This Text is 33 Pages in length. final update 5/8 completes the trip
Dear People of Christ Church, I am very grateful to you for supporting my Sabbatical......Complete Letter of Appreciation
Greetings from Vatican, Rome.
We arrived here last night. This morning we had an appointment in the Vatican- Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura with Cardinal Burke, formerly of La Crosse, WI. He very graciously received us in his office. He presented us an Icon of Christ and two Rosaries blessed for us by Pope Benedict. Later we went to visit St. Peter's Basilica. We walked for four hours inside the Basilica. We prayed a lot inside the church, for God to grant her strength and health. We offered our prayers for our Parish in general, for Mary Limbach, Senior Warden and Vestry. Myra by name prayed for our seniors by name in our parish.
Let me share with you so far where we have been: .
The theme of my Sabbatical is "Holy Pilgrimage." On February 8 we started our journey from Chicago and arrived at Heathrow, London. We stayed in London for couple of hours and rested in one of our friend's home. Next we went to Kent/Canterbury. We stayed overnight at Canterbury Lodge next to the Canterbury Cathedral. On Sunday morning we attended 11:00 Mass and sang at the Cathedral. The Dean of the Cathedral introduced me to the congregation before the worship service and mentioned about the St. Augustine Award given to me by the Archbishop of Canterbury. After the service the Dean invited me to stand next to the Chair of St. Augustine the throne of Archbishop of Canterbury. A picture was taken. This chair has been there since 590 A.D.
February 11. Myra and I had lunch
with the Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury (now
retired) who met us over in the cafeteria of St. Martins in the field in
London. The Archbishop nearly spent two and a half hours with us. He
personally presented the St. Augustine Award to me. We were truly
blessed to be in his company. We learned that he is truly a man of
prayer with deep compassion for churches living in persecution and
February 14. Pakistani friends from Huddersfield
came to pick us up from North of UK. We traveled in a car for three
hours and spent two days visiting several families who gathered for
lunch in one house. We held a service of praise and Prayer and
anointed. Most of these people came in 1970 to work in the woolen Mills
from Pakistan. My father was their parish priest.
The Lambs drove us after our visit to Coventry Cathedral to
London. Connecting with old friends, sharing our stories for the last
three decades, holding hands to pray and breaking bread with them was a
rare privilege and blessings.
February 20: Rev. Dr. Christopher and his wife Tina Lamb drove us to the Coventry Cathedral in the town of Coventry. This is a place that leaves a deep impression on its many visitors as these buildings shout the gospel of Jesus Christ. Coventry Cathedral was destroyed in a bombing raid on the night of 14 November 1940. The decision to rebuild the Cathedral was taken immediately, becoming an emotive symbol of an overriding determination to bring good out of evil, to offer forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of the horror of war.
It is a modern 20th century cathedral completed on 25th May, 1962. It is also voted in a national poll in the 1990's as Britain's favorite twentieth-century building.This was my second time to visit Coventry Cathedral as part of my holy pilgrimage. The power of its message of ministry, forgiveness and reconciliation left a deep impression on my own life and ministry to be an "Ambassador of Peace" and instrument of Christ to work for reconciliation where there is hatred, to sow love and peace.
During our visit to the Cathedral we saw inside the Coventry Cathedral the original charred Cross, made from two burnt timbers. A former priest made another cross from the three of the many fifteenth-century nails that littered the scene. The Cross of Nails was set on the Altar and the words FATHER FORGIVE were later inscribed on the surviving stonework of the sanctuary. Today it is intended that this special place has become a memorial of national and international significance to civilians killed, injured or traumatized by war and violent conflict in our world today. I give thanks to God for the international ministry of 'Reconciliation' of the Coventry Cathedral. I prayed for peace in our world. Rev. Lamb and present Archbishop of Canterbury both have been on the staff of the Coventry Cathedral. We were warmly welcomed by the Dean of the Cathedral.
There were long lines of pilgrims and Myra did not have strength to stand in line. We had a letter from the Cardinal and Swiss guards let us go inside directly. Myra and I had a very blessed time inside the basilica.
February 23: Visit to the Coliseum in Rome: The Colosseum is at foot hill of Palatine hill. Palatine Hill is one of the seven hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of Rome. The Colosseum when constructed and completed in 80 A.D. was the largest amphitheater built in all of Rome and could house 50,000 people. The Colosseum was built primarily to entertain masses in brutal and barbaric games. Gladiators were slaves captured in war, that were trained in special schools to fight each other to death.
It was a very somber visit for me as I thought about all the Christians martyred for the sport of Caesar and the citizens of Rome. As I stood under the shadow of the Coliseum I gave thanks to God for the lives and witness of the saints of God whose blood is the seed of the Church. In our modern times we remember the persecuted churches in Sudan, Pakistan and several Middle Eastern countries. I prayed for God's peace and reconciliation among Christians and Muslims where Christians are persecuted today.
February 24: We rented a wheel chair from our hotel Michelangelo next to the Vatican wall. Our plan was to visit the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum. I knew Myra will not be able to walk for several hours inside both places. A wheel chair was very helpful and again guards at the entrance of the Vatican Museum were very helpful and we did not have to wait in lines. We were able to go straight as given passes to visit both Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum. It is an awesome experience which leaves you breathless how human hands could paint and portray the mysteries of heaven revealed through the pages of the Holy Scriptures.
