire walled city is not that large: you can walk around the outside of the walls in about an hour. The sections are: the Christian quarter, the Jewish, the Armenian, and the Arab. The Arab quarter would probably be described as the poorest, less tourist oriented and more crowded than the other three. The shops are small stalls with the merchandise spilling out into the narrow cobbled alleys. They sell clothing and shoes, meat and vegetables, coffee and tea (for Islam alcoholic drinks are forbidden), candy and pastries of every description, non‐prescription drugs and cosmetics, luggage and small electronic devices like TV remote controls. The clothing, Arab dresses, for example, are hanging from rods outside the store; only the proprietor goes into the store, as into a large closet, to get something after you have told him what you want. When the tractor goes by pulling a garbage bin, the upper corners of the bin are brushed by the dresses and long coats hanging nearby. All the food, including candy and pastries, are without cover. So your temptation to buy some is tempered by the sight of a customer reaching over the tray to try one before buying. The market is very noisy, with the vendors shouting out the buy of the day. Their pitch ends with the word: Hashara, accent on the last “a”. I asked around as to what this might mean, and learned that it means: this is what you get for ten shekels. For example, seven big oranges, Hashara. Ten shekels are worth about $2.50. The Arab Quarter is real daily living; the average yearly wage of a Palestinian is about NIS 48,000 (New Israel Shekels, equal to about $12,000). Rent for a small apartment in a project‐like building would be equal to about $500.00 a month.

Still, the Arabs who live in the city of Jerusalem are better off than those living in the West Bank, behind the walls marking the Green Line border, the cease fire line of what the Israelis call the War of Independence, and the Arabs call the Devastation. Consider the case of Elias, a guide we had one day this week, who lives with his new wife near Bethlehem, which is just a few miles from Jerusalem. In order to get to meet up with us in Jerusalem at 8:30am, he had to start out from Bethlehem at 6am. He figured it would take him two hours to pass through the checkpoint from Arab territory into Israel, and he was right. There are four lines at the checkpoint but the Palestinian Arabs must go on only one of them, even if the clerks on the other three are idle. These policies have led to a severe reduction of Palestinian Christians in the region: they used to represent 10% of the population, now they are 2%.

This week we had a Spanish nun, a public health nurse, visit us with news and pictures of the scene in Gaza. She is part of a relief team of health care professionals who were able after some difficulty, to set up a medical and trauma care operation in Gaza City. The pictures were harrowing. The human suffering, especially among the children, a pitiable sight. It is not surprising that the Israelis should initially deny using phosphorus powder bombs, because the burns they inflict on military personnel as well as on civilian women and children are so monstrous. These weapons are prohibited by the international conventions. I see in the Herald Tribune today that Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Joe Lieberman are in Gaza visiting with a U.S. delegation sent by President Obama. In the Israeli press, there is a lot of criticism of the rightist government and of the military and security forces, which seem to be somewhat independent of the control of civilian government officials, for the human rights violations made in the Gaza Strip.

I should mention, the prominent Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, which is published as an insert of the International Herald Tribune, a subsidiary of the New York Times, is replete with articles and opinions pleading for the civil rights of the Palestinians. But the hard right appears to have taken the lead in last week’s elections to the Knesset, and their prime interest will be on security, despite the effect of curtailing the rights of some of their own citizens (some Palestinian Arabs are Israeli citizens), and others who are not citizens but who have occupied the land from time immemorial.

On Thursday, February 19 the local Catholic bishops here ( which would be the Latin Patriarch, Greek Melkite, Maronite, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, and Chaldean), issued a public letter in which they deplored a comedic presentation on Israeli TV channel 10, which mocked Jesus and Mary, the principal of our Christian faith. The bishops were asking for the authorities and the TV management to review their policies of freedom of speech and to call to mind how the Jewish people were so deeply harmed by this kind of creeping intolerance of their faith.

Back to the market: when you get to the Christian Quarter, almost all the shops are selling religious articles and tokens, and all the merchandise is inside the shop: you have to enter to see what they have. When you reach the Jewish Quarter, much of it has been rebuilt, and it is in the European style, the shops are upscale and the general ambience is stately and quiet. There are public bathrooms and other accommodations which make the timid American like me quite at home. You can also buy wine and beer, a nice feature whether home or away!

Switching from the market to the Biblical Formation Program, I will use a little anecdote. You have to understand that the merchants of religious goods are very aggressive. “Please enter my family store. Big discount for you.” “Please take my business card.” They will reach out and even grab your arm or your coat. I said to one fellow who was tugging on my sleeve: “Where I come from that is not a good way to get business.” In any case, as I was walking through the market one day, a vendor said to me: “What are you looking for?” I hesitated for a moment, thinking, that’s a really good question. And I replied to him: “Spiritual renewal”. He just nodded, shrugged his shoulders, kind of realizing that he didn’t have that in his shop. Meanwhile, the question stays with me. Prophecy comes from the most unlikely places. (See :49)

This week we finished up our course on the Gospel of Mark. It was given by a young Italian Jesuit, Flavio A.M. Gillio, who is on the faculty of the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Biblicum) and is preparing a PhD in Bible at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His approach to the gospel is, in part, to regard the sacred word as a communication between subjects, the one being Mark, the sacred writer, the other being you, the believing reader. We are, of course, in biblical criticism, accustomed to ask to whom, to what community of persons, the gospel was originally addressed, because in determining the addressee, and their situation, we can come closer to understanding the intention and purpose of the sacred writer. It is thought that the Gospel of Matthew was written to better educated Jews, who believe in Jesus but are still arguing about the law. Luke was written for wealthier Gentile Christians in an urban setting, who may be tempted to be complacent. And Mark, the first gospel chronologically (late 60’s AD), is written to a community largely gentile, new in their faith, and facing persecutions. But the gospels were also written to me and to you and to all those who would follow through the centuries of the tradition. We are invited to read the gospels in the style of lexio divina, allowing the text to connect with our own spirit.

In the final class with Fr. Flavio, I was asked by the director to speak for the class a word of appreciation to the teacher, a custom of the program as each course comes to a conclusion. I thanked him for his reverent attention to the text, for his generous availability to us despite the pressure of his doctoral work, for his patient listening to our questions modeling for us a truly dialogical way of teaching the sacred Scriptures, and finally, acknowledging our solidarity with all of his students past and future with whom we have shared his love and reverence of the Word of God.

I want to tell you for a moment about his reverent attention to the text. We spent about five hours on :14‐20. The subjects are, on first reading, the initial preaching of Jesus and the choosing of the first four disciples, Simon and Andrew, James and John. We paid total attention to these texts, examining the Greek original words, for a most rewarding and insightful outcome.

I want to insert a little side bar on studying Greek. When I was in the first year of the minor Seminary, September, 1953, our class began its study of Greek, three one‐hour classes each week, under a professor whose name is given in the necrology of the priests of the Brooklyn Diocese as Rev. Alfred Joseph Theodore Weinlich. (d. March 23, 2004). A lot of names for a very simple and straightforward fellow, who, by the time we had him as a teacher, had gotten a bit tired of the student’s resistance to Greek, and kind of taught us “Greek lite”. After a few months, Fr. Weinlich had a heart attack, and had to take a few months off. Into his place came our English professor, Rev. Eugene J. Molloy (d. August 18, 1971), who later became the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn. Fr. Molloy, on taking up the Greek course, told the class that for years he had lamented the decline of the classical tradition at the college, and now he was prepared to do something about it; and that he was going to spend three hours preparing for each of the three classes each week, “and so are you”. And so began a grueling three months of Greek study under the zealous Fr. Molloy until we welcomed Fr. Weinlich back. He had recuperated and we were spent. But we got enough Greek under our belts to coast for the next year with Fr. Weinlich. I know that one of the graces of this sabbatical is to make me grateful to all my teachers, especially teachers of language, starting with elementary school and the learning of English grammar and composition. And in my prayers are a special thanks to Fr. Weinlich and Fr. Molloy, for Greek. I just might mention in regard to the Greek text that there are several sites on the internet in which you can bring up on parallel frames the Greek text and a selection of English texts. It’s generally free, because the purpose of the site is evangelical, to promote study of the gospels. There is also a site on which you can view the original parchment of the text of Codex Sinaiticus, dating from about 400AD, the oldest complete copy of the New Testament.

“I will make you .”(Mk 1:17) “He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.(Mk 3:14) (You know that in your Bible, the parts that are bracketed, such as part of Mk 3:17, above, are not found in the most reliable witnesses.) I just wanted to illustrate an example of reverent attention to the text by pointing out that the word “make” in the first quote, and the word “appointed” in the second, are both the same Greek word, which is found in the , as in the passage “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. (Gen 1:26) It may seem a simple point, but it is putting the action of Jesus in making the fishermen into disciples, and making the disciples into apostles, into a creative dimension, not a creation ex nihilo, which is described in Genesis, but still a work which is appropriately assigned to God. Jesus calls, Jesus makes, Jesus sends.

This week we began a new course, in the Gospel of John. The teacher is Fr. Joseph Nguyen Cong Doan, S.J. a Vietnamese who is the Superior and Director of the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Biblicum) in Jerusalem. He was in jail in Vietnam for nine years, without books or paper and pen, during which time he recalled the Gospel of John from memory. After his release and resumption of his studies, he was given by one professor of the Gospel of John, a bibliography that was eighty pages long. He quipped that he would have had to go back to prison to find the time to read all the entries.

Fr. Joseph will approach the text as one would a literary work, while realizing that this literary work has the message of salvation and faith. He will ask the question: Who is Jesus; What did he do and say? Where was he from? When was “his hour”? Why was he here, why did he die? How (can we know the way)? These and other questions are just a surface treatment of what it means to look at the gospel as a literary work. I will do more justice to Fr. Joseph’s notes in a later letter. This course is to be our longest, twenty‐five hours.

Here’s a little aside that makes this kind of scripture fun. Fr. Joseph used this analogy: you know how we hide a key to the front door under the mat so the family can get into the house? Well, each of the evangelists also gives you a key to his gospel, so you will get the point. Where are these keys? Well, Mark is the easiest: he doesn’t hide the key he nails it right on the door: it is found in Chapter 1 Verse 1. Matthew hides the key in the infancy narratives, Chapters 1 and 2. Luke hides the key in Chapter 4, Verses 16‐21. And John hides the key in the Prologue. So, find the key, and open the door!

On Wednesday of this week we visited the village of En Kerem, a far western suburb of Jerusalem. I think the name means Spring of the Vineyard. Because of its location in the hill country and its proximity to Jerusalem, it has been regarded from the 5th century as the home of Zachary and Elizabeth, and the birthplace of . “During those days Mary set out and travelled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zachary and greeted Elizabeth.” (Lk 1:39) This is certainly hill country. Absolutely beautiful, with sweeping vistas into valleys and lifting your eyes up high rolling hills. There are two churches there, one commemorating the Visitation, with the prayer Magnificat on the plaza wall on large ceramic plaques in every conceivable language. We arrived at this church at 9AM, and had mass presided over by a member of our program, Fr. Jaime Palma Cuacuamoxtia, a Mexican who is a missionary in Korea, and on this day presided at mass in the English language for the first time. A few weeks ago he helped me get a wireless internet signal on my computer. He has a perfect indigenous face, like so many migrant workers on Long Island. His smile, on accomplishing mass in English for the first time, was worth the whole trip.

The Church of John the Baptist was also on our itinerary. In the basement of this church is a crypt‐chapel which is made out of a cave, which is said to be the “place of concealment” sought out by Elizabeth, an older woman who did not feel comfortable displaying her pregnancy in public. I learned that people of the economic and social status of Zachary and Elizabeth would often have second homes in the hill country, part of which would be a cave; and the cave would be a comfortable place to have the birth, because it could be made warm in the winter and was always cool in the summer. On the wall in the courtyard of the church are ceramic plaques with the prayer Benedictus in many languages.

I should make again a distinction among the holy places as to the historical accuracy of the location in reference to the event they commemorate. In the case of the shrines at En Kerem, the commemoration of the Visitation and the Birth of John the Baptist are “congruent” with the biblical account in Luke. The earliest date of a church being in the location is the 5th century. On the other hand, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which commemorates the place of Calvary, of the and the Resurrection, have been honored by the Christians long before St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, came on the scene in the middle of the 4th century. The local bishop and the Jerusalem Church had preserved the memory of these places from the beginning, and were perhaps even more aware of them because of the irritant of the Romans, who had built a pagan temple on the sacred location.

The Sisters of Sion, who are conducting our Biblical Formation Program at their convent Ecce Homo in Jerusalem, have a convent with a garden and a chapel at En Kerem, which we visited. When the sisters first arrived in Jerusalem in the mid‐ninteenth century, they opened a school here, and quickly learned that the state of public hygiene and sanitation in the city was miserable, and that the sisters and students needed periodic healthy breaks to the mountain country, and so the estate at En Kerem was purchased. The chapel is a witness to simplicity. The gardens are just beautiful, with the flowers of this early season being the blossoms of the almond tree, like a snow‐fall in suspension. The geraniums are left in the ground all season, so they grow as big as bushes. I saw some exotic birds, little parrots and grey birds like a sparrow, except when they opened their wings they revealed a bright yellow breast. Another bird, which I heard but did not see, had a call or song like a tin whistle. We had our lunch there, sitting on plastic chairs overlooking the valley, like a peaceful picnic scene in an impressionist painting.

