Bishop John writes:
We prepared for the last morning in the Holy Land and travelled by coach to Emmaus (Abu Gosh), seven miles from Jerusalem. Our guide told us that this was the last surviving Arab village in the valley between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, a valley that saw much violence during the 1948 war. En route we visited the Church of Our Lady, Ark of the Covenant. A small order of sisters, originally from France, preserves the Church and the convent. Fr John explained that on this mountain the Ark of the Covenant was handed back to the tribes of Israel by the Philistines (1 Samuel 7) and here it rested for twenty years before King David took the Ark to Jerusalem. Today the Shrine of Our Lady, Ark of the Covenant, is to be found in the nineteenth century church. We are reminded that Our Blessed Lady is given this title because she bore the Christ-Child of the New Covenant in her womb. She is the ark of the new gift of the Christ, true God and true man, to us. She is given the title ‘bearer of God’, Theotokos.
The final Mass was offered in thanksgiving for the pilgrimage and the homily focused on how we are sent out as missionary disciples to share the hope that we carry in our hearts with others. The church at Emmaus is a Crusader Church in which one finds the remnants of medieval frescoes and also fifth century mosaics. It is a beautiful church and monastery of the white Benedictine order. We also identified a plaque marking this as the camp of the Xth Legion in Roman times and the origins of an ancient well and water source. We spent a quiet time of reflection after Mass and were able to enjoy the beautiful gardens. The climate in this area as we travel north is more akin to that of the Mediterranean of Tuscany and Umbria and abundant in flowers.
Lunch at a local restaurant provided an opportunity to thank our spiritual leader, Fr John Farrell OP, our pilgrimage leader, Fr Paul McDermott, the guide Ra’ed, and our drivers.
It is hard to think we arrived in Tel Aviv only one week ago. During the week so much has happened and so much has been experienced. One pilgrim commented that we began as strangers and were now a family. Others spoke of life-long ambitions realised and all talked about the way in which there faith had been deepened.
Ann: ‘Seeing the places and holy sites has made the Bible more real and concrete.’
Chris and Maria: ‘A truly uplifting spiritual and cultural experience’
Paul and Joe: ‘Amazing, that’s why we keep coming back!’
David: 'Three years ago I became a Catholic and this is the most significant event in my faith since I received Holy Communion on that day.'