Sunday February 24: Angelus: Papal blessing, Vatican St. Peter's Square. Pope Benedict XVI delivered his last Sunday address to the crowds in St. Peter's Square before his benediction. He said he was not abandoning the church, and his future would be dedicated to meditation and prayer. There were 100,000 people packed in the Vatican City public plaza where he delivered his final noon Sunday Angelus blessing in various languages from his Vatican apartment window. The 85 year old pontiff told the crowd that he would continue to serve the church "in a way that is more commensurate to my age and my strength."
His Eminence Cardinal Burke had invited us to come to his apartment and his secretary sister Regina took us on the top of the roof of the Cardinals apartments at the Vatican. There were two more Cardinals, a few sisters and priests also present to watch and receive the Pope's final blessing. There was pin drop silence in the Square as the Pontiff addressed this large crowd. For Myra and I it was a rare and historic moment to be inside of the Vatican at this privileged place to witness history and receive Papal blessings.
Later in the afternoon we both left Rome by train to go to Assisi. As we arrived in Assisi at 5:00 p.m. we got settled in our hotel in the heart of the old town of Assisi. Myra rested in the room and I went out to explore Assisi. I walked to Basilica of St. Francis. There was a mass at 6:00 p.m. and attended Sunday Mass there.
February 25: I started my day at 6:30a.m. with Morning Prayer and Mass at St. Francis Basilica.
After breakfast Myra and I hired a cab and shared our first visit to St. Clare Church in Assisi.
Clare of Assisi, "the little plant of Blessed Francis" as she loved to call herself-was born in 1194 A.D. She was truly touched by the preaching and living example of the life of Francis of Assisi. She gave up the luxury of living in the home of a Count and became a disciple of St. Francis. In this church hangs the famous 12th century crucifix of Roman -Umbrian style, which formerly hung in the church of San Damiano. It now hangs adjacent to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Basilica. Precious to all lovers of St. Francis, this Crucifix inspired his conversion in 1205. Kneeling before it, Francis composed the following prayer which is considered to be among the oldest of his writings:
"All Highest, Glorious God,
We give thanks to God for the life and witness of St. Clare.
February 25: After visiting the Basilica of St. Clare we went together to visit the Basilica of St. Francis. Since we had been on this holy pilgrimage our hearts longed to visit this church to offer our prayers and thanksgiving. There was one handicap for Myra as this church is pretty steep and you have to climb stairs and then go downstairs to visit the tomb of St. Francis. We sat together in the lower Basilica in front of the Blessed Sacrament and held our hands to pray. Myra prayed to Jesus for a miracle and asked St. Francis to watch over her as she needed strength to climb stairs up and down. After the prayer Myra said that she has received her miracle. She climbed all the steps and then went down deep in the belly of the Basilica where the stone sarcophagus contains the mortal remains of St. Francis. It is the heart of this sanctuary and one of the most popular places for spiritual pilgrims from all humanity.
I offered the following prayer John Paul II offered on November 5, 1978:
Help us, St. Francis of Assisi, to the bring Christ closer to the modern Church and to our modern world. You who have felt the needs of your fellow men and women in your heart, help us to be united with the Heart of our Redeemer. Help us to face the problems of our times, social, economic, and political. Help us to face the problems of contemporary culture and civilization and all the sufferings of modern humanity; our doubts, our denials, our tensions, our complexes, and our anxieties. Help us to understand all of these in the simple and fruitful language of the gospel and to resolve them so that Christ may become 'The Way, The Truth, and The Life' for the modern world.
This is what Pope John Paul II,(Patrick and Myra of La Crosse) the son of Poland, asks from you, holy son of Italy. He (we hope) hopes and prays that you will not refuse him, but will help him. You have always been prompt to help those who have turned to you."
It was such a holy time and we truly were blessed.
After completing the holy pilgrimage we headed for the train station to catch 4:00 p.m. train from Assisi to Roma.
March 3: We visit to Karachi: Myra and I visited friends in Karachi which is one of the largest cities in Asia. Our daughter-in-law's brother took us from Hyderabad to Karachi. It is a two hour journey by car. We had fun filled times with our relatives. Then late in the afternoon we heard news that there was a bomb blast in two apartment buildings where most of the residents were Shia'ah Muslims. The bomb took 50 lives and 150 more are injured. Thousands have lost their homes. Pakistan is fast turning into a graveyard for the Shia'ah Muslim community. Since the beginning of this year 350 Shia'ah people have been killed in bomb blasts. After hearing this news the city was mostly closed and today all over Pakistan institutions, shops and business centers were closed. We rushed to come back home and thank God we reached Hyderabad safely. We are simply staying with Sana's family and resting well here.