This week we also observed the death of Stephanus Cardinal Kim, the retired Archbishop of Seoul, Korea. Three of our program participants are from Korea, two diocesan priests and one sister who is a social worker. On the day of Cardinal Kim’s funeral in Korea, we had mass in the Korean language, celebrated by Fr. Jeong Bay Pak (Benedict), and Fr.Joung Hyun Kim (Matthew). Before mass, Matthew taught us how to sing the Lord, Have Mercy, in Korean. I am in constant amazement of the courage and inventiveness of the participants from Asia as they listen to the lectures given in English, on topics that are challenging even if English is your first language. One of the Asians, Fr. Ekachai Chinnakort (Johnbaptist) from Thailand, transmits from here, by computer hookup, three one‐hour radio presentations every week. I asked him how he is able to keep the flow of words going for a full hour. He responded that his assistant in Thailand will edit the material he transmits before putting it on the air. Did you ever hear the joke this little joke? A person who speaks three languages is called tri‐lingual; a person who speaks two languages, bi‐lingual; and a person who speaks one language is called American.

Another event of the week deserving mention. Fr. Flavio returned here one evening after supper to show us a video about the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls are maintained here in Jerusalem and I will write more once I have been to the exhibit. The scrolls have had a rocky political history, and that’s what this BBC video was about. The early scholars, working on the translation and restoration of the scrolls, sometimes rushed to publication without checking their work with the others on their team. One, for example, an Englishman named John Allegro, published in the New Yorker taking the position that the scrolls would basically undermine Christianity by demonstrating that Jesus’ message was not original but indeed derivative from the message of the Teacher of Righteousness of the Essene community which is thought to be the originating community of the Dead Sea Scrolls. John Allegro’s position has been completely discredited by later scholarship, but he, and others rushing to publish, put some Catholic scholars, such as Roland deVaux O.P., the director of the Ecole Biblique, in a bad light as impeding the expeditious publication of the scrolls to the professional world and to the public.

Today has been a cold and rainy day, a good one for staying in and compiling my journal, which I will now bring to a close with the promise that I will write again. My prayers and thoughts are with you all.

JR Sojourn in the Land of the Bible A Journal of my Sabbatical February 27‐May 14, 2009

Fr. John Rowan

Saturday, March 07, 2009. The weather has turned beautiful. It’s unseasonably warm, in the 70’s, with a clear blue sky. It doesn’t mean that the rainy season is over, and surely the locals are hoping it’s not over, because they have received to‐date only 40% of the rainfall they hoped to have this winter. We were reminded this week that the palm branches we use on Passion Sunday were originally waved by this agrarian people to remind God of the wind that brings rainfall, which in turn makes the land fruitful of grain, grapes and olives (bread, wine and oil). Instead, the nice weather brings tourists, Jews and Christians mostly. But you still cannot do without water; every tourist has his or her water bottle. This beautiful weather will test my virtue in staying in my room to write this journal. On the previous Saturdays my room was the only warm place I could find. Today, the world outside is beckoning. We shall see.

I am taking stock in this letter because the one‐third mark of this program was reached on March 3. On that day I presided at the house liturgy, partly because it was my birthday, partly because it was my turn. The readings were 55:10, “So shall my word be/that goes forth from my mouth;/It shall not return to me void,/but shall do my will,/achieving the end for which I sent it”; and Mt.6:7‐15, “This is how you are to pray…” The effectiveness of God’s word to us; the encouragement of our word to God, provide a good starting point for reflecting on where I am at this point in the biblical formation program.

This is where the courses stand: Footsteps of History 18 hours, complete Gospel of Mark 12 hours, complete Book of Amos 15 hours, 4/5 complete Letter to Romans 15 hours, 3/5 complete Judaism (customs, etc.) 5 hours, 3/5 complete Gospel of John 24 hours, 3/8 complete Understanding Islam 4 hours, ½ complete Oriental Churches 4 hours, not started yet The Torah 24 hours, not started yet The Book of Job 12 hours, not started yet

Summary: of a total of 133 hours, we have completed 65, almost half. (In the program remaining, we have two major excursions, one to Galilee for six days, another to Sinai for three. This explains why the bulk of course‐hours are spent at the beginning of the program).

I would like to say a word about the mini‐course concept in the study of sacred Scripture. These courses do not have the discipline or the depth of a graduate level course which would have class time of three hours a week over a fourteen‐week period, nor do they require papers or exams. But they have tremendous value in keeping students abreast of developments in the field, and of introducing students to distinguished professors whose books they may have read, or are encouraged to read, and of helping preachers to examine the text carefully to discern its revelation and instruction for life. For example, at the Georgetown University Scripture Institute, which I have attended for most of the sessions over the past twenty years, I have met Walter Breuggeman and Jerome Murphy‐O’Connor op, Joseph Fitzmyer sj, and John Donohue sj and many other teachers. It has been a lifeline for me personally and as a preacher, and has indeed prepared me for the courses in this program. I will go home with notes and a bibliography that will take me years to work through, a new platform for studying, preaching and teaching. Recently, at a meeting of the participants of our program, we were asked by the director to express what has been the best experience of the program for each of us, thus far. For me, it was the studies, rather than the geographical proximity to the places of the Bible events. I believe these places would have little value if scholars of Christianity and Judaism had not gathered here over the centuries to work on their sacred texts, to translate and to interpret by translating, so that the rest of us would have a link with the acts of God and the formation of the people of God, the story of which is told in relation to this land.

I know there are many ways to God and to Jesus. I am probably most likely to meet Jesus in the temple, listening and asking questions. (Luke 2:46) Or, to use another image, I am sitting under the fig tree, having a conversation with friends. This image is taken from the Book of Zechariah; it is referring to messianic times when a person will be able to afford a fig tree, and the leisure to have friends over for a visit. “On that day, says the Lord of hosts, you will invite one another under your vines and fig trees” (Zec 3:10) It is referenced in John’s Gospel as a messianic allusion in the call of Nathanael as a disciple: “Before Phillip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” (Jn 1:48)

I want to be patient with my experience in Jerusalem, and not jump to conclusions about its meaning or purpose in my life. Here’s a good lesson from Henri Nouwen, The Path of Waiting (Crossroad, 1995):

“A waiting person is a patient person. The word “patience” means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Pa‐ tient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the mo‐ ment, as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her womb.”

I want to mention two special advantages of studying in the Holy Land. One is the emphasis on the Jewish identity of Jesus and the early Christian Church, and the link between the Old Testament and the New Testament. (An aside here: at times in these letters I have used the expression “First Testament”, rather than “Old Testament”. But “old” can indicate a special value, such as, “this necklace is very old, it belonged to my grandmother.” We avoid the name “Jewish Scriptures”, or “Hebrew Scriptures” because that language may fail to express that Christians also hold the “Hebrew Scriptures” to be the inspired word of God, and are part of our sacred Canon. So I will go back to using the word “old”, not meaning discarded, like an old shoe, but in the sense of something that is made more precious precisely because of its age and history.) We have been dealing with the Jewishness of Jesus and the beginning of Christianity in the Gospel of Mark, of John, and the Epistle to the Romans. It is a fact which politics and history have at times obscured, but here, is a constant point of reference. I will say more about this at another time.

Reference is made here to the work of Susannah Heschel, professor of religion at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany, (Princeton University Press) that looks at the popular school of Protestant theologians in Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s that presented Jesus as an Aryan who sought the destruction of Judaism and fell victim to the Jews. It should be noted that Dietrich Bonhoffer tried, unsuccessfully, to get his colleagues in the Confessing Church to sign a statement in support of the Jews, but very few would. Bonhoffer was killed in the spring of 1945 in a concentration camp.

The continuity of Christian life with its Jewish foundation is basically the rationale for the recent instruction from the Congregation of Worship and the Sacraments that the sacred name of YHWH should not be spoken aloud in the assembly in Lectionary readings or in hymns, in keeping with the practice of the Jews and the early Christians, who held the name of God in such reverence that it could never be uttered. Instead, the titles Adonai, or Kyrios, or Dominus were substituted. For us, this is not just a question of political correctness or of interfaith diplomacy, but a reverence for the holy Name such as was witnessed so faithfully by the Jews and early Christians. Also, we have Jesus teaching that we should call God “Our Father” (Mt 7:9) or “Father”. (Lk 11:2)

Another distinct advantage of studying the sacred texts here is that this is the geographic setting for the telling of the story of the Bible. The readings for the 2nd Sunday of Lent illustrate the point. In Genesis 22 God puts Abraham to the test in the scene we call the Binding of Isaac: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.” Moriah is identified with the holy mountain of Jerusalem. The story of how God revealed that infant sacrifice did not please him, but instead, the sacrifice of a believing and obedient heart was the offering he wanted, is told on Mt. Zion. In addition to reading and studying the sacred text, a pilgrim can go the high promenades around the city of Jerusalem, look toward the rising that is the city of Jerusalem, and imagine the enlightenment of Abraham’s call, and pray for the faith to follow. Isaac is the image and type of Jesus, the only Son, the beloved of God. What is the Father revealing about Himself in the voice that came from the clouds in the scene of the Transfiguration. “This is my beloved Son…”

On Wednesday, March 4, we had an excursion to the Mount of Olives, under the direction of Raphael Carse, a Roman Catholic originally from New Hampshire, now living in Jerusalem. He has a doctorate in Pilgrimage, which combines history, theology and geography. The Mount of Olives is a high limestone ridge to the east of Jerusalem. Seen from the city wall, it is made more dramatic by the huge cemeteries beginning just under the wall (Muslim), and then separated by the road, going up the mountain side (Jewish). The graves are raised, with marble boxes appearing to contain the dead body. But these boxes are just decorations; the burial of the body is in the ground. Ancient legends and commentaries from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions tell us that the dead will rise first on the Mount of Olives; that’s the reason the location has always been sought as a burial site. It was a cemetery before the time of Jesus, and it is through this cemetery in the Kidron valley that he walked on the night he was arrested. It was as each tomb spoke to him of his hour of destiny. This is the location of the Garden of Gethsemane, the place of Jesus’ prayer on the night before he died. The word means Olive Press, symbolizing the weight of his mission. There are olive trees there that are over eight‐ hundred years old. The geography of the site is significant, because the crowd who came to arrest him, came from behind. Jesus was not trapped. He could have escaped easily, as he had done before. (Lk 4:30) The geography accents the doctrine of Jesus’ freedom: “This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the power to lay it down, and the power to take it up again.” (Jn 10:17)

The bus drove us to the top of the mountain and we walked down, visiting various sites as we descended. At the highest point, we came to the imposing concrete wall enclosing , the town which was the site of the raising of Lazarus in John’s Gospel (Jn11:1‐44) This was as far as we could go. Our guide advised that soldiers may approach us and ask that we leave; if they had done so, we were prepared to obey. The wall is about twenty feet high, topped off with barbed wire in big rolls, the wall going along the road for as far as the eye could see. Bethany, which is one of the “daughters of Jerusalem” and a supplier of farm produce to the city, is effectively cut off from its traditional market, and its people, Palestinians, are segregated and marooned. It was at this location that our guide asked one of us to read the gospel story of the raising of Lazarus. We each had a hearing device so the reader’s voice could be heard from a distance. So there we were, not clustered together, and motionless in our scattered places, in the shadow of the great wall, as the story was read with the command of Jesus: “Lazarus, come out!”, and “Untie him and let him go”.

About a block away from the Bethany wall stood the remains of a large Palestinian house that had been demolished. The Arab houses can be distinguished from Jewish houses because they are built with flat roofs, as in warm climates, instead of peaked, tile roofs which the Jews build following European custom. Since 2000, the municipality of Jerusalem and the Interior Ministry of Israel have demolished about 700 homes in Jerusalem, and there are thousands of warrants yet to be carried out for further destruction. The homes are demolished because they were built without a permit. It is commonly known that the residents of East Jerusalem (Palestinians) have for decades been forced to build illegally on their own property because of the policy of the city planning authorities who simply do not have a blueprint for how to issue such permits, so the residents just go ahead and build at their own risk. One of the students we met at Bethlehem University last week, had his home destroyed twice by the authorities. When we asked him how he coped with such a tragedy, twice, he remarked that all sorts of people had come forth to help, his family was very moved by the compassion they had experienced.

A headline in the Haaretz of Wednesday, March 4, said: “Israel Prize laureates urge end to demolition of E. Jerusalem homes”. The story reported that twenty‐one Israel Prize laureates called for an end to the razing of homes in East Jerusalem, blaming official policy for the abundance of illegal construction in that part of the capital. In the Thursday edition of the paper, a strong editorial repeated the same appeal to the authorities on the basis of basic human rights and property rights. Untie them, and let them go! Even if one just looks at this practice as one of waste: if you took all the cement that went into building the walls, and instead put it into building homes, there would be found the good stewardship of resources for the benefit of human beings and families. When Hillary Clinton was in Israel last week, she made specific reference to the intolerable practice of the demolition of Palestinian homes. The mayor Jerusalem dismissed her remarks, causing the U.S. State Department to issue a statement that the mayor’s remarks had been “insulting” to the U.S. Secretary of State. It is refreshing to see the Obama administration correcting the blindly pro‐Israel policy of the Bush administration.

