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The Journal of Cmdre. Leon and Helen Smith

Personal Reflections from the Pilgrimage
The pilgrimage to the Holy Land was a success. Helen and I would like to thank Dean Patrick Adderley, Astrid Adderley, Sandra Collie, and the staff of St. George's College, Jerusalem for the way in which they organized a flawless pilgrimage. Thanks also to Christ Church Cathedral members for their prayers.

For us as pilgrims, it was a combination of Christian devotion and religious tourism which took us to interesting places in the Holy Land. Bahamians are known to be a happy people but as pilgrims we had the opportunity to practice silence and be still. It was during this period of silence that one really experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit, and at the same time see the beauty of His Creation from the top of a mountain. We were impressed with the distant mountains, valleys and rolling hills.

The Quiet Times were always preceded by the reading of the scriptures or the Eucharist which took place on a Holy site - that is in church, church grouds, mountain tops or sea-side. That brought the Ruins to life. There was no time for day-dreaming. Ordinary meditation, known as quietism, provided much solace to pilgrims to select a topic for thought and reflection. For example, while on the top of Mount Tabor each pilgrim selected his or her own quiet spot under a tree to meditate. Some may have prayed to God for His forgivness, some may have meditated on the beautiful scenery in the valley below or the surrounding distant mountains. Others meditated on the taxi ride going up to the top of Mount Tabor as to whether they were going to make it back down the Mountain. Pilgrim Helen Smith had her eyes closed going up and coming down the mountain! Jerusalem was truly a mountainous country. "As the mountains surround Jerusalem so the Lord surrounds His people from this time on and for evermore (Psalm 125:2).

We visited the Garden Tomb where Jesus was laid after his crucifixion. I was able to go into the sepulchere where Jesus had been laid. That was an indescribable experience.

Our visit to the Holocaust History Museum is a life-time experience. the new Holocaust History Museum's nine underground galleries tell the story of the Shoah from the Jewish perspective.

We had a pleasant boat cruise on the Sea of Galilee and some of the pilgrims were taught a Galilean dance similar to the Bahamian "ringplay." The Sea of Galilee is a deep blue, harp-shaped lake surrounded by breathtaking scenery.

At the Jordan River, there were people being baptized or just wading in the water. We had the reading of the scriptures and Quiet Time. some of us stood in the water on a path leading into the Jordan River, others just sat quietly.

The Via Dolorosa, "Way of Sorrow" or "Way of the Cross," is Christendom's most sacred route. It is the path followed by Jesus from the Judgment court to Golgotha, the place of the crucifixion bearing the Cross.

As pilgrims, we proceeded to retrace the steps and recall Jesus' agony. there are fourteen stations on the way of the cross, nine along the narrow street and five inside the church of the Holy Sepulchre. all the stations are marked by chapels or churches for meditation and prayer. Despite the hustle and bustle of the route, it was moving along the way where Jesus suffered on His last day on earth.

On Wednesday, August 22nd, 2009, the assignment was "The Old City" Exploration in the Four Quarters of the Old City. Helen, LaGloria, Edison and I were assigned to the Jewish Quarters. we observed an ancient building, HAVRUA, the Jewish Synagogue, and the major religious Shrine in the Quarter, being restored.

The Western Wall - For centuries this wall was called the Wailing Wall; Jews from the adjoining Jewish Quarter came there to pray and to lament the destruction of the Temple. During our visits to the Western Wall, we observed a continuous flow of persons who were praying as well as inserting prayer notes in any crevice of the wall. There were also those who were reciting prayers. The seventeen of us from Christ Church Cathedral should be able to appreciate the Bible more. If we seek to understand the world around us, even in the remotest of places we may never visit; how much more do we need to forge a link with the world and the people of the Bible, from which we draw both life and spiritual strength!

from Cmdre Leon Smith & Mrs. Helen Smith

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