Let me briefly share with you about the Shia'ah: Muslims are split into two religious branches: 1. Sunnis, 2. Shia'ah. The spilt happened soon after the death of prophet Muhammad over who should lead the Muslim community. The great majority of Muslims are Sunnis. Often there is competition between the two faith groups. The two communities share fundamental beliefs such as in oneness of Allah/God, Muhammad is the last prophet, fasting, giving alms and pilgrimage to Mecca. However, there are doctrinal, law, theology and ritual differences. Some Sunni doctrine preaches hatred of Shia'ahs. Pakistan has a history of Shia'ah-Sunnis bloodshed dating back to 1980's. Now everyday the Shia'ah community is targeted by the Sunni majority in Pakistan.
WE continue to pray for peace in this troubled land.
March 8th, 2013. We are well here in Pakistan. This afternoon we took a cab from the city of Hyderabad to Karachi. It is a two hour drive. Hyderabad is where Sana's parents home. We had a very comfortable stay there. Our grand daughter Maryiam was very happy to see us. Now Myra and I are sitting at the airport waiting for our flight at 4:00p.m. for Islamabad to visit Myra's aunt's home town. (she recently died). She has several cousins waiting for us there. We really rested well at Sana's home. They were so kind to us and we enjoyed every minute of their hospitality. I have sent you my travel log till Feb. 25. Now in Islamabad I shall send you my travel to Pakistan. For the last three days I was involved with the Diocese of Hyderabad. Bishop invited me to hold a clergy retreat and I also visited two Muslim saints shrines in this area for interfaith dialogue. Myra joins me to send our love and best wishes.
March 12,2013: I spent thee days studying at the Christian study center at Rawalindi-Pakistan. I am studying the common spirituality of love and peace between Christian and Muslims. I also spoke there at an inter-faith conference.
March 13, 2013: At St. Andrews church Rawalpindi. Rev. Burt Paul and Patrick studied together from 1972-1976 at Lahore Divinity theological school. It is a reunion after thirty years.
March 18, 2013: PEACE AND TRUST: BASIC INGREDIENTS FOR DEMOCRACY On March 9th hundreds of angry protestors turned into arsonists and attacked 160 Christian houses and 80 shops - just a day after allegations of blasphemy were levelled against a Christian man in the Badami Bagh area in Lahore. Police asked the Christian residents of Joseph colony to vacate their homes. All residents left their homes as Muslim militants threatened to kill them and burn their homes. On the next day the Saint Joseph Colony and its surrounding areas turned into a battlefield when an angry Muslim mob started torching the houses and shops. According to witnesses, the mob broke into the houses, looted them and burnt the remaining belongings in the streets.
Yesterday the Moderator of the Church of Pakistan The Rt. Rev. Samuel Azariah and The Governor of Punjab invited me to address this issue along with two Muslim religious leaders. There was a large gathering of Muslims and Christians and members of the press were invited to the Governor of Punjab's home. It is a colonial beautiful stately mansion. I will be forwarding my speech to encourage harmony among Christians and Muslims.
March 19, 2013: Anthony Aijaz Lamuel is my friend from college days. He is now serving as General Secretary of the Pakistan Bible Society headquarters. The Bible Society was founded in 1863. They recently celebrated 150 years of faithful service. It is in the heart of the old city of Lahore. The ministry of the Bible Society is based on the distribution of Scriptures in Pakistan. This year they have distributed 4,293 Bibles, 91 New Testament, 7,086 portions, and 27,344 selections. The Bible Society has also built a very fine museum of Biblical ancient copies of the Bibles, coins, pottery, maps and models of the Temple. It is a high quality Biblical museum. I give thanks to God for the ministry of the Pakistan Bible Society.
Peace and Trust- Basic ingredients for Democracy
I want to thank His Excellency Makhdoom Syed Ahmed Mahmood, Governor of Punjab and the Right Rev. Samuel Azariah, The Moderator Bishop of Church of Pakistan for their invitation to participate in this very meaningful and important seminar PEACE AND TRUST: BASIC INGREDIENTS FOR DEMOCRACY. The Prime Minister of Pakistan yesterday said, "History is made- One giant leap for democracy." Democracy is an evolutionary process and one never graduates. You must keep improving, aiming towards the best government of the people and for the people. I sincerely pray Peace and Trust will be the blocks on which a strong, prosperous democracy will flourish in the land where I was born and my ancestors bones have been buried for centuries.
The goal for democracy and trust building is a noble goal. It reminds me of a story I'd like to share with you. On February 27, 1976, President Richard Nixon met with Mao Tse-tung in the Forbidden city. Chairman Mao's health had deteriorated since their first meeting in 1972. He was a shell of the man he had been, but was still sharp mentally. A massive stroke had robbed him of his ability to put his thoughts into words. The charismatic communist leader who had moved a nation and changed the world with his revolutionary exhortations could no longer even ask for a glass of water. He was still a revered leader of nearly a billion people. As they spoke in Beijing he was six months from death. During their conversation, President Nixon said, that they must continue to cooperate in seeking peace, not only between our two countries but also among all the nations of the world. It was painful to watch Chairman Mao try to respond. His face flushed as he grunted out half words! His translator, an attractive woman, tried to put his grunts into English.
hairman Mao knew enough English to realize she had not understood him. He shook his head angrily, grabbed her notebook, and wrote out the words in Chinese. She read them aloud in English: '' IS PEACE YOUR ONLY GOAL?
President Nixon had not expected that question and paused briefly. He answered, "WE SHOULD SEEK PEACE WITH JUSTICE."