Another site of interest on the Mount of Olives is the church (now a mosque) commemorating the Ascension of Jesus in the and the . The Christians built a church here which was in circular form, surrounded by columns but open to the sky (to facilitate looking up at the heavens). The Muslims kept the site as a commemoration of the Ascension of Jesus, which belief they share with us, and around the rock on which Jesus left the earth, they built a circular mosque with a concrete dome. It’s just about twenty feet in diameter, so the thirty of us just about fit in. The dome has perfect acoustics, so, together we sang the Taize chant “Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes”. In that place, with those acoustics, it’s like singing in the chorus of the Met. The tradition is that the pure of heart can see the imprint of Jesus’ left foot on the face of the rock where he ascended. Naturally I won’t tell you if I could see the image; but I will disclose that Jesus’ sandal size was nine and one‐half.

We also visited a cave which was a meeting place of the Christians before 325, where, in secret, they commemorated the Ascension. When the church was free to practice the faith openly, the commemoration of the Ascension was moved to the summit of the mountain, to the site I described above. This left a cave without a purpose. It became a place to remember “the secret teachings of Jesus”, a doctrine of the sect called Gnostics, who believed that Jesus imparted to some of his disciples a special knowledge (gnosis) that was not disclosed to all. In this belief they relied on a particular interpretation of certain passages of John’s Gospel, such as: “The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven [is above all]. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.” (Jn 3:31) Jesus himself counters the charge of secrecy in his hearing before : “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing” (Jn 18:20) As if to counter the gnostic sect, the cave is now called the Pater Noster Shrine, with a large open courtyard surrounding the cave, and on the courtyard walls, the Our Father on ceramic tiles in every language imaginable. So the open revelation of God as the accessible Father to all, prevails over the sectarian notion that only a select few get the full revelation.

There is much more to be said about the Mount of Olives, especially its place in Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But I will save that until later, when I describe the events of , 2009.

I want to mention two other events of the week. On Wednesday we had a model Seder in our dining room, conducted by Ophir Yarden, a Jewish teacher. It was very faithful to the ritual seder, lasting three hours. The Seder is intended to be a teaching session in which the next generation is told the story of the people and of God’s loving providence in their regard, partly by the use of questions and answers, and special foods. I think that in the Seder everyone becomes a child, regardless of age. There is a feeling of inclusion and of being beloved by the Holy One who blesses your life and your family.

The other event of the week was attendance at the Friday evening Sabbath service at a reform synagogue called Kol Ha Neshana. This was in an upscale Jewish neighborhood in West Jerusalem, at 8pm. It was quite different, I believe, from the service we would have seen there on Saturday morning, which would be more like our Liturgy of the Word, with a sermon. I would describe this service as a semi‐charismatic Vespers, the entire liturgy chanted, with a variety of chants some like Jewish folk music and one Taize Alleluia. It was well attended both by the congregants, who seemed to know all the music and words, which were in Hebrew, and by three visiting groups, two of which were Jewish pilgrims from the States, and the other being our Biblical Formation Program.

I’m finishing this letter on Tuesday because I did go out into the sun on Saturday, which I do not regret.


Sojourn in the Land of the Bible

A Journal of my Sabbatical January 27‐May 14, 2009 Letter Seven

Fr. John Rowan

Saturday, March 14, 2009. We have completed the second week of Lent. For me, this Lent is unprecedented, immersed in the sacred Scriptures which are said to ‘purify’ and ‘enlighten’. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) I am just amazed that I have the leisure to be in Jerusalem and to be so free and still so purposeful. Thanks to the diocese and to all who made this sabbatical possible.

I discovered that Friday the 13th has a [dubious] Jerusalem connection: it was on Friday, June 13, 1307 that King Phillip of Spain ordered the mass arrest of the Knights Templar, whose mission was to protect Jerusalem pilgrims, but who had become too rich and powerful in the course of their work. My impeccable source for this story is Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. Anyway, we got through Friday the 13th without any mishaps and without any arrests and all the pilgrims appear to be safe.

Wednesday was the Festival of Purim in Jerusalem, also called the feast of Lots. In the Jewish world outside of Jerusalem it was celebrated on Tuesday. The feast celebrates the deliverance of the Jews by Queen Esther from a pogrom in Persia; Esther pleads with the king and convinces him to replace his evil advisor and to spare the Jews. The day of the massacre was determined by lots (purim). For Jews today, and especially for children, it is like our Halloween, everybody is somebody else, in costume, and there is a general sense of making light of everything. So in the early morning I saw a pint‐sized rabbi, maybe six years old, with the black suit, the fedora, the full black beard, on his way to school with his father and his lunch box. Seeing a person in costume doing ordinary, daily tasks is always funny, like a clown getting cash from an ATM, or Abe Lincoln buying some candy. Later in the day, I saw a teen‐aged bumble bee, fully yellow with black spots. Our teacher Deborah Weissman brought to class a supply of the special cookies for Purim, it is sweet dough around a prune paste, called Haman’s Hat. Haman is the evil advisor. The cookie is literally named “Haman’s Pockets”, because Haman’s treasury was taken from him and given to Queen Esther. I was familiar with these pastries because each year that our clergy association in Sayville would have its monthly meeting around this season, Rabbi Steve Moss would serve them to us.

I was trying to find a single theme for this letter by which I could tie together several unrelated items, and I came up with the concept “distinction”, or the verb “to distinguish”, that is, to recognize differences, or shades of differences in reality. Making distinctions is a noble and essential part of our Judeo‐Christian way of thinking, and of other philosophies, (not particularly attractive to fundamentalists of any persuasion) and it remains ever useful. For example, in ethics, we distinguish between a just and an unjust war. It is not simply attaching a name to a reality, but critically trying to express the nature of the reality. Is the war truly defensive; is the force proportionate to the alleged offense; are weapons used against civilians? Islam has similar standards relating to ‘holy’ war. It is not for any person to simply call his violence ‘Jihad’ and thereby justify it. And a Muslim obedient to the Quran may never resort to suicide, and may never make a suicide into martyrdom. These are just examples of how distinctions help us to analyze situations and make decisions that strive for moral integrity. Distinctions help us to avoid the madness of Humpty Dumpty, who told Alice that he can make words do anything he wants, though he pays words extra if he requires them to do a lot of work. (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)

Here’s a useful distinction: between (A) Israel the people,(B) the State of Israel, and (C) the government of Israel. Israel the people, the Jewish people, exist all over the world, about 5.5 million in the land of Israel. It is an ethnic people, with diverse religious practice or no religious practice, numbering about 14 million worldwide. The State of Israel came into being through the UN Partition Plan (1947) and the Independence War (1948), and is recognized as the homeland of the Jews, which is their first autonomous rule in the region since 586 BC, when the Babylonian Empire conquered the Southern Kingdom of Judah. (The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BC, causing the demise of the ten “lost” tribes.) The third item in this distinction is the government of Israel, which is presently in transition and appears to be in the grip of far right politicians who appear to put the value of security above human rights. (Sound familiar?) What is the value of this distinction? Just to remember that criticism of the government of Israel is not anti‐Semitic. The Jewish press is full of such negative comment, without being disloyal to the Israeli people or the State of Israel. Criticism of the policies of your government is not disloyalty to your country or your people. It can even be your civic and moral duty.

Here’s an interesting distinction. Did you ever realize that in the story of the wedding feast at , there is a difference between the actual supply of wine and the report that the mother of Jesus gives to him? “When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no more wine”. (Jn 2:3) There is a difference between ‘short’ [supply] and ‘no wine’. The fun thing about reading the text critically is that you do not let this apparently insignificant difference escape your attention, because this is precisely the kind of hint the gospel writer is giving you that something is up here, and it could be very important. What is the significance? I will tell you when I get home. Stay tuned for further developments.

Here’s another distinction: when is scholarship, or architecture, pure and objective, and when is it overly influenced by politics? This is not an easy question, and every researcher has to try to filter out of his work any presuppositions, or tendencies to have his/her work favor his sponsor or his public. For example, isn’t it pleasing to see the report of research saying that two drinks of wine every day will give you a long life and good digestion and a happy disposition, and that you were right all along in choosing this routine. How much pressure on the researcher must come from the grape farmers, from the wine industry, from all his drinking friends and relatives? Forgive the digression, I was thinking about dinner.

In the politics of scholarship I am following a story in the Israel press about the Dead Sea Scrolls and their meaning and origin. Just to remind you of the extraordinary discovery of the scrolls. They were discovered in caves at the Dead Sea, 1947‐1956, in clay pots where it is assumed they were hidden from the Romans in 70 AD. There are 15,000 fragments, 850 separate scrolls, reflecting the text or part of the text of every book of the Hebrew Scriptures except the Book of Esther. The scroll of the Book of Isaiah, almost entirely intact, is 1000 years older than any previously known copy of Isaiah; and, interestingly, is 99.5% identical in text to the more recent copy. Our gratitude must go out to the scribes, whose reverence for the sacred text was translated into such precise copying. The Dead Sea Scrolls enhance our knowledge of both Christianity and Judaism. They represent a non‐rabbinic form of Judaism and provide a wealth of comparative material for New Testament scholars, including many important parallels to the Jesus movement. They show Christianity to be rooted in Judaism and have been called the evolutionary link between the two. Most of the scrolls are housed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum here in Jerusalem. I have plans to visit the museum soon.

The story I am following is that of the criminal arrest of a man whose father, a scholar at the University of Chicago, takes the unpopular opinion that the scrolls were not from the Essene community near the Dead Sea, but were secreted out of Jerusalem before the Romans invaded in 70 AD. This theory would bring the scrolls into a tighter relationship with mainstream Judaism, rather than being the product of a marginal group. The arrested man (the scholar’s son) impersonated a rival scholar in a blog, contending that his father’s opponents were anti‐ Semites because they were insisting on the Essene origin rather than Jerusalem. Now other scholars are speaking out on the subject. The former curator of the Shrine of the Book called the “Jerusalem” theory “foolishness and mean‐spirited”. On the other hand, the chief archeology officer of the Civil Administration of Israel, who excavated at Qumran for 10 years, says he believes that not even a quarter of the Qumran material was Essene. “The scrolls were an outcome of flight from Jerusalem and other areas that were densely settled with Jews.” He called the proponents of the Qumran Sect (Essene)theory “a guild with money and conferences”. Isn’t it fascinating how scholarship develops, even when outside interests and passions run high. It is so hard for any of us to change our minds, especially if certain ways of thinking have worked for us for a long time. We have to remember that Jesus first teaching was “Repent (Change your mind), and believe in the Good News.” (Mk 1:15)

Here is another exercise in making distinctions. When you look at a Jerusalem wall, of an old building or a wall of the city itself, can you distinguish among all the stones that make up the wall, which are Roman (63 BC to 325 AD), Herodian (36 BC to 6 BC), Byzantine (325 AD to 638), Muslim (638 AD to 1099 AD), Crusader 1099 AD to 1187 AD? That’s what the archeologists do, and their identification of tiers, the characteristics of the various layers, can be pointed out and explained to the non‐expert. For example, our group visited the eastern wall of the city, which is also the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, to inspect the different layers of huge stones that make up the wall. Some of the stones are from the time of Herod the Great, the king we meet in the second chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, who consults with the Magi and then proceeds with the massacre of the male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem. He has a reputation for cruelty, coming not only from the Holy Innocents story, but from the historical record that he executed two of his own sons. But he was a great builder, and the Temple Mount was one of his greatest accomplishments.

This is the story of the Temple Mount. The first Temple, built by Solomon, is described in 1Kings 6:2 “The temple which King Solomon built was sixty cubits long, twenty wide, and twenty‐five high. The porch in front of the temple was twenty cubits from side to side, along the width of the nave, and ten cubits deep in front of the temple.” This temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The second temple was constructed in 538 BC, when the Jews were allowed by the Persians to return to Jerusalem. It was thought that the dimensions of the first temple were divinely given, and so the second temple had to follow the plan and size of Solomon’s Temple.

The second Temple was the structure Herod wanted to improve, but he was stuck with the rather modest dimensions that were God‐given. So he elevated the Temple onto a huge platform which is referred to by the Jews as the Temple Mount. This is a grand flat surface lifted sixty feet into the air, with massive walls and ceremonial gates, with the Temple sitting on top. This was a marvel of ancient engineering, something like the Pyramids. It was built by paid laborers, not slaves. The area of the esplanade is five‐hundred yards by three‐hundred yards, equivalent to thirty football fields. A Herodian stone was pointed out to us that is estimated to weigh five hundred tons. A style of the time was to etch out rectangles to make the great stone look like a construction of several smaller stones fitted together, and the appearance is very convincing. But if you look closely, you can see that it is one huge stone.

The Temple Mount is under Muslim control, and is called the Hara mesh‐Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary). I visited the site recently (times for visits by non‐Muslims are tightly controlled), and it is simply beautiful, like a series of courtyards and park‐like vistas, with Cypress trees and other plantings. The vast “Noble Sanctuary” both dwarfs elevates the visitor. All around, families are having picnics. The day was beautiful and the Cypress trees were majestic spires reaching to heaven. This is the place of Abraham’s sacrifice, the test of his faith, the place of justification. This is the place of Mohammed’s ascension. It’s only six stories above the original level (Roman Period) but you could be at the very place where earth and heaven meet. It is the horizon of faith. There are two mosques in the sanctuary, one called the El‐Aska Mosque, the other called the Mosque of Omar, inside the Dome of the Rock, which is a circular building whose walls are covered with Palestinian ceramic tiles in blue designs on white, and the roof being the huge golden dome that dominates the profile of the city of Jerusalem. I wasn’t able to get into the mosque at the Dome. I started to take my shoes off and a man came over to tell me that only Muslims could enter. I know this is the rule for prayer time, but there are other rules when the community is not at prayer. This might be just arbitrary. Or he might have been a zealous Muslim exceeding his authority. But one (Christian) does not argue in the sanctuary (with a Muslim).

