Sunday, 17 January 2010

John 2:1-11, The Wedding at Cana

"O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come"

Jesus says these words to his Mother not to be harsh to her - because she apparently understood him as granting her request, and called for the servants. I think he meant something else, I think he was thinking of another day when the hour would come.

When they would be drunk - but not with wine, when they would be satisfied - but not with food, when they will see that all their longings and desires were in fact stemming from only one insatiable desire - for the Lord their God. He would give Himself freely and fully to them, and every time feed on Him would be a wedding feast!

The hour has maybe even come several times -or was manifesting itself in different ways - on the cross when it had been accomplished; in the room of the Last Supper, when he gave Himself to his disciples; at Pentecost - in the same place, it had to be! - when they were drunk, but not with wine.

The Lord comes at Mass, body and blood, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and fills us. That hollow emptiness that would only be filled by Him. His hour is come, he is here. I often feel touched by the Holy Spirit when bread and wine become body and blood. This is the wedding feat of the Lamb! Blessed are those who are called to it, says the priest.

And I believe this may have been what Jesus had in mind. That his disciples would be drunk with the Holy Spirit in the same room where he gave Himself to them - to feast on Him. That we now, too, would be filled with the Holy Spirit as we feast on Him at Mass. That is His hour.

Then, at Cana, it had not yet come. But He knew that it would - one day, through shedding of His own blood, wine would again be transformed, and would become the true drink, the true living water. The Word made flesh would transform our own flesh and lift us up to His divinity...

And the old tradition says that in the very room where He gave Himself to them - the Holy Spirit came...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Peace on Earth

The Holy Land, everyone knows it, is not a peaceful place. Paradoxically, it can also be the most peaceful place in the world.

In Jerusalem, where I live now, I got to know a kind and gentle Russian Orthodox priest, went to a Greek Catholic Mass in Arabic, was too tired to go to a messianic Jewish prayer meeting, but my fellow Catholics did go and enjoyed themselves immensly. I watched an elderly Jewish lady praying from a book, rocking gently back and forth while waiting for her bus, and looking up every once in a while to see if her bus was coming. It was the most beautiful thing ever. I work with an Armenian Catholic lady, and speak about prayer and intimate touches of God with a Muslim woman, who often speaks the words of the Scriptures without knowing it. We begin Mass nearly at the same time when the Muslim prayer calls resonate throughout the Old City of Jerusalem, and finish an evening prayer with Our Father in Arabic.

When I speak with a Palestinian Christian guy, such a beatiful sould who loves Jesus with all his heart, I often feel guilty. I know it wasn't my fault, but I feel guilty for just being in a room where those words were once said (by another friend who loves Jesus - aren't we a people of paradoxes): "If Samson had killed those Philistines then, Israel would have had no problem with the Palestinians now". Yes, here is your Philistine who is so unfortunate to be alive, that he wakes up at 5 am every Sunday and can't wait to get to the first Mass that is held in his church. He would then go to a Christian orphanage in Bethlehem, and maybe play a game of football with some Muslim kids. It's fun, you know...

I saw a grown-up man, a grandfather, a Lutheran minister of around 20 years, so shaken yesterday that he almost wept. He tried to say a coherent sentence, but he couldn't. There were just images and pictures, and impressions. They went to Hebron, because they heard a nun praying in a church they went to: "May the soldiers treat their fellow men like human beings". They called her and went to visit a Christian peacemaking organisation, run by 8 different Christian denominations. I saw him leaving - and saw him come back a different person. His hands were shaking and tears were welling up in his eyes. I thought of Auschwitz, he said. My son is a soldier (he serves in Georgia, as in Georgia with Tbilisi a capital) he said - but he would never do anything like that. He would never do anything like that.