I am a Christian clergyman and my inspiration comes from the Christian Holy Scriptures to work as a peacemaker to seek justice among our human family.
I come to you with all humility and seeking and offering sincere prayers to join peacemakers, Muslims and Christians to work together for the peace. Peace can only happen if we and people of the land trust those who are laying a foundation to build a nation as a testament of peace- Salaam- Shalom by working together to give a chance through non violent ways as peace can be achieved with peaceful means. Violence begets violence. Archbishop George Carey has said, " Bombings, shootings, killings and all such violence serve only to extend and deepen conflict. Striving together to do justice-the justice that brings peace and reconciliation - is a harder way, but the better way. At such times we must look for models, and it seems to me that we all have one in the towering figure of Nelson Mandela. He could so easily have returned from Robben Island, after twenty seven years in captivity with grudges and scores to settle, and terrible violence would have been the probable result. Instead, he forsook vengeance, and reconciled his country from the injustice of its past. The result is a land where different communities are traveling together on the same road, certainly not without difficulty, equally not without hope."
While according to the Prime Minister, "Pakistan takes a giant leap for democracy" works of peace and trust building among faith communities are key building blocks to build a prosperous and strong democratic nation.
In the last three years I have visited the land of my birth. In 2009 while I was here 200 homes of Christians in Gojra were set on fire and seven members of the same family were burnt by the militants in the name of religion.
Now I arrived on March 1 and Shai community in Abbas town in Karachi lost homes and lives of innocent families. The recent attack on Joseph Colony in Badami Bagh area in Lahore is another example where 160 houses, 80 shops and several Vehicles of Christians were set on fire by hundreds of angry protestors after allegations of blasphemy were leveled against a Christian man.
I understand that the Government is not systematically wiping out Christians and non-Muslims but has shown to extend to help the victims of hate and discrimination.
All these forces of hatred and violence are a hindrance to take further giant steps for building strong and prosperous democratic Pakistan. I pray and beg people of all faiths and good will not to stay silent and spectators as the hate and militancy acts as a ticking bomb to weaken this great nation.
'Islam' from a root meaning is the same as the Old Testament word "Shalom" it means peace or reconciliation: reconciliation with God, of, course, and then reflected in God's community. Allah-the Almighty God says in the Holy Qur'an: "If God had not raised a group to ward off the others from aggression, churches, synagogues, oratories, and mosques where God is worshipped most, would have been destroyed." (Holy Qur'an 22l verse 40) The State, from the standpoint of Islam, therefore, must offer equal protection and security to all religions in this country because God of Islam enjoins not only tolerance of all the religions other than Islam but the Muslims are obliged even to defend the places of worship of the non-Muslims under their protection.
I pray you that we who are part of the living faiths communities to work together to build bridges between the alienated, discriminated, oppressed, persecuted and traumatized people of this land particularly those named minorities to give them hope that we all can live in peace in this land. I pray regularly for justice and peace for the people of Pakistan and for all those who suffer for the sake of their faith. The Creator's intention in creating people of all races and faiths is and has been always that we should live in harmony and friendship. I make no judgment but to plead for peace, justice, dignity for those who suffer and are dreadfully frightened for their daily survival. I also feel that hearts of people are broken and minds confused and souls tired after years of turmoil among our faith communities. Let us journey together on the road to build peace and trust. Give peace a chance!
Deep in my heart I do believe Peace shall overcome hatred and violence and together there can be a prosperous, just and strong democratic Pakistan a land of the pure and peaceful:
O Lord, make us instrument of Thy peace
Bp. Azariah said god is not the property of any religion
March 20, 2013: After leading a worhip service in a home in Gojra I was driven to a village named Satrah which is about 12 miles away from Gojra. This area is blessed with fertile land. As I drove to Satrah I observed many orchards of fruit, fields of sugar cane and wheat in display. I arrived at 7:00 p.m. at the home of Master Saleem a lay Evangelist and caretaker of St. Augustine's Church. Forty years ago my father Archdeacon B. M. Augustine funded this church to be built in this village. Satrah is a Muslim village. There are forty five Christian families live on one side of the village. The news of my arrival in the village spread throughout Christian homes. Dozens of people came to welcome me. Hospitality in Pakistan is big part of its culture. Every person who came to meet me was offered cold drink or cup of tea. I eat dinner with the elders of the Christian community in Satrah.
In this village my grandfather served as a pastor and my father as the Rural Dean and Archdeacon of Diocese of Lahore. He had visited this place numerous times. Ninety years ago my father had started memorizing Holy Scriptures, collects, morning and evening prayer, litanies, and service of the Holy Eucharist by heart. Growing up in the Augustine household I observed my father getting up at 4:00 in the morning singing Psalms, reciting passages from the Bible learned by heart for one and a half hours and then at 5:30 a.m. church bells would ring for Morning Prayer. My family except my mother most of the time joined him in church. My mother would stay in the rectory to get breakfast ready for us. It was a wonderful and happy time in my life to be nourished and nurtured in Christian faith. He also started a watch night prayer service in different parts of Gojra Deanery and in the Diocese of Lahore. He would invite clergy and lay evangelists to accompany him in a city or village church to conduct this service which shall begin at 9:00p.m. and end at 4:00a.m. The way this service is held - people will remain awake - you sing three hymns followed by three prayers from the congregation.