In Jerusalem I’ve thought a lot about the issue of having non‐believers present for your community prayers. The Muslims are strict about it: you enter the mosque to pray, not to observe. At the Western Wall, the Jews will allow anyone to approach the wall, to offer their prayer there, as Pope John Paul II did when he visited in 2000. It’s very consoling to feel at home there. The Jews seem very centered in their presence and prayers, and not distracted by visitors. The reform synagogue which we visited last week in West Jerusalem had an orientation for visitors before the Sabbath Service, they were quite welcoming both to a crowd of Jewish pilgrims and to us. In the early Christian Churches, the catechumens were excused from the assembly at the end of the Liturgy of the Word, before the sacred mysteries were celebrated. Now, in our churches, for ceremonies of first Eucharist and Confirmation, members of our own faith come with cameras almost proclaiming that they are here to observe and to chat and not to pray. It’s a real dilemma. One does not want to neglect hospitality on the one hand; on the other there is the integrity of the prayer and the total trust we want to have with those who are with us on the journey of faith.

Admission to the Temple Mount has always been a privilege. The diary of a pilgrim in 1848 had the following entry:

Next to Mecca, Jerusalem is the most holy place of Muslim pilgrimage, and throughout the year , the Mosque of Omar and its court are crowded with turbaned worshippers. This mosque, built on the site of the Holy Temple, is the great shrine of their devotions. It is strictly guarded against all intruders, and there is a superstitious Muslim belief that if a Christian were to gain access to it, Allah would assent to whatever he might please to ask, and they take it for granted that his first prayer would be for the subversion of the religion of the Prophet. (Quoted in Jerusalem in the 19th Century, Yehoshua Ben‐Arieh)

When the Herodian Temple was under the control of the Jews‐until A.D 70, non Jews were not admitted in the temple area. At each of the gates was a notice in Greek and Latin saying: “No Gentile to enter the fence and barrier around the Temple. Anyone caught is liable to himself for the ensuing death.” The Jews continue to reverence the area even though it has been out of their control since the Roman invasion. “Now just as we are obliged to keep the Sabbath for all time to come, so must we reverence the Sanctuary for all time to come, for even though it is in ruins, its sanctity remains”. (Maimonides, 12C) Some say that this reverence and nostalgia for the ruined Temple is what’s behind the gesture of breaking a glass at a Jewish wedding. Even in times of great joy, we keep in mind the sorrows and setbacks of the whole people. I believe the ritual at some Catholic weddings, to have a gift for the poor, is in the same spirit. The lesson is the same: your happiness has been purchased at a great price, and you should always be grateful for what has been given to you. Remember the Holy Temple, and one day you will enter it with joy. Remember the poor, and one day they will welcome you to heaven.

A particular significance of the Temple Mount to Christians is that this is the structure that was in place at the time of Jesus, and all the references in the gospels to the Temple have reference to this site. Consider :13‐21, the account which we call the cleansing of the Temple. The statement is made: “This temple has been under construction for forty‐six years…” If this statement was made around the year 30 AD, it would put the beginning of the construction in 84 BC, which is squarely in the reign of Herod the Great. The ‘Temple’ referred to the whole complex, the huge esplanade with its various courts and venues, as well as the temple proper, the sanctuary built according to the dimensions given in the Book of Kings. The cleansing would have been not in the sanctuary, because ordinary people did not enter there, it was not a place of assembly as our churches and synagogues are. Instead, the cleansing would have been in a courtyard possibly three hundred yards from the temple sanctuary. Jesus was not speaking or acting against the temple; he was protesting the “business as usual” attitude of the money changers and the animal sellers and the butchers who were going about their tasks unmindful of the sacredness of the Temple precincts and of the presence of the Holy one in the sanctuary. For ourselves, awareness of the sacred in the ordinary persons and events of our lives should never be taken for granted. Consider Psalm 33: “From heaven the Lord looks down: he sees all humankind. From his fixed throne he beholds all who dwell on the earth. He who fashioned the heart of each, he who knows their works.”

Next Wednesday, our group is going to Galilee, up to the sea. So I will be away next Saturday and will not write the next installment of this journal until Saturday, March 27.

JR Sojourn in the Land of the Bible

A Journal of my Sabbatical January 27 – May 14, 2009 Letter Eight Fr. John Rowan

I am beginning this letter on Friday, March 27, 2009, just a week before Holy Week. The city is filled with pilgrims from America, , Asia and Africa. All around preparations are being made for the celebration of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and . Our program is going forward resolutely, having reached its half‐way mark last week.

The bulk of this letter will be used to describe and hopefully interpret the journey which we made, starting Wednesday, March 18th and finishing up on Wednesday, March 25. We travelled north to the region of Galilee, which has its importance for Christians because it was the principal location of the ministry of Jesus, and continues to move the soul of all visitors because of the sheer beauty of the place, with its mountains and rolling hills, its lake and its fertile fields, its meadows filled with grass and wild flowers. (Gal means round, as in “wheel”, or “scroll”, or “rolling hills”.)

Galilee is a welcome spring break from Jerusalem because of the milder weather and the resort ambience. And for the archeologist, most of the ruins are not buried deep under the debris of successive settlements, as in Jerusalem, but near or at the present surface; and all the natural sites, the lake and the mountains, are just where they were at the time of Jesus. (In Jerusalem and other sites which have been destroyed and built up over and over again, the present‐day surface is thirty feet higher than at the time of Jesus.) As for the lake and the mountains, the water level may be lower than before, but the lake bed is just where it was when Jesus called the fishermen who were to become his first disciples, and the mountains are rising just where they were at the time of the , or the Transfiguration.

As I list the places we visited, you have to remember that these are not the guaranteed location of the Bible events that are commemorated at the site. But some of these places have been the destination of Christian pilgrims for about 1800 years, and many of these holy places were the site of pagan shrines before Christianity. They have a natural holiness about them which was recognized by the Christians as contributing to a deeper intuition of the events recorded in the gospel. As I write this letter I am looking for a name for the connectedness of the natural site, for example, the cave or the spring, with the gospel event commemorated there, for example, the cave of Mary’s house and the story of the . Three possible concepts, none of which is original with me) are suggested.

The first is the principle of “sacramentality”, that is, all reality is imbued with the sacred presence of God, and some created things, for example, running water, or mountain tops, or caves, or the desert wilderness, are especially evocative of the mysterious dimension of the created world. (Catholicism, Richard McBrien) Using this language, a cave would be the outward sign of the interiority and mysticism of the encounter with God in the heart of the believer, as in the Gospel of Luke: “And coming to her, [the angel] said, ‘Hail, favored one…’” It is possible that the early Christians had less compunction than the Jews about taking over pagan religious sites and relating them to Christian stories, because officially the Jews were very protective of the one shrine at Jerusalem, and very cautious about appearing to adopt the customs of pagans, whereas the Christians were prepared to “baptize” whatever could be salvaged from earlier pagan religions. St. Patrick’s mission in Ireland in the fifth century is a good example of the freedom of Christian missionaries to adapt to indigenous religions. (How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill)

The second concept is that of “inscape”, a word coined by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Inscape attempts to express the unique existence of every created thing, reflecting the conviction that the Creator is endlessly inventive and makes no two things alike. Thus, the particular Sycamore Tree in the city of Jericho which is said to be the one on Jesus’ route that was climbed by Zaccheus (Lk 19:1‐10) may help the viewer to integrate the gospel story. You see its relatively low branches permitting the short Zaccheus a foothold to climb up; you can see him peering down from the branches, not just to “see Jesus”, but to “see who Jesus was”. The tree is unique as is the gospel story of Zaccheus, and something in the fundamental identity of each is entering the mind of the viewer to produce a deeper appreciation of both the tree and the gospel.

The third concept comes from the Italian word “suggestivo”, meaning something like reverberation, with the sliding of one part of a sense of reality into another, with a movement of feeling and experience connected or corresponding to both realities, for example, the reality of the desert being connected to the experience described in the scene of the temptations of Jesus. How does the solitude and the sheer expanse of the wiIderness help the reader of the gospel to enter into both the vulnerability of Jesus and his resolute dependence on the word of God? (Lk 4:1‐13)How does the gospel story of the Temptations of Jesus heighten both the risks and the benefits of going out into the desert?

A major factor in achieving the integration I am seeking is the space and time for silence. Even when you are not part of a program, as I am, the economies of life require that you keep moving along. We had three days of relative quiet in Galilee, staying in a German hostel for pilgrims, which was conducive to long walks and solitude, but I believe the contemplation I mean by the introduction of the concepts above would require a more prolonged culture of silence. After all, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, and St Francis of Assisi took forty days for his fast and retreat. What can we expect from a forty‐minute visit? (A Book of Silence, Sara Maitland, Granta Press)

On Wednesday, March 18, as we traveled north into Galilee our first stop was Nazareth. We celebrated Eucharist at the Basilica of the Annunciation, which is built over the Grotto of the House of Mary. At the grotto, there is an inscription that says: “Hic Verbum Caro Factum Est”, that is, the Word was made flesh here. (Jn 1:14) Later we visited the of St. Gabriel, and saw the of the Annunciation. Both the Roman and the Greek theologies of the Annunciation are based on the account in St. Luke’s Gospel (1:26). In the Roman version, Mary is visited by the angel in her room (as in the painting by Fra Angelico). In the Greek version, Mary encounters the angel while on her way to the well to draw water. In the icon at the Church of St. Gabriel, after Mary has said her “Fiat”, she leaves the water jug empty at the well, because she is now carrying the “Living Water” within her body. These two images point to two different ecclesiologies (theologies of the Church): in one, the Church is a room, a place of safety and dwelling with God; in the other, the Church is the path leading to the Living Water. The cave under the Church of Annunciation is mentioned in the Diary of the Pilgrim Egeria (384) who wrote that she was shown “a big and very splendid cave” in which Mary had lived. At the Church of St. Gabriel, there is a spring of living water in which pilgrims dip their hands to bless themselves. Thus the cave and the spring, strange gifts of nature, draw us into the mystery of the Incarnation, a new kind of life never before originating in the womb.

We went on to the Church of the Marriage Feast in the village of Cana. There is a lot of discussion about the location of the historical Cana, and it is clear that this is not the spot. But this is where the shrine is, and you can buy a bottle of wine made in the region (made from grapes, not from water), for fifty shekels ($12.50). The gospel text is John 2:1‐11. “Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings…” Two things about this sentence require further inquiry: one, they did not use stone water jars in Galilee; stone jars were too expensive, too elegant for the country. Stone water jars were used in Jerusalem, while in Galilee they used clay water jars. Second, the word “Jewish” probably means “Judean”, that is, relating to the tribes of the south, in Jerusalem, where the tribe of Judah will ultimately give its name to all the Israelites from the original twelve tribes.

We ended this day with a visit to the heights of Mount Arbel, which has a rich history militarily and contains many caves and excavations. But we went mainly for the view, which is just exquisite, and displays the vast expanses of the Galilean hills and fields, to the distant mountains of Tabor and Hermon.

The next day, Thursday, we visited sites in and around the , also called the Lake of Kinnereth (Num 34:11). It is Israel’s largest freshwater lake, approximately 33 miles in circumference, 13 miles long by 8 miles wide. It is the lowest freshwater lake in the world and the second lowest lake in the world after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake. The Sea of Galilee is full of life and is a major source of fresh water for Israel. Due to its low‐lying position in the rift valley, surrounded by hills, the sea is prone to sudden violent storms; hence the New Testament story about Jesus .

We visited the Yigal Alon Center with its exhibit of The Ancient Galilee Boat. In 1986 two brothers discovered the boat when a severe drought resulted in lowering the waters of the Sea of Galilee. The vessel had been buried in, and thus protected by, the seabed’s sediments. In an eleven‐day evacuation, the boat was uncovered and wrapped and floated to the Yigal Alon Center, where it underwent an eleven‐year conservation process in which synthetic wax replaced the water in the wood cells. Now it is shown in an atmosphere‐controlled museum. The boat is preserved to a length of 26.9 feet, a breadth of 7.5 feet and a height of 3.9 feet.

The original construction of the boat, which employed pegged mortise‐and‐tenon joints to edge‐join the planking, and the steps in its restoration, are both a marvel. Based on several criteria the Galilee Boat is firmly dated to the first centuries BC‐AD. An analysis of crew sizes suggests that this is the type of boat referred to in the gospels in use among Jesus’ disciples, as well as that used by the Jews against the Romans in the nautical Battle of Migdal in 67 AD.

When word got out about this discovery, people came from miles around to help dig the boat out and to watch the painstaking work of preservation begin. Even small children seemed to be enthralled with this link to the past. The boat, an object of human construction made of wood, with great skill, having as its purpose to transport people for work, dating from two‐thousand years ago, now preserved with equal skill, resulting in an exhibit looking like a discarded hull on a deserted beach, but reverberating with a reverence for work and for human industry and invention two thousand years old, is humbling and exalting. And the link to the gospels and to the fishermen is given a new depth.

We hired a motor launch for a journey on the Sea of Galilee. This was a well‐worn craft with a sun‐shield made of reeds, with benches around the sides and some folding chairs set up in rows in the center of the deck. We went out a distance from the shore, and paused for reflection. The readings were: Luke 8:24 “He awakened, rebuked the wind and the waves, and they subsided and there was a calm.” Psalm 107:29 “He hushed the storm to a gentle breeze, and the billows of the sea were stilled.” Job 38:8 “When I set limits for the sea and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stilled!”

