Holy land – So close yet so far   

My trip today took me to two very important Biblical sites; the fortress of Machaerus which was the place where John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod Antipas and Mount Nebo, the place where Moses gazed at the Promised Land but never entered.

Machaerus which means “black fortress” was one of a series of hilltop strongholds established by Herod the great, the father of Herod Antipas. Built along the edge of the Jordan Valley and  the Dead Sea it is perched on top of the mountain, more than 1100 metres above the Dead Sea , The fortress is protected on three sides by deep ravines. In addition to its natural defensible position on a rocky hilltop, Machaerus served as the first line of defence and warning against any eastern invaders.

The road leading to the fortress

Herod the great erected a fortress wall with high corner towers. In the centre he built a palace that was “breath-taking in size and beauty”, according to Josephus. Numerous cisterns were dug to collect rainwater one of which is visible even today.

An artists impression of what the fort and palace would have looked like

But this fortress also served as a lavish palace for Herod and his guests. It is here that John the Baptist was beheaded because he opposed Herod Antipas who had divorced his wife Phasaelis, daughter of King Aretas of Nabatea in favour of Herodias, his brother’s wife.

The fortress today
Spread the love ♥
  • 38
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    38
    Shares
Continue Reading

‘Floored’ by history – The city of Madaba

Madaba which means ‘calmly moving water’ in Aramaic is located about thirty kilometres south west from the capital city of Amman. In the Bible, Madaba, a Moabite town is mentioned in Joshua 13:9, 16 and in Numbers 21:30 as ‘Medeba’. David also vanquished an Ammonite and Aramean coalition near Madaba (I Chronicles 19: 7). His victory was short-lived, however, as in the mid-ninth century BCE the Moabite King Mesha freed the city from the control of the Israelites (2 Kings 3). This is the land that Moses gave to the Reubenites as their inheritance. Historically, at the time of the Exodus and conquest in 1406 BC, Madaba and Mt. Nebo were part of the territory of Moab.

The city of Madaba

Around 614 AD the Persian sacked Madaba and it was further ruined by an earthquake in 747 AD after which it stood abandoned for a thousand years.  In 1880 a group of 2000 Christians from Karak settled in Madaba. The Ottomans allowed the Christians to build Churches but only on the same location as the ancient Churches. The sites of the ancient Churches going back to the Byzantine period were marked by mosaic floors and this helped the Christians identify these ancient Churches. A total of 14 Churches were reconstructed which earned the city the nick name; city of mosaics.

Spread the love ♥
  • 27
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    27
    Shares
Continue Reading

Walking into HIStory, discovering my God of mystery!

I have always been a man on the move; hurricanes sometimes get a complex in my presence. Even for the love of God I can’t see myself as dense or as dead as the Dead Sea; onward and forward is my motto. Yet here I am embarking on a journey that will only let me take one step forward if I am willing to take two thousand steps back. That’s the power of the ‘terrae sanctae’ or the Holy Land.

For quite a while I have held out on embarking on such a journey for I have been put off by the many narratives of pilgrims who have expressed their disappointment about the commercialization of this sacred land by business establishments and governments. Yet deep within I feel my heart tugging me to Jerusalem, longing to walk the sands of time in the city of God and sing with the psalmist, “at last our feet are standing within your gates O Jerusalem.’ (Psalm 122:2)

My journey will begin in the wee hours of the fifth of November 2018 and will end in twelve days. Like Egeria the nun who chronicled her pilgrimage in 380 AD or the unknown ‘pilgrim of Bordeaux’ who chronicled the oldest known Christian itinerarium recounting his journey to the Holy Land in the years 333, I too hope to pen not only what my eyes see but also what my heart dares to experience.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, where God brought an end to Moses’ long journey on Mount Nebo will be the starting point of my journey of faith. From this mountain, my journey will take me to the Holy mountain of Jerusalem and the many cities of Israel which Our Lord set foot on.

Spread the love ♥
  • 49
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    49
    Shares
Continue Reading

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)

I am reproducing for your benefit a series of questions and answers taken from the Catechsim of the Catholic Church that will help you understand this day better.

What happens to us when we die?

In death, body and soul are separated. The body decays, while the soul goes to meet God and wants to be reunited with its risen body on the Last Day.

What is eternal life?

Eternal life begins with Baptism. It continues through death and will have no end.

Will we be brought to judgment after death?

The so- called particular or persona judgment occurs at the moment of death of the individual. The general judgment, which is also called the Last Judgment, occurs on the Last Day, at the end of the world, when the Lord comes again.

In dying every man arrives at the moment of truth. Now it is no longer possible to repress or conceal anything; nothing more can be changed. God sees us as we are. We come before his tribunal, where all is made right of if we are to be in God’s holy presence at all, we must be “right” with him, as right as God wanted us to be when he created us.

Perhaps we will still have to undergo a process of purification, or maybe we will be able to fall in to God’s arms immediately. But perhaps we will be so full of wickedness, hatred and denial of everything that we turn our face away from love forever, away from God. A life without love, however, is nothing but hell.

Spread the love ♥
  • 22
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    22
    Shares
Continue Reading

Solemnity of All Saints   

To my mind, eulogies delivered in Church often over focus on the human skills and qualities the deceased loved one possessed, rather than the virtues of their Christian calling by which they lived. Sometimes the emotions of the eulogists run so high that virtues are magnified to the level of sanctity and   I am often times tempted to look into the coffin to see if the person spoken of is really the same person that I know.

And yet there have been funeral eulogies which have deeply moved me. One such eulogy that deeply impacted my life was the funeral of the father of Fr Anil Rego, one of the priests of the Archdiocese of Bombay. The deceased gentleman’s spouse, Philomena had passed away a few months earlier and now it seemed that Leonard had died of a broken heart. The son who delivered the eulogy spoke not of his deceased father but of his parents, for he said he could not conceive even talking about his deceased father without mentioning in the same breath his mother. They were joined at the hip, not at birth, but by marriage and they lived their Christian calling as a holy family.

I left the Eucharist feeling deeply moved with the distinct feeling that I had attended the funeral of a saintly man who lived a saintly Christian life. I had never met Leonard Rego in life and yet in death he had stirred my heart to love Christ even more and I believe of all those sitting in the congregation that day. I went back to the parochial house nourished by both, the Eucharist and the example of a man who lived a saintly life.

While most saints have a particular feast day on the Catholic calendar not all of those feast days are observed. The Solemnity of ‘All saint day’ is observed to honour the many saints in heaven and those who are saints in the heart of God but never declared by the Church, perhaps people like Leonard and Philomena. It is good to keep in mind that saints canonized by the Catholic Church are not persons who were ‘made saints’  by the Pope but persons, who  by a process of discernment, were declared to be ‘holy’,  for such a reality already existed in the heart of God .

Spread the love ♥
  • 44
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    44
    Shares
Continue Reading