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.