Faced with the impossible, we are all shaken. But I have heard those conversations, have sat with people who said things I even then was shocked to hear. I am faced with the consequence of their choices here and now. Whether these choices were well informed, is another question. My friend - well, my friend is coming for a visit. You may have already guessed we are all preparing the most exciting program ever... But he has to know.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


Today is my third day in the Holy City, and also the day of the Russian Christmas. In practice, this means the city is packed with Russian tourists in big and small groups, and the churches rang their bells for 20 minutes both at midnight and at 3 am. No, I slept through all of this - one of the guests told me. At 4.50, mind you, there is a LOUD prayer call from the minaret across the street, reminding the faithful that to pray is better than to sleep. Miraculously, I slept through the prayer call as well... You wouldn't believ the loudness of it until you really attempt to sleep here during the day.

During adoration, our voices often merge with the prayer call, which is then followed by the church bells ringing. I am in Jerusalem, I remind myself. I am in a place like no other places. It cannot be put in box, ordered up and explained. It has to be experienced. Why am I thinking - this is exactly what I would have said about God? And God - this is the only place where He lived.

I took a walk on Via Dolorosa yesterday. This morning, I went to the Tomb of the Virgin, and to the Church of all nations, worshipping before the rock on which Jesus is said to have prayed, near the 2000-year-old olive trees that are supposed to be where the Garden of Gesthemane once was. I get a good view of it from our roof... I took a lovely picture of the Golden Gate - through which the Messiah is supposed to come back - from the road below it.

Having written a paragraph like this, do you think I am on my knees, weeping, bowing, or prostrate in some peculiar religious extasy before a crusifix of olive wood? I am actually sipping coffee after lunch. I am looking at the Dome of the Rock from the terrace, it's a stone's throw away. I feel absolutely normal. Or so I think. The world did not change, heaven did not fall down on me and I felt almost nothing. Almost.

Peculiarly, the only Scripture that comes to my mind to explain how an experience like this applies to life is the words of St.Paul about praying in tongues: "my mind is unfruitful but my spirit prays".

My mind refuses to comprehend the reality. There are glimpses of it, there are some fleeting moments when I feel something, like a lightning going through your body, but most of the time I am thinking of something else. Such as: I should watch my back while I put my camera into the bag. My mind is unfruitful.

Today, I was reciting parts of a morning prayer of Lauds to a Muslim lady at the reception: "all the rivers and seas, bless the Lord... frost and snow, bless, the Lord..." Yes. the whole creation blesses the Creator, she replied joyfully. Yesterday, a Jordanian Greek Catholic was telling me how he found Jesus. These are people we never heard about. Palestinian Christians were non-existant to Protestants of all denominations I had passed through. Moreover, we directly or indirectly contributed to their exodus from the Holy Land. Muslims are a whole different story. However, these people have lived together here for centuries. Yet, my mind is unfruitful.

I see the picture but it is too big for me to put the pieces together. I get a glimpse of God but He is too big for me to comprehend. I stand alone in absolute silence before the burial place of Our Lady and understand I do not have to feel anything. Our Lord is bigger that my ridiculous attempts to box Him in, to congratulate myself on having prayed this and this many psalms today and gone to that many many places yesterday. The world is bigger than what I have seen. And truth - well, truth is not something. It is someone. And for all I know, this was the only place where He lived.

Monday, 4 January 2010


I am sitting in the Crystal Lounge in Prague airport - hurray to democracy, you only have to pay to get access, regardless your ticket.
As I was making myself some coffee, a girl of about 5 came up, and asked me - in Russian - where does one find juice. Not in the least bit surprised that I answered her - in Russian, as well - she accepted the juice I found her and went away. I think she has just left for Moskow. She came up some 10 minutes ago, to watch the airplanes taking off, and I asked her where she was going. I am going to Tel Aviv. She asked me whether I will be back here soon. I will be back in three months, I said. Then I will never see you again, she replied. Bye. Bye.
And I am still here, watching the planes, drinking wine, tea, and water with lemon. Soon to take off... And I will never see her again. And I will never come here again, perhaps. Or perhaps I will... that's what airports are all about, I guess...