The sea was calm as we rested, with the motor turned off, just a cool breeze reminding us that the weather could change. When we think about Jesus sleeping through a storm that had the disciples fearing for their lives, the sea becomes a metaphor for all our anxieties, and we realize that God understands that our faith is “little”. We envy the disciples for having such an immediate answer to their prayer.

We left the sea and went to the place called the Mount of the , which towers above the Sea of Galilee and offers the country’s most magnificent view of the shimmering blue lake. It is here that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is commemorated. We had Eucharist in an open chapel and had lunch at the Franciscan Sisters’ guesthouse, where the standard fare is a roasted fish, caught in the Sea of Galilee, served whole. The fish was of a very pleasant consistency, like trout. After lunch we returned to the bus by way of a winding dirt path down the mountain on a walk that took about an hour. We walked in silence, with only the sounds of spring around us, taking a brief rest in the meadow on the way, during which our guide read from the Sermon on the Mount. This was a perfect blend of movement and silence and quiet companionship. The Sermon on the Mount is, of course, a compilation of the teachings of Jesus, assembled into a few chapters of Matthew’s Gospel from many different occasions and settings. But surely our listening to the Gospel, on a sunny mountainside, was one of the settings in which the original teaching was given. There is a particular power, and weakness, of the human voice, in a natural setting, without amplification, which may reach the soul with fresh clarity. A feature of the trail we took were small markers, really stones about the size of grave markers, on which an old Benedictine monk by the name of Virgil Pixner, who used to wander around these hills, would carve messages to be read by generations of pilgrims who would come upon them. One of these was a line which was interpreted for us to mean that it was not only to the eleven Apostles that Jesus spoke when he instructed them: “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. (Mt 28:19) It was also to all the disciples through history, including those who this day heard again the teaching of the Beatitudes.

We departed by bus for the City of Capernaun, the headquarters of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. (Mt 4:12‐17) It is fun to ride in the bus and see the highway directional signs, which are in Hebrew, Arabic and English, alerting drivers that this is the road to places you’ve only encountered in the Bible, like Capernaun or Nazareth or Jericho. is a major excavation site of both the village and the impressive synagogue which was the center of the town. The site of the synagogue is said to be where the Lord cured a man possessed by the devil. (Mk1:23) I believe the structures found there date from the latter part of the Roman period (63 BC‐324AD) The bourgainvilla vines draping over the ruins are spectacular.

In Capernaum also is found an excavation said to be the home of St. Peter, over which has been built an octagonal church with a glass floor so you can look down into the ruins. Egeria, the fourth century pilgrim, noted in her diary “In Capernaum the house of the prince of the apostles has been made into a church, with its original walls still standing…”Here, as in the center of the ancient town of Capernaum, you can see the kind of living space a family would have, really two rooms equaling the size of a garage. The preparation and eating of food was done in common spaces with other families. This site is under the guardianship of the Franciscans, and, while walking about the grounds, I introduced myself to one of them, who happen to be the superior of the house, an African named Fr. Jerome, originally from Ghana. He knew Fr. Seth and Fr. Victor, and had been to Long Island to help at the parish of St. Elizabeth, Melville, where Fr. Frank Schneider is pastor. Having discovered so many mutual friends, I continued chatting with Fr. Jerome and had to be called away because the bus was leaving.

The next day we visited two nature preserves at the foot of Mount Hermon, both of which center on the kind of life, human, animal and vegetative, which thrived on the fresh water springs there that are fed by the melting snow at the top of the mountain. This is the site of ancient Canaanite worship, and of Roman pagan cults, and identified with the city called Caesarea Philippi, frequented by Jesus and his disciples. This is the site remembered for the “You are the Christ…”(Mt16:13) We read that Matthean text here, and the memorable connection with the natural site is where Jesus says to Peter “You are Peter (Petrus) and upon this rock (petra), I will build my church.” At that site, the rock is rising over the stream like a skyscraper. The scene challenges the imagination: this is no foundation stone, like a building block. It is a massive mountain of rock.

We took a slippery path into the forest and at a quiet tributary had a little prayer service in which we renewed our baptismal promises. The human voice, mixed with the sounds of the rippling water, was very penetrating of the soul. Here you can see how the secret places in the deep of the forest, and the fresh water which is flowing in abundance, connects with the rebirth in faith. This might be a good example of suggestivo: the sound and the movement of the stream and the words spoken by a human voice reverberate and blend with the interior, spiritual realities of life in the Father, Son and Spirit. I should mention that this forest place is not the usual place where pilgrims commemorate the ministry of John the Baptist. That site is a bit south on the Jordan, a bit dry and barren, because the Jordan is reduced in many spots to a mere creek.

While we were at the German pilgrimhouse we took a short walk to the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes. Egeria, the fourth century pilgrim, wrote in her diary: “Not far from there (Capernaum) are some stone steps where the Lord stood. And in the same place by the sea is a grassy field with plenty of hay and many palm trees. By them are seven springs, each flowing strongly. And this is the field where the Lord fed the people with five loaves and two fishes. In fact the stone on which the Lord placed the bread has now been made into an altar. People who go there take small pieces of the stone to bring them prosperity, and they are very effective. Past the walls of this church goes the public highway on which the Apostle Matthew had his place of custom. Near there on a mountain is the cave to which the Saviour climbed and spoke the Beatitudes”. We saw the ancient, irregular steps described by Egeria, and we celebrated the Eucharist on a stone altar, in an outdoor chapel at the seashore, where the pews were big logs, and two badgers sunning themselves on the rocks behind the presider appeared to be regular members of the congregation, one of them dozing off as if he had heard this sermon before, the other alert and curious, probably wondering if we would come up with some hymns she hadn’t heard before. We also saw the cave where Egeria claims Jesus spoke the Beatitudes, (on the mountain trail I described above) and it is fun to think of our common pilgrim experiences and our common Christian faith reaching over fifteen hundred years, looking for monuments of the gospel story in the land.

On our return trip south we stopped at Mount Tabor, which is the principal contender for the place of the Transfiguration of the Lord. (Mount Hermon and the Mount of Olives are the other possible sites that the evangelist might have had in mind.) What happened to us at Mount Tabor may prove the adage that the more struggle a pilgrim has getting to his destination, the more merit he will receive. The large tour buses in which we and the other pilgrims arrive cannot climb the winding mountain road, so the pilgrims have to disembark from the tour bus and get into small vans, six at a time, for the climb to the Basilica of the Transfiguration, where we had an appointment for the use of the main sanctuary for Eucharist at 10am. As our bus pulled in to the transfer place, we were behind a huge crowd of tourists who were already on line for the vans. As we waited, a fierce cold rain, like little pieces of melted ice, began to fall on us. And we could not retreat to a dryer and warmer space without losing our precious place on line. Ultimately we got to the church on time: a group was just finishing up in the sanctuary, and after we were finished, at 11am, another group was waiting to take our place. The view from the terrace outside the church was breathtaking. Somehow, I regret that we could not have seen the majestic view first, before mass. I think it would have put me in different space for contemplating the Transfiguration of the Lord. (Lk9:28) I was assigned to give the homily at the mass, and, to put it gently, this was not my finest hour. I think I spoke too abstractly, instead of dwelling on the sacrament of the place, Mount Tabor. I should have allowed our coming up the mountain to resonate with the mystery of this event, which, I believe, has so much to do with the conversation in which Jesus’ death is discussed as an “Exodus”. As it is, I suppose no one will remember what I said, which will put us all in touch with Peter in the same story, who is described thusly: “But he did not know what he was saying”.

Thus far this excursion north has taken us to or through the following places: the Jordan Valley, Nazareth, Cana, Tiberias, the Sea of Galilee, Mount Arbel, the Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Banyas (Caesarea Philippi), Dan, Tabgha , and Mount Tabor. In this letter, there remains only a description of our trip to Jericho, an oasis in the Judean desert, which was our destination for Wednesday, March 25.

We left by bus from Jerusalem into the Judean desert to the city of Jericho. The road we took was the same used by Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan, and along the way there is a site called the Inn of the Good Samaritan. (Lk 10:29) This excavation shows that a gospel event does not have to be historical in order to have an actual place where it is commemorated. Jericho is the oldest city on earth. It is an oasis in the desert, with a water source in a powerful spring that puts out 1,000 gallons a minute. By 8000 BC the inhabitants of the place had become shepherds and farmers (evolving from hunters and gatherers). In 1200 BC this is the place captured by the Israelites under Joshua. (Joshua 6:20) The story of the “Walls came tumbling down” has run into some archeological trouble, because the mud fortifications originally thought to be those leveled by the Israelites in 1200 BC turned out to be about a thousand years older. Now it is conceded that there is little or no evidence of Israelite occupation in 1200 BC, so the debate about the historicity of the Book of Joshua continues. Because of its mild winter climate, people from Jerusalem kept country homes here. Herod the Great leased the oasis from Cleopatra, who had been given it by her paramour Mark Antony. The spring, which we visited, is referenced in the Book of Kings 2:19: Once the inhabitants of the city complained to Elisha, “The site of the city is fine indeed, as my lord can see, but the water is bad and the land unfruitful.” “Bring me a new bowl,” Elisha said, “and put salt into it.” When they brought it to him, he went out to the spring and threw salt into it, saying, “Thus says the Lord, “I have purified this water. Never again shall death or miscarriage spring from it.” And the water has stayed pure even to this day, just as Elisha prophesied.

The main attraction in Jericho today is the Greek Orthodox monastery and church that is essentially a cliffhanger on a high, sheer mountainside, accessed by an impossible climb or by a cable car that takes you over the Palestinian village below to a station in the mountain side, from which there is a further uphill walkway to the monastery. The inaccessibility of this strange place points to the desert tradition of the Christians, which began after the persecutions ended (313AD), in which the life of monks in community, or of hermits, became the heroic way to seek God and holiness of life. Even today, a few monks occupy the cells on this mountainside. There is a small chapel attached to the monastery said to contain a rock which Jesus clung to during the time of his temptation in the desert (Mk 1:12)

While we were at the cable car platform preparing to descent, a large group of Palestinian boys arrived on a school outing. Many of them greeted us with a heavily accented: “Welcome”. But one boy, an eighth grader as I later learned, asked me in perfect English, where I was from. I told him and asked him the same question. His answer: “Houston, Texas.”

One of the sights of the Judean desert, which is just endless crusted sand rolling for miles and miles, is the presence of sporadic Bedouin settlements, so‐called “unrecognized villages” which represent a way of life thousands of years old. The only difference in today’s shacks from Abraham’s is the material of their construction, which now is corrugated tin instead of leather skins. They are squatters, and have no electricity or city water or sanitation. In Israel, there are 160,000 Bedouins, Israeli citizens, although separated from the benefits of government by their isolated life. Their way of life may be coming to an end, however, largely through the enforcement of compulsory education of their children, and also because of some resettlement programs in which Bedouin families have adapted very quickly to the conveniences of city life.

Our bus stopped in an isolated desert place where we could walk about on the dunes in silence for a little while. It was a very peaceful interlude, indicating the path to God is both communal and solitary.

JR Sojourn in the Land of the Bible

A Journal of my Sabbatical January 27‐May 14, 2009 Fr. John Rowan

Letter Nine

It has been two weeks since I wrote last. In this letter I have much to say, and am concerned that I will not be able to make a coherent package of all the disparate parts. I will begin by naming the things I want to cover: first, the ambience of Jerusalem, on these beautiful spring days, with many visitors to the city for the celebration of Passover and Holy Week. Next, the services that we are having at this convent for Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Next, a visit to Memorial Museum, which is called Yad Yashem. Next, visits to other holy places, including the town of Bethany, where Jesus’ friends and Mary and Lazarus resided. Finally, lest our remembrances remove us from this world and our present condition, our prayers and hopes for the world and for all suffering humanity, in particular our Palestinian neighbors here in the Holy Land.

I am going to use as my template the diary of Egeria, a pilgrim who visited the Holy Land in 381‐ 4 and, during her stay here, compiled an extensive and detailed diary of the liturgical practices of the Jerusalem Church. (You can get an English translation of her diary on the internet at Egeria Translation.mht.) Her visit to Jerusalem was just sixty‐eight years after the Emperor Constantine had given a favored place in the empire to the Christians, by the Edict of Milan (313 AD.) Egeria is reporting on practices of the church which predated Constantine by many years, although the new state toleration of the church, which returned to the Christians any of their meeting places and other properties which had been confiscated, allowed secret celebrations of the faith to become public. Her journal, when published in Rome, had a profound effect on the way the Roman Church celebrated Holy Week, and this ancient design, with its focus on the initiation of catechumens, underlies the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. I learned about Egeria from the history classes in the seminary given by Fr. Francis Glimm. He introduced us also to Eusebius, the Bishop of Caesarea, (260‐339AD) who wrote The History of the Church from Jesus to Constantine.