The leader who knows the Scripture by heart shall lead and others will open their Bibles to recite the Word of God. I was delighted to know that Master Saleem had printed all the passages in a booklet form. Those who can read shall recite the passages from the Bible together. It is an eastern tradition among Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs to recite their Holy Scripture and finish during the night. My father had divided this service into three parts. After finishing the third part around 3:00p.m. Then the service of Holy Communion begins. Let me share with you what we read in the first two parts of this watch night service so you to get an idea:
1. Three Hymns
The third part of this service is much longer.
We started our service at 9:00p.m. You will be amazed to know that there were more than 150 people inside the church and sitting outside the church. It included children, men and woman, old and young. Nobody complained or was bored. Those in attendance came with a spirit of expectancy to be blessed. It was a powerful spiritual experience for us all. I had started my journey from Lahore at 9:00 a.m. and had a full day. None of us felt tired but felt energized by the power of the Holy Spirit. After finishing the three parts of the watch night service we laid hands on demon possessed, sick, blessed water and oil for people to take homes and then the final act of this worship was the Holy Eucharist. Throughout the night the whole service was broadcast over the microphone from the church's tower. Muslims who are in majority in this village did not bother us. We finished our service before the Muslim Imam will give a call to prayer at 4:30 a.m.
It is truly a holy pilgrimage for me to walk in the footsteps of my father's spiritual ministry and heritage. After the service we went back to Master Saleem's home and were sipping cups of tea at 5:00 in the morning. We slept till 7:30 a.m. and dozens of people started coming to my room for me to pray for them. I sat on the side of my bed and prayed for each person. It is a powerful experience to feel how Jesus felt as the crowd pressed upon on him.
During the season of Lent in Pakistan Pastors visit every evening Christian homes for Lenten worship services. After my visit to my high school I was invited to the home of Mr. Percy Dass. Few other families had also joined them for evening prayer. The local rector of St. John's Cathedral Church invited me to lead worship and give a Lenten meditation. I was blessed to worship with these Christian families in Gojra.
rch growing up every morning I came to worship along with my father.
March 21, 2013: After two days of my visit to Satrah village I drove back to Gojra. St. John's Cathedral is where my father served more than thirty five years. It is in this church growing up every morning I came to worship along with my father.
March 22, 2013: After my visit to the Cathedral of Resurrection in Lahore I was driven to the outskirts of the Metropolitan city of Lahore in a slum area known as Kahlid Nagar. It is here a friend of mine Joel Bhatti has started a school for street children whose parents have no means to send them to school. Children had finished their final school term. I congratulated the children and teachers. I shared my own life story with these poor children growing up in a small town, learning my ABC's sitting on a dirt floor and how I kept pursuing higher education. It is possible for them to also achieve their dreams. Education is the key to getting out of the slum area. I also dedicated two newly built class rooms. Joel and his NGO also work to promote interfaith harmony and I blessed and helped to erect peace pole on the grounds of this school. I offered a small gift to purchase books and stationary for the new school year. Although it was a very long day and I was quite tired. At the same time I was happy to be among these poor children and see smiles on their faces as they each received a packet of small gifts and a hand shake as I congratulated them on their success for completing a school year.
March 23, 2013: I went to visit the Cathedral Church of Resurrection, Lahore, Pakistan. It is here I went to the Divinity School for three years 1972-1976 at St. Hilda's Deaconess House in Lahore. My father the Venerable B. M. Augustine served at this Cathedral and the Diocese of Lahore as the Archdeacon of the Diocese of Lahore. This is an historic Cathedral built in 1875. The Bishop's house is next to the Cathedral. After paying a visit to the Cathedral I went to meet with the new Bishop of Lahore the Right Rev. Irfan Jamil. Next to the Cathedral there is a large Cathedral school from grade 1-12 it is 100 years old. I went to this school for two years for higher Secondary Education.
Myra and I were invited by Myra's cousin for dinner at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Lahore. It was a light evening filled with fun and laughter. It was also an opportunity to meet relatives and friends we had not met for the last thirty years.
March 24, 2013: SUNDAY OF THE PASSION: PALM SUNDAY: Myra and I were invited to the newly built cathedral of Praying Hands of the Diocese of Raiwind in Lahore. The Bishop and the Dean had asked me to preach on this high feast day. It was a great honor for me. I wrote my sermon in Urdu after thirty years. This congregation is a vibrant group of people each Sunday filled with worshippers. We took a procession of Palms and went out on the street. There was a
large police force for protection as there have been incidents where Christians have been attacked by militant Muslims. We were raising shouts of joy with Alleluia as our witness to Christ the King. Singing psalms on the street in front of the Cathedral: "Blessed is the ONE who comes in the name of The Lord." It was such a joyous procession of the Palm Sunday. I loved every minute of worship here.
