Fr. Gregory Vozzo is Parochial Vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Braintree in the Archdiocese of Boston. He is one of 29 priests joining Cardinal Seán O’Malley for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land between April 8 and April 15. We’ve asked him to share his experiences on their fourth full day in the Holy Land.
By Fr. Gregory Vozzo
Both Jews and Christians regard the Mount of Olives as a very holy place. Here, King David wept when his son Absalom conspired against him (2 Sam 15:30). The prophet Zechariah foretold that God would appear here to save and restore Jerusalem for all time (Zechariah 14:4). On this mountain, red heifers were sacrificed for a great purification ritual during the time of the Jerusalem Temple. And it was here that Jesus began his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, taught about the end times, and began his sorrowful Passion.
At 3:00PM, the hour of mercy, we left by bus to visit several important holy sites on the Mount of Olives. Our first stop, the Shrine of Pater Noster, featured innumerable displays of the Lord’s Prayer in different languages – all gifts from churches throughout the world. I am reminded of the words of Psalm 8: “How great is your name, O LORD, through all the earth!” A steep walk down from here brought us past a great and ancient burial ground to the Dominus Flevit Sanctuary, unique in its chapel’s westward orientation (toward Jerusalem, the place of the Son’s rising from the dead). This simple chapel, built in the form of a tear drop, commemorates Jesus’ weeping for the city of Jerusalem as he entered it on Palm Sunday (Lk 19:41–44). Then, while we enjoyed spectacular views of Jerusalem and the Kidron Valley, our guides filled our minds and hearts with many astonishingly rich teachings about what Jesus was doing here and why. I received from this a most wonderful experience of Easter discipleship and mystagogy, for the Apostles also received a great deal of understanding in the weeks after Jesus has accomplished his victory over death.
We concluded our day of pilgrimage at the famous Western Wall of the city, where devout Jews of many places and rabbinic schools were getting ready to begin the Sabbath. This wall is significant because it is part of the very same wall that one enclosed the Temple area. Although the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., we do well to remember, as these Jews do, that God’s dwelling in the Holy of Holies was once on the other side of this wall. Although many people call the Western Wall “the wailing wall”, this name is not accepted here. What we saw and learned today makes plain why this is. Those who come here to pray long for what is to come, not what once was. They long for the Messiah and for God’s everlasting reign in Jerusalem. Their pilgrimage, much like ours, is one of joyful remembrance and hope. May all our tears be dried by the God who comes to save His people.
Cardinal Seán and a group of 29 priests of the Archdiocese of Boston have traveled on an Easter pilgrimage to the Holy Land this week, and they’re bringing the readers of TheGoodCatholicLife.com blog along with them.
All this week, our colleague George Martell is traveling with the pilgrimage, embedded with the Cardinal and his priests so we can bring you photos, blogs, videos, and audio reports from the Holy Land from the pilgrims at such places as the Basilica of the Annunciation, Mount Carmel, the Sea of Galilee, the Church of the Transfiguration, Qumran, the Mount of Olives, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Upper Room, and more. This once in a lifetime opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Jesus with Cardinal Seán and the Archdiocese’s priests as an Easter retreat experience.
Please stay tuned to www.thegoodcatholiclife.com, as well as www.BostonCatholicPhotos.com and www.YouTube.com/BostonCatholic and our Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/bostoncatholic and Twitter account: www.twitter.com/bostoncatholic for the latest updates from the Holy Land.