Station at Bethany: the Saturday before Palm Sunday

Egeria mentions the liturgy at Bethany on the Saturday before Palm Sunday which is still observed by the Greek Orthodox. The bishop summoned all the people to gather at the place where Mary, and earlier Martha, had met Jesus when he came to Bethany on the news that Lazarus was ill. (Jn 11:32) She reports that crowds of people from the city were spread over all the nearby fields. The town of Bethany is at the summit of the Mount of Olives which is east of Jerusalem. You can walk up the mountain but it is easier to take a taxi and walk down. I went there with two of the priests on our program. The main features are the Tomb of Lazarus, which we entered and climbed down into the ante‐chamber and into the tomb itself. There is also a church there dedicated to Martha, Mary and Lazarus. (If you’re shopping you can drop into the “Tomb of Lazarus Spices and Souvenir Shop”!)

The theme of Bethany is discipleship and hospitality, as well as friendship and the glory of Jesus, whose command is: “Untie him and let him go”. It isn’t right to assign discipleship to Mary and hospitality to Martha because together they stand as icons of what a disciple ought to be. This mutuality is captured in the Jan Vermeer painting “Jesus at the House of Martha and Mary”, an excellent copy of which Joe Ali made for the vestibule of the new Bethany Chapel at St. Lawrence. The hospitality and refuge and friendship of this family for Jesus provides a touching background to the events of Holy Week. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, the temple guard was behind him; he was not trapped. If he had continued walking away from the approaching soldiers, he would be travelling up the mountain nearer and nearer to the house of his friends, Martha, Mary and Lazarus. There he would have found welcome and protection. But, this time, he did not “slip away”, as he had done in the past. (Lk 4:30) This is another testimony to his freedom: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again”. (Jn 10:18)

There is a plaque on the façade of the church with the legend:

Today as in the past, the Love of Jesus seeks a refuge, where he is lovingly expected and where he can rest. He finds our hearts are filled with distractions ‐people, work, our own interests‐ He longs for us to empty our hearts and lovingly receive him.

Bethany is a Palestinian town surrounded by a huge wall, and entry to the town is through a checkpoint with barbed wire and fully‐armed (but sleepy) soldiers who are required to inspect your passport. The three of us who visited had passports from Canada, Phillipines and United States. The sentry on duty made a brief inspection and then waved us in. My friend from Canada, given to minor mischief, asked the sentry if he was a Palestinian. This drew a derisive smile and the kind of expression that said: “Do I, in this Israeli uniform, look like a Palestinian?? Fortunately, we were not Palestinians so this insulting remark was overlooked.

The checkpoint at Bethany points to the complex scene here, which was described by a Palestinian journalist in the International Herald Tribune on the opinion page recently in the following way: “Israel is simultaneously running three systems of government. The first is full democracy for its Jewish citizens‐ethnocracy. The second is racial discrimination toward the Palestinian minority‐creeping Jim Crowism. And the third is occupation of the Palestinian territories with one set of laws for Palestinians and another for Jewish settlers‐apartheid.” (Ahmad Tibi, April 7, 2009)

In an accompanying article, a Jewish journalist concluded his column with the following: “In recent weeks, the Palestinian Authority has warned Arabs that it is “high treason” punishable by death to sell homes or property to Jews in Jerusalem; shut down a Palestinian youth orchestra and arrested its founder because the ensemble played for a group of elderly Holocaust survivors; and celebrated the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel history with a TV special extolling the massacre. On Thursday, after a Palestinian terrorist used an axe to murder a 13‐year old Jewish boy, the Al Asqa Martyrs Brigades‐a wing of the “moderate” Fatah party‐ issued a statement claiming responsibility.” (Jeff Jacoby, April 7,2009)

During Lent I read a heartbreaking account of the life and ministry of Elias Chacour, now the Melkite bishop of Jerusalem and Palestine. (Blood Brothers) The story begins with the account of his family in Galilee, where his father was a farmer, and of the simple life shared by Palestinians and Jews prior to the United Nations Declaration of 1948 and the subsequent military evacuation and destruction of his hometown and the arrest of his father and brothers. He studied in France for the priesthood, and returned to the region to be the Abuna (little father) for a parish of dispirited Palestinian Christians who had been expelled from their villages and were seemingly without a future. The story shows a pattern which we see even to this day: that military and security forces in Israel operate outside the framework of the courts and the laws of the land. Twice, Chacour’s father and other villagers petitioned the Israel Supreme Court for a judgment that the confiscation of their property was illegal, and twice they were successful in their court battle. When they presented the court decree to the Israeli occupying forces, the soldiers made as if to return the land, but instead bulldozed all the houses and the church so that the place was uninhabitable. Chacour has many lessons in the book, but two of them stay with me: one, when you visit the Holy Land, don’t focus on the historic stones only. Allow your eyes and your heart to consider the “living stones”, the Palestinian and Jewish people who once lived in peace here. His second lesson: if you study the Palestinian question in order to take sides, you are part of the problem. The resolution of the issue must be rooted in the most profound teaching of the prophet Isaiah and of Jesus. “Lord Jesus, you came to gather the nations into the peace of God’s kingdom. Lord, have mercy.”

Passion Sunday (Palm) Procession from Mount of Olives

Egeria notes that after services in the churches on Palm Sunday morning, the bishop invited that people to assemble at the top of the mountain and to process down into the city to gather for prayers at the church called Anastasis (which is the official name “Resurrection” for the church we call “Holy Sepulchre”) This is the pattern described in the Gospel of St. Mark: “When they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, he sent two of his disciples [to find the colt which he would use for the entrance procession to the city]. Mk 11:1 This was also our pattern for the day.

At ten o’clock on Sunday morning our group celebrated Eucharist at the Church of All Nations, a Franciscan church in the Garden of Gethsemane, which has the legend written in Latin over its front doors: “He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears…and he was heard because of his reverence.”(Hebrews 5:7) This was a perfect setting and a peaceful beginning to our observance of Holy Week. In the reading of the Passion, I was assigned the role of Pilate, whose last words in the trial are: “Why? What evil has he done?” The verdict, in which Jesus is handed over to the crowd for crucifixion, is in the voice of the narrator, so Pilate is spared having to say it in Mark’s Gospel.

In the afternoon, I went by myself up the Mount of Olives, not as far as Bethany, but about a mile away, because this was the route of the great Palm Sunday procession following the path that the gospels say was that of Jesus. I waited and finally I could see the first signs that the procession was approaching. The people came down the road about ten abreast, then turned into a downward staircase that could accommodate about five abreast, so there was a massive bottleneck, but no panic or bad manners, just hymn singing and waiving palms or olive branches. The procession, which we estimated to be about 5000 people, swamped my spot, and the brutal sun had shifted to flood my shady retreat, so I decided it would be best to just go with the flow. It wasn’t so much a decision to move as a decision not to resist being carried along. As I joined the procession, a German group was coming along, and I thought, what luck; if anybody can make progress in this jam, it has to be a German group. I was right. The procession came down the mountain and into the city, but instead of going to the Anastasis, as Egeria had done, the crowd went to the courtyard of the Church of St. Anne, which is served by the White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa), where a sermon was given by the Latin Patriarch (Latin Bishop of Israel, Palestine and Jordan), and a party followed. Instead of going to St. Anne’s, I went home to our convent, which is a few doors down on Via Dolorosa.

I think the triumphal procession of Palm Sunday 2009 must really be contrasted to the humble entry of Jesus described in the Gospel of Mark. (Mk 11) Jesus’ entry is intentionally marked by signs of humility, not the least of which is riding on a donkey. This is to illustrate the truth that he “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave and found human in appearance” (Phil 2:7) During Lent I read a new commentary on Mark’s Gospel, The Last Week , by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, in which the authors suggest that the humble entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday should be contrasted to the imperial entry of Pilate, the Procurator, the provincial governor, whose headquarters were in Caesarea, but who would be coming to Jerusalem for Passover in order to keep a lid on any possible Jewish political activity. His entry procession would be a display of power and weapons, coming through the most prominent gate in the city. His Jerusalem residence is the majestic palace called today The Citadel, a site of marvelous archeological excavations. This was the praetorium in which Pilate judged Jesus. (Jn 18:28‐ 19:16) In contrast, Jesus’ entry is cheered on by the poor souls who trust in God. Their “Hosannah” is not a triumphal boast but a cry for help. It is taken from Psalm 118:

Open to me the gates of justice; I will enter them and give thanks to the Lord. This gate is the Lord’s; the just shall enter it. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my savior. The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. O Lord, grant salvation! O Lord, grant prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Join us in procession with leafy boughs up to the horns of the altar.

Just a note on the “horns of the altar”. You will note that in the design of ancient altars, each corner has a handle in the shape of a horn. (Ex 29:12) If someone accused of a crime is being pursued and can make it into the sanctuary and grab hold of the horn, he will have found asylum. This is the origin of finding “sanctuary” in a church. This is the mentality of the followers of Jesus: they are welcoming him to the city and encouraging him to grab the horns of the altar to achieve justice for them. They are accustomed to having their rulers “break the horns” off the altar so there is nothing to cling to, as we hear in the Book of the Prophet Amos, in which the Lord warns the unjust that when He strikes there will be no sanctuary for them:

On the day when I punish Israel for his crimes, I will visit also the altars of Bethel: the horns of the altar shall be broken off and fall to the ground. Then I will strike the winter house and the summer house; The ivory apartments shall be ruined, and their many rooms shall be no more, says the Lord (Amos 3:14)

In contemporary language these followers of Jesus would be like a person arrested and detained indefinitely, without the opportunity of a hearing, and without being able to invoke a constitutional right of habeas corpus.

I want to mention the Jewish tradition of the Blessing of the Sun, which took place at the Western Wall on Wednesday. This is a prayer that is said only once every twenty‐eight years. The meaning of this tradition comes from the order of creation in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1. Day 1 (Sunday) Let there be light Day 2 (Monday) Dome to separate the water above/below Day 3 (Tuesday) Dry land/ vegetation Day 4 (Wednesday) Sun and Moon Day 5 (Thursday) Fish and Birds Day 6 (Friday) Cattle, Creeping Things, and Humans Day 7 (Saturday) Rest

More than 5000 Jews flocked to the Western Wall before dawn on Wednesday to recite a prayer said once every twenty‐eight years to bless the sun. The blessing “Birkat Hacama” marks the sun’s return to its starting point at the moment the universe was created, after completing a 28‐year cycle known as the “machzor gadol” or “large cycle”. This year the prayer came on the eve of the weeklong Pesach (Passover) holiday, commemorating the exodus from slavery in . The timing was coincidental, but added to the joyous feeling. I read in the Jewish press that in New York City, a group was to pray on a penthouse near Ground Zero. In 1981, the last time the blessing was said, a ceremony was held on the 107th story observation deck of the World Trade Center’s South Tower. Last Wednesday’s blessing near the site of the demolished towers was said in memory of those who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks. This blessing and the perception of the sun and moon that it represents, are not science, or creationism, but a playful and prayerful reflection on the theology of Creation, that the universe in all its glory is a gift of God, for the good and enjoyment of the creature that was made in God’s image.

Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter

For our understanding, Egeria’s description of the liturgies of the sacred Triduum have to be referenced to the way we tell time (first hour of night = 6pm), and also to the names that were later given to the places where the prayers were said. Perhaps at some later time I will do this, or instead, find the source that already contains such a transition. But what we do see in her diary is an attempt to celebrate the liturgy at “stations”, ie, places that approximate the last steps of Jesus, and “hours” that would follow the sequence of where Jesus was on the three holy days. And this remains the pattern of the restored Holy Week services that we have in all our parishes today. Here at this convent, our schedule as follows:

Holy Thursday: 8:30am Mass of the Oils at the Anastasis 5:00pm Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the Basilica here 8:00pm Prayer in the Peace Garden on the Mt. of Olives 9:00pm Walk to Church of “Peter at Cockcrow” for prayers

Good Friday 5:45am Way of the Cross on Via Dolorosa 10:00am Public Processions on Via Dolorosa 3:pm Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

Holy Saturday 9pm The Solemn Vigil of Easter

The sisters’ communities here make creative use of the spaces in this old building. The services of Holy Thursday and Easter Vigil are held in the basilica, which is a restored, high domed space with a lot of old stones and an arch which dates from Roman times. At a level below there is a crypt called the ,Lithostrosos, “Pavement”, with ancient street paving stones, where the trial of Jesus before Pilate is commemorated, and where Pilate said the words: “Behold the man”, which, in Latin, Ecce Homo, in the name of the convent. (The actual Roman trial of Jesus took place at the praetorium which is at the Citadel, which I mentioned above. But it is commemorated here as part of the Way of the Cross‐Via Dolorosa.) It was in this crypt that we celebrated the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. Many guests came, as to the other services in the Basilica, because this is one of the few places with an English liturgy. The place added greatly to the mood of the celebration, as if the ancient stones were providing a witness to what we were recalling. And those same stones will carry on their silent testimony long after we are gone.

Perhaps at some later time I will transcribe my notes on the homilies and lessons of these liturgies. Here I just want to make mention of the way the Passion was read on Good Friday. The rubrics call for a brief homily on this day, but it becomes very difficult to keep it short and on the point. Here I saw a nice approach: at the beginning of the reading, the presider gave a brief introduction, and during the reading, at two other points, he inserted a brief instruction. When the reading was concluded, there was no homily, because it had already been given. Here’s a little lesson from this three‐part homily: the most important word of Jesus from the cross was: “I thirst”. (Jn 19:28) The interpretation of the words comes from Psalm 42: “My soul is thirsting for the living God. When shall I see God face to face?) For Jesus, the way of the Cross was not a path to Golgotha, but to the Father.