After Palm Sunday at the Cathedral of Praying hands in Lahore in the Diocese of Raiwind I went to visit the Bishop of Lahore the Right Reverend Irfan Jamil at his residence at the Cathedral of Resurrection in Lahore. Irfan was installed as a Bishop of Lahore three months ago. This is the oldest and senior most Diocese of the Church of Pakistan. He follows a Bishop who was in office for thirty three years. When I was going to college in Lahore I met Irfan who was then a student leader in the Intervarsity Student group. Myra also knew his wife from her college days. It was a happy reunion. Irafan is known in the church for being a good pastor with an evangelical zeal and a man of prayer. We pray for God's blessing on his episcopate....
March 25, 2013: I visited my Father's grave at the cemetery in Lahore and offered prayers.
March 26, 2013: Dinner with Commander Matthews and his wife Mrs. Matthews and their daughter at the Army Defense Club. It was a very posh place with beautiful gardens and good food. We enjoyed our evening with the Matthews family. Their daughter is a young director in a Fashion Design industry. During our visit in Pakistan we have met many highly educated young ladies working and leading businesses in different walks of lives. Mrs. Matthews is the head of 200 private City Schools. They have also schools in Dubai, Maylasia and in few parts of Africa. The elite of Pakistani Society sends their children to these CIty Schools. A Christian woman manages a large corporation and Myra's sister-in-law Kalsoom in whose house we have been staying for two weeks is another executive in the company to assist Mrs. Primrose Matthews.
April 1, 2013: We left Lahore, Pakistan by car. We were in Pakistan for one full month. It was a very busy time preaching, teaching, visiting friends & attending dinner parties. Crossing the border on foot from Lahore Wagha in Pakistan t to the Atri Indian side is quite an experience. Historically there is great enmity between India and Pakistan both nuclear powers. We were the only couple this afternoon who crossed the border with a USA passport. The Bishop of Amritsar, The Rev. Pardeep Kumar Samantaroy had sent his land cruiser with a driver to pick us up. Myra and I asked the Bishop's staff to take us in to the Golden Temple built in 1500 A.D. It is the holiest place for the Sikh religion. There are thousands and thousands of devotees who visit this holy
place every day. All of these people can eat and drink tea, water there. They have a large kitchen where hundreds of volunteers cut vegetables, bake bread & wash dishes every day. Others keep the floors clean!
There is very little paid staff mostly volunteers. Families volunteer where you remove your shoes in the depository. They shall polish your shoes when they return. I find here a great spirit of service (diaconate) to make all welcome those in this holy place. We were blessed to experience a great spirit of devotion and peace inside the Golden Temple. This was part of our holy pilgrimage and were blessed to visit Golden Temple.
In the evening Bishop Samantaroy and his wife Rev. Lily Samantaroy took us out to a very fine restaurant for dinner. The Bishop and his staff made us feel welcome. We are grateful for their gracious hospitality.
We are staying at a guest house at Alexandra High School of the Church of North India. This is where Myra's mother Dorothy Maluka went to Junior and High School in late 1920's.
April 2, 2013: The Bishop of Amritsar rented a car for us to visit the Christian Medical College Ludhiana started by a missionary lady Doctor Brown in early 1900. In the early days, she lived in a tent to start this great institution. Today it is one of the largest medical schools in India. Myra's mother was born there to a Sikh family. The father of her mother refused to take her home as he claimed that his wife should have given birth to a son. Dr. Brown gave this child to a Christian couple Maluka Singh who worked in the hospital as they did not have their own children. This couple died while Myra's mother Dorothy was 13 years old. The matron of the Nursing School Mrs. Williams took Myra's mother to her home. She was raised in their home till age 16 when she graduated from High school. Then Myra's mother went to teacher's training school and taught in Patankot in a church high school. Myra's mother crossed the Indian border to get married with Myra's father Nazir Samuel in Pakistan. After getting married to Myra's father she could not go back to India as her husband served in the Pakistan Air force. Myra always wished to go to Ludhiana, India to visit the birthplace of her mother. As a Pakistani national it was not possible to travel to India. Finally after 62 years she was able to visit the Christian Medical College on her USA Passport. Although the old landmarks had changed, the chaplain of the college took us around and we visited the Church Missionary Compound where the staff of the hospital lived. In the early days of her mother she went to Ewing Memorial School adjacent to the Hospital. Following is the picture where Myra's mother went to school in her first four grades.
April 3, 2013 at 9:a.m Bishop Samantaroy of the Diocese of Amritsar invited me to join a team of 12 Australians of the United Church of Australia for morning devotion at the Diocesan office. I gave a meditation and then led the prayer. Bishop Smantaroy has built a very good team to work with him. He delegates well and receives great support from his staff.
April 4, 2013: Former Diocesan Bishop of Amritsar the Right Reverend Anand Chandu Lal came to meet us from Simla which is a very beautiful mountainous area about 7 hours away from where we staying. I met Bishop Chandu Lal in 1998 at the Lambeth Conference at Canterbury, Kent, UK. My mother was friend of Chandul Lal's family. It was a great reunion after many years.
