On July 14-21, 2019 we had a chance to visit the Holy Land. From the beginning, my husband and I felt that God wants take us to the places where His Son was walking. Not everything was going smoothly. We had financial problem, but when that was resolved it turned out that my passport expired. There was a little time until our departure with a group where we signed up, when the renewal procedure started. Our concerned family, knowing the political situation and climate conditions in the Holy Land, had doubts that we should go. We were wondering if we will be able to go and we were convincing ourselves that this is not the last chance to fulfill our dream. After all, if God’s will is to take us there, then we will have another chance to go there. When everything seemed to be foregone and together we decided that we will not go on this pilgrimage, our phone rang. We heard one of the nuns, who was also supposed to go on the pilgrimage, who with emotions told us that she is very happy that we will be participating in the pilgrimage together. At this moment, we knew that God wants us to be a part of the pilgrimage. We were waiting. I was able to renew the passport in time and one day, my husband with excitement told me who will be our guide during the pilgrimage. At that time, it did not mean anything to me, but now I know that this was a gesture from God to bring us closer to Him.
Tired after the trip and lack of sleep, we set off for sightseeing of Bethlehem. Over there for the first time in our lives, we were singing Christmas carols at the time other than Christmas. Due to a confusion painted on our faces, the nun – guide explained that at this place Christmas last all year round. In the Basilica of the Nativity, is ongoing through the entire year. In the most important place commemorating the birth of Jesus, in the Basilica of the Nativity, we wanted to sing from the bottom of our hearts “God is being born” or “In the silence of the night”, but just from respect for others who were visiting this place, we did not fully use the strength of our vices.
During our visit in Gethsemane, although it was not the same Olivine Garden as in Jesus’ time, we were able fully fill the situation of Our Lord. At the same time, we had reflections and questions: How we handle problems and hardships of life? Why so easily we will break down instead of putting everything into hands of Jesus, remembering that he went through all of that during His earthly life?
After the prayer in the Olivine Garden, there was the time for the Stations of the Cross. The famous Via Dolorosa does not inspire recollections and prayers, but no wonder as the part of the road lead through the crowded market. We were trying to pray, when on one side they were persuading us to buy regional products, while on the other side daily talks were ongoing among residents of Jerusalem. We had a chance to walk through the market together, my husband and I, after the prayers. Somebody was running somewhere, somebody was looking for something. When we only stopped for a minute and sellers were pulling us to their stand, praising their products. I felt lost and scared. But wait, how did Jesus feel? After all, He was walked exactly on this path. It was a normal working day and our Lord was not a phenomenon, but just another convict with a beam of the cross; an ordinary view at that time. Immediately, words of the song came to my mind: “Through Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, on that day, exhausted, beaten man slowly walked by. The crowd was pushing from all sides, repeating these words:
The Stations of the Cross ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church made a big impression on us. It is a big church where people of all Christian denominations are praying. Each denomination has its own chapel in various parts of the Basilica. Despite the apparent cooperation, this place created and still raises a lot of tensions. Nevertheless, during our visit in this place, we were able to hear so many prayers in different languages, which were raised to the One God, which was edifying. In a long line, waiting to approach the place commemorating the crucifixion, we could hear wonderful biblical texts related to the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. The moment on Golgotha was brief, but even during that short moment we were able to image how much Jesus suffered.
The next point of our pilgrimage which in a special way was engraved in our memory was the Mass in the desert. A desert as the terrain has the scenery that takes the breath away and makes a huge impact. During this Mass, God allowed us to understand the difference between a desert and emptiness, where the first one favor prayers and the second one will not be our experience if only we will fully trust God.
During our visit in Cana, a Mass was celebrated in intention of all married couples from our pilgrimage. We were entering the church in a solemn procession from the longest marriage to the couples who were married recently. The value of family and marriage as the first stage was emphasized during the Mass. The important part of the Mass was the solemn renewal of the marriage vows. We perfectly remembered the moment when we exchanged our vows, as it has not been a full year since our wedding day. It was a very touching moment, when once again we were able to stand in front of God. What a couple with 40 years-long marriage has to feel? During the solemn exit, the traditional Mendelson March was played, while in front of the church we were showered with goodies. A group of Asian tourist thought that it was a wedding, but they were confused seeing a dozen of couples exiting the church.
During the pilgrimage, there was a time for everything, what is important in a man’s life: the spiritual nourishment, meeting new people, sightseeing, and resting by the sea. Beautiful coastal areas encouraged us to make a stop. We drew pressure from a cruise on the Lake of Galilee, swimming in the Dead Sea, hiking on the hills and valleys, and we were awing the power and love of God, who created the world and allowed us to use it.
If we were asked to choose the most valuable experience during the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the deeper understanding of the Word of God will be our response. Now, at the end of the pilgrimage, I understood my husband’s excitement when he told me who will be our guide. We were able to get that experience thanks to sister Judyta, who was our guide and through her faith, knowledge, and sensitivity in an extraordinary way brought Bible stories closer to us. Without any doubt, she was a tool in the hands of the Father, which He used to make us love deeper His Words.
Our dream came true: we visited the Holy Land. My husband and I went there nearly a year after our weeding and we take that pilgrimage as our honeymoon trip. We owe this to Our Lord Jesus Christ and all whom He put on our path during our preparations to the pilgrimage and the trip by itself. Thanks be to God!
Anna and Mateusz Kruszewski