I want to mention the Holocaust Museum in the context of Good Friday and Jesus’ identification with all humanity that is betrayed, mocked, imprisoned, and executed. We visited the museum on April 1, but I had been there before; and I will go back again. The place is many times larger than the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., with many of the same kinds of exhibits. I understand that this is the third incarnation of the site, and that this rendition attempts, and succeeds, I believe, to be much more personal in its telling of the sad facts. I saw this mode of presentation also in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, where tapes of survivors told of the hiding, the arrest, the separation of families, the transportation, the hunger and cold, the gradual realization of what was happening. A woman says: “It breaks your heart, but then your heart becomes like a pig’s heart.” Another writes in a letter thrown from a train: “We are all seized with a desire to write letters before we die.”

The museum here is called Yad Yashem, meaning, Yad, a monument; and Shem, a name. The reference is to the Book of the Prophet Isaiah:

For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs (those without descendants) who observe my Sabbaths and choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name. Better than sons and daughters; an eternal, imperishable name will I give to you. (Is 56:3‐5)

One exibit that struck me in the museum was an organizational chart that Adolf Eichmann had sketched during the trial at Nurenburg, showing how the high command flowed for the task of the extermination of the Jews in Germany and in all the occupied territories. There must be a hundred names on the chart, connected by lines drawn in different colors to show various levels of connection and reporting. The mechanical perfection for carrying out the ideology is indeed impressive. The same strange pride in the management of atrocities is shown in other parts of the exhibit. For example, the pitiful movies of thousands of Jewish women lining up to get on board box cars for transport to the camps, were retrieved from the archives of the Nazi’s themselves. These movies were made to boast to the high command that the orders to ship the Jews out and to humiliate them, were being carried out. Now all of this technique is shown to be so shameful.

At the museum there is a separate building which is a Childrens’ Memorial. Its design is inspired by the saying: “The soul of a human being is the candle of God”. To experience this memorial, the visitor walks through a dark passage into a space which is like a twilight zone, with thousands of lights flickering in space all around. As the file of visitors passes through, names of children, on a seemingly endless list, are read, along with their age and the place of their arrest. Outside, there is a statue called “Korzak and the Ghetto Children”. It depicts the Polish educator Boris Korzak surrounded by several children. He developed an educational theory and practice based on experience, something like Maria Montessori. When the Nazi’s came to ship the children to the camps, he was offered safe passage because of his international reputation. He refused, saying: “I will stay with the children.”

The exhibit about Pope Pius XII is ambiguous. It acknowledges in small print that the action (or inaction) of the Pope during the war is a matter of controversy. But in larger print above, there is a pointed judgment entitled “Just to stand there”. A few weeks ago, partially in preparation of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI on May 8‐15, which includes a trip to Vad Yashem, a high level meeting took place in Jerusalem for the purpose of asking the Israeli cultural ministers and the museum officials to edit the exhibit on Pius XII until the matter of his conduct has been resolved. The central question remains as to whether the Pope did all that he could and whether he did it soon enough.

Of course, the inaction of many leaders in the free world is under scrutiny. The exhibit has excellent footage of the Polish intellectual Jan Karski, who came from a secret mission inside the Warsaw ghetto in 1942 with a personal message from the doomed Jews to both English Prime Minister Anthony Eden and President Franklin Roosevelt, both of whom avoided the issue of the extermination of the Jews and brushed him off. And then there is this strange praise for the Catholic Church, coming from Albert Einstein, who fled from the Nazis to America:

“Being a lover of freedom, when the Nazi revolution came in Germany, I looked to universities to defend freedom, knowing that they always boasted of their devotion to truth; but no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Catholic Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised, now I praise unreservedly.” (Time magazine, December 1940)

Another word on the subject came in Rome at the recent bishop’s Synod on the Word of God, when the Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Shear‐Yashuv Cohen, departed from his text on the Jewish interpretation of scripture, and, before the Pope and the Synod bishops, said:

“We cannot forget the sad, the painful fact of how many, including great religious leaders did not raise a voice in the effort to save our brethren, but chose to keep silent and help secretly. We cannot forgive and forget it. And we hope that you understand our pain, our sorrow over the immediate past in Europe.”

The last room in the exhibit is an auditorium where the exhausted visitor can sit on a bench as a series of quotations are projected on the walls. Some are expressing the astonishment that such a searing blast of evil should come out of the twentieth century which was thought to be the blossoming of the human race with its technology and social refinement. Other statements are those of hope and encouragement. Here are two:

“It is incredible that the world does not turn back to water, but, instead, goes on as if nothing happened.” This is a reference to the “chaos” condition of the world before God created order, and of “the flood”, which in the Noah story was to have been God’s solution to the evil of the human race.

“Now is the eighth day of the week, the day of our imagination, of how we dream to live.”

So this is an eventful time in Jerusalem. Jews are flooding into the city on buses from all over Israel to celebrate some of the days of the Passover holidays. On Easter Sunday the city was filled with Roman Catholics from all over the world, and Greek Orthodox who are processing with palms ‐they are a week behind our liturgical calendar. The Monday after Easter, the fifth day of Passover, seems especially festive. Orthodox families are partying all over. Games are set up for children in the parks, and singing groups are performing Jewish folk music. I saw a play tent shaped like a pyramid, with the picture on it of a bad Egyptian wearing a cobra helmet, swinging a whip at the Israelite slaves. The message is freedom and new life. Young Jewish Orthodox families take the new life message very literally: their families are huge, and everybody, including infants and toddlers, gets taken to Jerusalem. I enjoyed just walking around and looking at all the people in their strange clothing that represents different cultures in pursuit of God and the promises of the good life. While the Holy Week liturgies here were beautiful and authentic, I greatly missed St. Lawrence, where I observed these holy days for the past twenty‐four years. In the parish, I remember these to be mellow days, sharing in the promise of spring, but more important, participating in the future in which God will gather us all together in his friendship.

Happy Easter to all!


Sojourn in the Land of the Bible A Journal of my Sabbatical January 27‐May 14, 2009

Letter Ten Fr. John Rowan

I am starting to write this letter on Saturday, April 25, 2009. The sabbatical program is winding down, with less than three weeks to go. For pilgrims, an important part of the total experience is going home. What changes have occurred at home while I was away? What changes in me have occurred while away from home? Many of the twenty‐nine people on this program are in transition, that is, they are returning home or to the missions with new assignments. The sabbatical was offered to them as a refresher between assignments. So going home for them contains additional questions, additional unknowns. For me returning home is also intriguing. I am beginning my “third age”. That is the language of sociology which describes the first age as school and preparation for life; the second as one’s family and work life; and the third what may have once been called retirement, but is really not a period of passivity but of new discovery. I hope that this sabbatical has been a useful orientation to my “third age”, about which my attitude is very positive.

I have selected the gospel story of :13 to organize my thoughts in this letter, because this gospel presents a favorite Easter account, and it has a clear pilgrimage reference: these disciples are “on the road” when they meet the risen Jesus. To enhance its interpretation I present first the structure of the story.

A. Two disciples are in flight from Jerusalem B. They are arguing as they walk along C. Jesus walks with them D. Their eyes are closed, their dialogue hopeless E. Jesus teaches them

Fulcrum vs. 29 “They urged him, stay with us”

E’. Jesus breaks bread D’. Their eyes are opened, their dialogue hopeful C’. Jesus departs B’. They converse with each other A’. They return to Jerusalem to proclaim how Jesus was made known to them

This structure is called “chiastic”. If you draw a line from A through E diagonally down the page, and another line from A’ through E’ diagonally up the page, the result will be an X, which is the shape of the Greek letter chi, thus “chiastic”. There is a clear correspondence between the parts of the story above the crux and those below, and the verse that is found in the center of the X is given a special place in the interpretation, allowing you to focus on a point which may help you understand what the gospel writer intended to say . Here, the fulcrum is when the disciples, having arrived at their destination, invite Jesus to stay with them. This is the point at which the story moves from discouragement to hope.

I learned about using the chiastic analysis at Georgetown, and in Bible commentaries, but I have never seen it used so elegantly as in the courses here, especially in Fr. Walter Vogel’s course on the Pentateuch. I asked Fr. Vogel if the chiastic structure was an intentional compositional tool of the writer or an interpretative tool of the scholar. He said that this was an excellent question which he did not ask any longer. Perhaps the sacred writer was just instinctively using a rhetorical device for telling stories. Perhaps the storytelling method, rooted in an oral tradition, required a certain skeleton to help the storyteller remember all the elements. Perhaps it was one of the rules of composition similar to the rules for writing a sonnet. Whatever its origins in the writer, the chiastic structure can certainly be helpful to the interpreter. This chiastic analysis of the Emmaus story is attributed to the Jerusalem teachers John Peterson, Richard LeSueur, John Bayton and Thomas Rosica.

A. Flight from Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the city of destiny. In Luke’s Gospel it is the terminus of Jesus’ earthly journey and the place of his departure to God. The disciples in the Emmaus account are leaving the city of destiny; their attitude is seen as one of losing hope. But history shows many flights from Jerusalem, for many reasons, usually conflict and fear. We visited two sites that represent flight, Masada and Qumran.

Masada means Fortress. This fortress was developed by Herod the Great (37 BC – 4 BC) in the Judean desert south of Jerusalem as alternative palace if Jerusalem got too dangerous for him. The fortress was built on the plateau of a mountain with a winding path (the snake path) climbing up what seems an impossible height. Today there is a cable car to carry visitors to the summit, which is how we got there on a recent sweltering hot day. The considerable Herodian architectural skill was applied to the design of the fortress and of its infrastructure, including a clever water supply from springs in the higher mountains as well as a store house for provisions of all kinds. As you walk around the site, which covers several acres, there is a black line painted horizontally on the walls indicating that the stones below the line are original, while those above are reconstructions. The amount and quality of original construction are amazing.

Masada is prominent today not because of Herod but because this is the place where a zealot sect of Jews held out against the Romans in 74 AD. The Romans thought they would have an easy task of it, that they would just have to wait on the plains below until the supplies of the rebels ran out. From the heights you can see the outline of several Roman camps below; 8000 soldiers waited. But the rebels had a huge supply of food and water left there by Herod, and so they were able to hold out, with their wives and families, for a few months. Finally, the Romans, losing patience, built a ramp up the mountain and, using a battering ram, breeched the fortress wall and prepared to enter the settlement. This is how the historian Josephus Flavius, The Wars of the Jews, describes what happened among the Jews on the night before the Roman assault:

“Then, having chosen by lot ten of their number to dispatch the rest, they laid themselves down each beside his prostrate wife and children, and, flinging their arms around them, offered their throats in readiness for the executants of the melancholy office. These, having unswervingly slaughtered all, ordained the same rule of the lot for one another, that he on whom it fell should slay first the nine and then himself last of all;…They had died in the belief that they had left not a soul of them alive to fall into Roman hands; the Romans advanced to the assault…seeing none of the enemy but on all sides an awful solitude, and flames within and silence, they were at a loss to conjecture what had happened. Here encountering the mass of the slain, instead of exulting as over enemies, they admired the nobility of their resolve and contempt of death displayed by so many in carrying it, unwavering, into execution.”

There are problems, ancient and contemporary, with the Masada account. The ancient problem is the question of witnesses. Internal to Josephus’ account there is no provision for any Jewish witnesses to the event, since all the inhabitants were slain; and there is no contemporaneous account of this particular siege in the Roman history of the campaign in Israel in 66‐74AD. Josephus maintains that two women and five children who had been hiding in the cisterns on the mountaintop told the Romans what had happened on that night, but their account is inconsistent with the story that the executions were carried out within families so that everyone would be accounted for and no one would fall into the hands of the Romans. So, like many other impressive archeological sites, the stones were witnesses to some events about which they remain silent and we can only speculate.

The contemporary issue of Masada is whether the Jewish people really want Masada to be a symbol of their national character. For a while, Masada served to proclaim the message that the Jews did not go gently, without resistance, into the Nazi death machine. There was a reluctance to have the passage from the Prophet Isaiah applied to the European Jews: “Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb to the slaughter, or a sheep to the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.” (Is 53:7) Masada showed resistance and courage in the face of a ruthless enemy. This was an encouragement to Jewish youth that they were not to be a submissive people, but one ready to go to heroic lengths for the sake of freedom.

Now some Jewish critics are saying that the Masada story should not be a model for Jewish resistance and courage in the face of oppression. They suggest that the Jews should remember God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah, that God would make them a blessing to the nations, that God would give them descendants, and that God would give them the land. The Masada solution does not make provision for descendants, nor for the possession of the land. Remember that God remained faithful to the Jews during two biblical periods of slavery in foreign places, Egypt and Babylonia. I inquired as to whether the Masada story was discussed as a moral issue in the rabbinic literature, and the answer is that no Masada mention is found there, even though the rabbis were ready to take on any issue that would reflect on the Jews’ fidelity to the Covenant. The absence of the Masada story in rabbinic literature may be due to the fact that the rabbis didn’t know of this story, or that they were generally in disagreement with the zealots and their methods, including suicide.