April 4, 2013 11:00 a.m: Bishop Samantroy and Bishop Anand Chandu Lal invited me to go with them to dedicate St. Thomas Church in Talwandi Rama Village. We also had 12 members of the United Church of Australia accompanying us. I was asked by the Diocesan Bishop to preach before the dedication of the new church building. In this village they had a small church for 100 Christian families. The new church will have space for this congregation to meet inside the church for worship. This village is about an hour and half away from Amritsar. I was told this village has a rich tradition that before go to work they come to pray in the early morning inside this church building. There is no doubt that this is a vibrant living community of faith. It was an honor for me to stand among them to proclaim the Gospel.
April 6, 2013: Myra and I flew from Amritsar
to Delhi. In Delhi we are staying at the headquarters of Church of
North India (CNI). The CNI is group of six churches which united on
November 29, 1970. Following churches are the members:
Yesterday I had a meeting with the Secretary General of the CNI Mr. Alvin Masih. There were 3 Canadian Members of the Parliament there to meet with him. They were there to discuss the rights of the Christian and Muslim lower caste. Hindus and Sikh belonging to lower casts have been granted some special privileges but Christians and Muslims are not included on the list to get help from the government. The Secretary General on behalf of Muslims and Christians has started a campaign to ask the government of India to grant the same help and privilege to both Muslims and Christians. The Mission statement of the CNI speaks for justice and equality for all God's children.
The Church of North India as a United and Uniting together is committed to announce the Good News of the reign of God inaugurated through death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in proclamation and to demonstrate in action to restore the integrity of God's creation through continuous struggle against the demonic powers by breaking down the barriers of caste, class, gender, economic inequality and exploitation of the nature."
The General Secretary is traveling today to Gujarat-India where 210 non-denominational congregations will be unified into the Church of North India which is ecclesiastically episcopal. They expect 14 thousand Christians to gather under a large tent for this historic service of unification into one church.
Last night the General Secretary, Mr. Alvin Masih and his wife Bimla Masih invited Myra and I to their home for a very delicious Indian dinner and lovely evening. We feel at home as CNI staff in Delhi have warmly welcomed us. Of course, this is the beauty of the body of Christ that you walk into it as a stranger and come out with a sense of belongingness. Praise God for such a blessing!
April 6-9, 2013 We flew at 6:30 a.m. from Delhi to Calcutta (new name for Calcutta is Kolkata). The Bishop of Calcutta the Rt. Rev. Ashoka Biswas had sent two of his staff members with his car to pick us up from the airport. We were brought to the Diocesan school named St. Thomas High School. It is situated on a campus of 23 acres in the heart of Calcutta. It has both girls and boys High schools. In Girls school there are 2500 girls and on the boys side there are 2300 students. Both schools have separate boarding schools, infirmary and full time medical staff. These schools have been providing education for 200 years in this area. A great number of students are Muslim. We were told that parents are mostly illiterate or have very little education. At times they become very difficult to deal with. These schools provide great witness in the heart of the Bengali Muslim community. Myra and I were so happy to learn about the ministry of St. Thomas' Schools. We were given a very warm welcome and were provided a guest house to stay on the school campus.
There are few surprises in my life and of course one was waiting for me on the campus of St. Thomas. In this picture, the person on the left is Charles Ringrow, development officer of the Diocese of Calcutta, next to him is Mr. Gosh, Principal of the Boys High School, then Myra and next to Myra is Mrs. Mukerjee, Principal of St. Thomas girls school. As we arrived at St. Thomas School, both Mr. Gosh and Mrs. Mukerjee offered great hospitality in welcoming us to Kolkata. I asked Mr. Gosh if he belonged to west Bengal. He replied, " his family is from Rawalpindi, Pakistan." Mr. Gosh's family moved from Pakistan side to India at the time of united India before the partition in 1947. He did not know anybody any more in Rawalpindi-Pakistan. I told him that I used to be the Rector of Christ Church Rawalpindi and his Uncle Gosh who remained in Pakistan at the time of Partition was a member of my parish in Rawalpindi. We immediately struck a cord of friendship. Then I asked Mrs. Mukerjee if she comes from the family of the late Anglican Metropolitan of India, Burma, Pakistan and Ceylon. She said that her husband comes from Metropolitan's family. We had a very interesting conversation at lunch. Calcutta is almost 2800 miles or more from where I was born in the north of India in West Punjab. Our culture, language and even food is different. Being part of the Anglican Communion is a great blessing. I was not a stranger anymore but a member of the household of the Church of Jesus Christ. Charles Ringrow shared with me the printed itinerary of our visit to the Diocese of Calcutta. The next day was Sunday and I spent most of my evening preparing my sermon to preach at St. James Church in Kolkata. In 1958 on Ash Wednesday my father The Venerable Archdeacon B. M. Augustine preached a sermon from the same pulpit. I still have a hand written copy of his sermon in my office preached in English. I was really looking forward to standing in the same pulpit where my father stood in 1958. Myra and I prayed together tonight and thanked God for my Father's ministry and for an opportunity to be invited to preach on the second Sunday after Easter. I was so excited about this opportunity that I did not sleep much tonight. Myra and I both felt the presence of my father with us. He was truly a man of God and led a very prayerful saintly life. I give thanks to God for such Godly heritage.