Qumran is another refuge from Jerusalem. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran is probably the most important event in biblical studies in a thousand years. In 1947 a Bedouin shepherd boy threw a stone into a cave and heard the sound of pottery breaking. This was the beginning of the discovery of the scrolls, which I discussed in an earlier letter. They are now housed in a beautiful museum called “The Shrine of the Book” which is part of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. I visited the museum and can report that the display of facsimiles and of pottery and writing materials is very instructive. The scrolls may have been put in the caves (looking up the desert mountainside from the site at Qumran you can see the cave that is designated cave #1, where the boy found the first scrolls) by refugees from Jerusalem who were trying to hide their treasured writings from the Roman crackdown around 70 AD, or may have been wholly or partly hidden by the Essene community living nearby at the monastery of Qumran, which is an archeological site today managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The Essene community was a Jewish sect given to the absolute observance of the Covenant and the Law without compromise. The sect originated during the Babylonian captivity because of its objection to Jewish accommodation to the culture and practices of the pagan Babylonians. In 150 BC, long after the return to Jerusalem, the Essenes found that the observance of the law in Jerusalem was lax and, seeking a pure and undefiled way of life, retreated to the desert where they built a monastery and a way of life that was completely given to the study of the scriptures and to observing the law. There was no hour of the day when the Bible texts were not being studied or copied by someone in the community. It is thought by many that the Essenes were the first mentors of John the Baptist, first, because the severity of John’s message of judgment and repentance reflected the tone of Essene teaching; and second, because John’s use of a purification bath was very similar to a practice of the Essenes. On the subject of John the Baptist and the Essenes, there are many opinions, as one would expect. In any case, they show the diversity of practice within the Jewish faith through the ages and at the time of Jesus, and make a connection between spirituality and the desert and monastic celibacy which seems to find a place in every religious tradition.

B./C./D./E. Argument on the road; Jesus joins them; their eyes are closed; Jesus teaches

The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus describes them as “conversing and debating”. (Lk 24:15) Their exchange is not dialogue but argument, and this is an important part of the story, because the corresponding part of the chiastic design will later have them in enthusiastic agreement. (Lk 24:32) Today, we don’t have to look hard to find arguments, and that might be especially true here in Israel, both today and in the past.

The First Crusade called by Pope Urban II at the Council of Clermont in 1095 may serve as a symbol of the religious and political rivalries in the east and west and the cruelty and avarice which were practiced by the Crusaders and the Muslims. The western victory in the First Crusade, despite the lack of cohesion of purpose among the Crusaders, is attributed to even greater divisions and jealousy among the Turks and Arab nations. Meanwhile, within Christianity, there was tension between the Pope and the other four great Patriarchs, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, over which Rome had the primacy of honor but no authority. Here is a brief description of the siege of the city of Jerusalem from Steven Runciman, The First Crusade:

“…the Crusaders had insufficient forces to invest the whole city. They concentrated their strength on the sectors where they could come near the walls. Robert of Normandy took up his station along the northern wall opposite to the Gate of Flowers (Herod’s Gate), with Robert of Flanders on his right, opposite to the Gate of the Column (St. Stephen’s or the Damascus Gate). Godfrey of Lorraine took over the area covering the northeast angle of the city, as far down as the Jaffa Gate. He was joined there by Tancred, who rode up when the army was already in position, bringing flocks that he had taken on his way from Bethlehem. To his south was Raymond of Toulouse, who, finding that the valley kept him too far from the walls, moved up after two or three days to Mount Sion. The eastern and southeastern sectors were left unguarded.” (p.182)

“The Crusaders, maddened by so great a victory after such suffering, rushed through the streets and into the houses and mosques killing all they met, men, women and children alike. All that afternoon and all through the night the massacre continued. Tancred’s banner was no protection to the refugees in the Mosque of al‐Aqsa. Early next morning a band of Crusaders forced an entry into the mosque and slew everyone. When Raymond of Aquilers later that morning went to visit the Temple area he had to pick his way through corpses and blood that reached up to his knees.” (p.188)

“The Jews of Jerusalem fled in a body to their chief synagogue. But they were held to have aided the Moslems; and no mercy was shown to them. The building was set on fire and they were all burnt within. (p.188)

I used these quotes from Runciman not only to show the brutality of the event, but also because the Jerusalem sites mentioned in his account are in the very same location today, the city gates go by the same names, and the Temple area and the Mosque of al Aqsa are as they were in the eleventh century. These places are witnesses to painful memories that are also held in people’s hearts and minds. In the Emmaus this sad history would correspond to the disciples loss of hope and their contentious attiude as they walked along. Jesus is represented as the one who walks with suffering humanity to remind them that there is a way out, which comes from a redeeming God. Luke does not tell us what scriptures Jesus used for his instruction; he quoted from “Moses and the Prophets”. Possibly one of the passages Jesus cited was from Isaiah:

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples… He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever.” (25:6)

I want to make a brief reference under the heading of Jesus’ teaching from the scriptures to the continuation of the Bible courses which have been an important part of this sabbatical experience. We recently concluded two courses, which were the longest in length, on the Gospel of John and on the Pentatuech or Torah. Later I will make a more complete report on these courses but here, in the context of the Emmaus story and Jesus bring the disciples into the mystery of the resurrection through an appeal to the scriptures, these courses should be noted. The event of the Exodus, central to the Torah as well as to the Gospel of John and the Emmaus story in Luke, is another link between all disciples and the biblical instruction on the Easter mystery.

F. They urged him: stay with us; the location of Emmaus

Four towns claim the honor of being the “original” Emmaus, and we visited two of them. The clue as to location is found in the gospel story where the village is said to be “seven miles” from Jerusalem. (In Greek measurement: 60 stadia) A stadium is equal to 600 feet, just as a football field is equal to 300 feet. The other hint as to location in the story is that the disciples were able to reach the village and have supper with Jesus, with time remaining to return to Jerusalem and find the other disciples still awake. Some manuscripts suggest that the “60” stadia in the story should be “160”, but that would make the return trip to Jerusalem, after supper, hard to accomplish. At present there is one claimant at 30 Stadia (Motsa); two at 60 stadia (Abu Ghosh and Qubeiba); and one at 160 stadia (Imwas). Our guide’s choice for the one most likely to be what Luke had in mind was Motsa, because 1. Motsa and Emmaus are variations on the same name (don’t ask); 2. The distance from Jerusalem fits the time frame of the story; and 3. A Roman road connecting the village with Jerusalem has recently been discovered by archeologists, making the route a likely one for the disciples. Our group walked into a valley and inspected the remains of the Roman road. We sat around on a couple of boulders and read the Emmaus story from Luke’s Gospel. Once again, some stones, barely holding their place in the road bed after two thousand years, became silent witnesses to the message of the Risen Christ.

The other Emmaus site we visited was Abu Ghosh, which is identified with the village of Kiriath‐ jearim, a place frequently mentioned in the Old Testament but which became prominent when it served as the resting place of the Arc of the Covenant for the twenty years between its restoration by the Philistines (1 Sam. 6:21) and its removal to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6). There is a Benedictine monastery here with a peaceful garden; the theme is hospitality, as in the Emmaus story: stay with us. One of the great Holy Land themes is the love of the land, and an ancient expression of this theme is in the cultivation of the fields and the creation of gardens. The Benedictines have always excelled at the development of their property, which they combine with a dedication to hospitality. In the Emmaus story, the disciples, moved by the stranger’s capacity to speak to their hearts, offer him hospitality. They were, of course, richly rewarded. Remember the teaching of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” (13:1)

E’.D’.C’. Jesus breaks bread, their eyes are opened, Jesus departs

The Emmaus story has often been seen as an ideal outline for the Christian liturgy. First, there are disciples of Jesus in the course of their lives, walking together, not in harmony this day. They represent the community that gathers with all its imperfections in the name of Jesus. We are a pilgrim church. Jesus joins this community and instructs them by recourse to the sacred Scriptures, which would be the Torah and the Prophets. This is comparable to our Liturgy of the Word, which opens our hearts so that we may continue in the liturgy with faith. Then Jesus “breaks bread” which is the signature action of the Eucharist, in which we “take, bless, break and give bread” as a sacrament of the Presence of Jesus and of the grace of the unity and peace of the Church. The disciples are changed by this experience, and they return to Jerusalem to proclaim a new hope for the Church and for the world. There is no containment of this grace. This experience of the disciples in the Emmaus story corresponds to the dismissal of the Christian assembly by which all are commissioned to “go in peace” and to be agents of peace in their ordinary lives which is where we began this story and this Eucharist. Here is a poem/prayer by Janet Morley that touches on the mystery of Emmaus:

O God whose greeting we miss and whose departure we delay, make our hearts burn with insight on our ordinary roads that as we grasp you in the broken bread, we may also let you go, and return to speak of your word of life, through Jesus Christ. Amen

B’. A’ The disciples are in dialogue, they return to Jerusalem

Here are a few hopeful experiences I can point to as evidence of hope in this troubled land.

1. An essay in the press by the Jewish father of a newborn who is described by the father as “the beginning of an endless life”. He says: “Israel is a child‐bearing superpower. We Israelis have babies and cherish our children more than any other western society… I thought of the commandment my son is imposing on me with his birth. The commandment to believe in the world his mother and I brought him into. To see that despite everything and because of everything, his place of birth is wonderful. A difficult place, in which hope is still not lost.” Ari Shavit in the Haaretz Opinion and Comment, April 14, 2009. The father in this case was Jewish, but the same sentiment could be that of a Muslim. I saw this celebration of children by both groups in Tel Aviv on Independence Day, April 29, when crowds of families came out on a beautiful day to walk the promenade and to picnic on the lawns. It seemed to be all about families and childen, enjoying the land (and the sea) on the 100th birthday of the City of Tel Aviv.

2. An Easter Concert at the Basilica of St. Anne, which is our neighbor on the Via Dolorosa. Hymnes en Temps Pascal. The Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir is made up of Christian, Jewish and Muslim members, a group of about thirty persons counting the pianist and percussionist. The representation of the three religious was very powerful; their unity in music showing the human possibilities for finding our common desire for beauty and harmony. The selections were largely taken from the religious experience of indigenous peoples, for example, the Misa Luba (Messe traditionnelle congolaise). What made me very proud and at home were the American Spirituals, “I been in the storm”, and “Daniel, Daniel, the Servant of the Lord.” When you think that these ardent expressions of hope were carved out of the cruel experiences of slavery and colonialism, in which the human spirit cried out with the confidence that God hears the prayer of the poor, the promise of new life is made again.

3. A evening with Fr. Joseph Nguyen Cong Doan, SJ, who had conducted the course in John’s Gospel. He is the superior of the Jesuit community at the Biblical Institute (Biblicum), and the Director of the Institute. He has quite a history apart from his academic achievements. He is from Vietnam, and, as the United States began withdrawing from Vietnam, he was sent from Rome, where he had been the assistant for Asia to the Jesuit Superior General, back to Vietnam to be the Regional Superior of the Jesuit communities in the country. Shortly afterwards, in 1981, he was arrested by the Communist state and spent the next nine years in jail. During the course on St. John he had recounted many anecdotes from his imprisonment, and so we invited him to return one evening when he could devote some time to telling us about his experience in more detail. It is hard to summarize his story, because it is so intimately connected to his personality and presence. His style is both profound and humorous; he seems to have an inner peace and glee that is not daunted by the most perilous of situations. He told us that when he was arrested he said to himself: “now my mission is beginning.” For nine years he had no reading materials and had to draw the Gospel of John from memory. He shared his food with all and participated in a sharing that allowed for everyone to have what they needed. He told us about his industry and his managerial skill, so that he became the prisoner who scheduled the daily work of all the prisoners. One thing he said that struck me (as an American) was the following: Vietnam is a small country with giant neighbors. “Maybe that is what makes us very conscious of our identity, and very protective of it. So we have to say to the French, to the Americans, to the Chinese, to the Communists: you cannot overcome the spirit and the soul of the Vietnamese people; any power you have over us is only partial and temporary.” (My paraphrase)

Here are two of the stories which he told with a gleeful attitude. The Jesuits had begun to ordain priests in secret; these undercover priests continued to hold their regular secular jobs. One, an architect, became good friends with another professional and they worked on many projects together. Each finally discovered that his good friend was a secret Jesuit! Further to the architect, the Communists evicted the Jesuits from their residence because they thought the house was wired to the outside world and that they could never clean the site. With the eviction of the Jesuits from their house, the state built them a new residence. Who did they select as the architect? The secret Jesuit. The second story: the Communists closed down the seminaries and put all the professors out of work. So with so much free time on their hands, the seminary teachers set about to translate the Bible into Vietnamese, and accomplished this monumental task which they could never have done if they were preoccupied with teaching their seminary courses. Then, to top off the irony, the professors presented the new Bible to the only publisher in the country, that is, the Communist state, which then proudly printed the Bible in the Vietnamese language!

Father Doan opened his remarks with a song which he had recorded on his laptop. It was the Andrew Lloyd Weber ballad “Love Changes Everything”, which I usually associate with Sarah Brightman but which was sung here by a different artist. It was the perfect theme for his talk. In the John’s Gospel course he had emphasized the theme of the stream of love coming from the Father through the Son and carrying us along. (Jn 14:23). Here, the application was clear. You can take an experience as hopeless and wasteful as a decade in jail, and, through the power of love, change it for yourself and for your fellow prisoners and even for your captors. I recommend the song to you again and I give here two of the verses for your Easter meditation.

Love, love changes everything Hands and faces, earth and sky Love, love changes everything How you live and how you die Love can make the summer fly Or a night seem like a lifetime Yes, love, love changes everything Now I tremble at your name Nothing in the world will ever be the same

Off into the world we go Planning futures, shaping years Love (comes in) and suddenly our wisdom disappears Love makes fools of everyone All the rules we make are broken Yes, love changes everyone Live or perish in its flame Love will never let you be the same Love will never let you be the same