VISIT TO DIOCESE OF CALCUTTA:
The Court of Directors of the East India Company addressed a circular to the University of Oxford and Cambridge to appoint the First Chaplain in India and to the East. It said, "The East India Company has resolved to endeavor the advance and spread of the Gospel in India and the settlement of an orthodox godly Minister such as one may instruct and teach the people, that shall be committed to his charge in building up in the knowledge of God and faith in Jesus Christ." Later it was in the end of May 1814, a "Bishop' See" to be called "The Bishopric of Calcutta" was considered, subject to the archiepiscopal See of Canterbury. The Diocese of Calcutta by the act
of the British Parliament extended from Delhi to Cape Comorin, and from the river Indus to the mouth of river Ganges. In fact the entire India, including Burma constituted by and large, the Diocese at this period, which extended as far as the Straits settlement including the island of Ceylon and beyond to Borneo, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania and partially Cape Town and China (Resonance of Church Bells by Col. Parvez Andrews).
While I was visiting Rawalpindi- Pakistan on March 10-17, I paid my visit to the Christian cemetery in the cantonment to honor our dead relatives. As one enters on this hollowed ground you will notice a white marble raised tomb of the Metropolitan of India and Bishop of Calcutta, the Most Rev. Daniel Wilson(1835-1858). He had come this far to lay foundation of Christ Church in Rawalpindi then India. He got sick with severe dysentery, died and was buried here. Prior to moving from Rawalpindi- Pakistan to the United States I was the rector of Christ Church founded in 1850's by the Metropolitan of India.
Daniel Wilson was a man of great courage, full of evangelical fervor and man of intense spirit of prayer. In 1835, he was noted for calling India's caste system "a cancer". He was a great spiritual leader, a visionary and a true missionary. He saw on the horizon a mass movement of people coming to Christ in India. He wrote in his journal in 1838, "What is all this? What is God about to do for us in India? Thousands of souls seem to be making their way up from the shadow of death to the fair light of Christ; or rather, as we hope, are about to be translated from darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son!"The Bishop himself baptized quite a number of these converts. The Diocese of Calcutta has such historic significance in the Anglican Communion. I was so excited to be here. The Rt. Rev. Ashoke Biswas and his Vicar Rev. Mohante had invited me to preach on Sunday April 7, 2013 the Second Sunday of Easter at St. James Church. My father the Venerable Barkat Masih Augustine while studying at Bishop's College in Calcutta preached a sermon from the pulpit of St. James Church on Ash Wednesday in 1958. It was great honor for me to stand in the same pulpit and serve Holy Communion to the faithful from the High Altar, a beautiful piece of work executed in white marble, is ornamented with an elaborately carved panel depicting "the Last Supper" which is flanked by two small panels in grey marble intersected with six slender columns in red and grey. It is a beautiful historic Church founded in 1858. This majestic church bears testimony to over a century of fellowship and devotion held within the precincts of this sanctuary of God. After the service Myra and I were warmly welcomed at the coffee hour and then entertained by the Vicar to a very nice Indian curry lunch.
Sunday the April 7th, 2013: Across St. James Church is the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity. It is here mother Teresa founded her Mother House. After lunch Myra and I were taken by Thomas Ringrow to visit the Mother's House.
It is here Mother Teresa lived and now buried. Charles Ringrow, development officer of Diocese of Calcutta took us to visit sisters of Charity and pay our respect at the tomb of Mother Teresa, Charles is adopted as a son by Sister Gertrude, the senior most sister after Mother Teresa. Because, of Charles Ringrow we were able to meet with several Sisters of Charity.
Let me share with you the Prayer to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta prayed each day of the Novena:
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, you allowed the thirsting love of Jesus on the Cross to become a living flame within you, and so became the light His love to all. Obtain from the Heart of Jesus (here make your request). Teach me to allow Jesus to penetrate and possess my whole being so completely that my life, too, may radiate his light and love to others. Amen.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Cause of Our joy, pray for me.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Pray for me.
HOLY PILGRIMAGE - ST. GEORGE'S CATHEDRAL JERUSALEM- APRIL 18, 2013
We arrived here in Jerusalem yesterday afternoon from Istanbul- Turkey. We rested well at St. George's Guest House. It is located in a large compound of the Anglican Cathedral. The building of the Cathedral Church of St. George's and the Cathedral close was begun in 1891. The Cathedral was consecrated by the Bishop of Salisbury, UK in 1898. The Pilgrim Guesthouse where we are staying was established in 1923. Today, along with the Cathedral Church of St. George and Pilgrim Guesthouse, the site houses the Bishop's residence, the Diocesan offices, and St. George's College, a residential education centre offering courses on the Holy Land to lay and clergy alike. We started this morning our Holy Pilgrimage of the Holy Land from St. George's Cathedral. .
GARDEN TOMB JERUSALEM, APRIL 2013 We walked this morning on Nablus road to go to the Damascus Gate to enter into the Old City of Jerusalem. Our first stop was at the Garden Tomb where some believe Jesus' body was buried and resurrected from this site. Myra and I are standing in front of the empty tomb. There were many groups from Malaysia, India, France, Russia and United States offering worship at different areas of the Garden Tomb. We joined a few in prayer.
Calvary (Golgotha) in Church of the Holy Sepulcher- April 18, 2013
It is also known as the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher or the Church of the Resurrection by the Eastern Christians. This site is venerated as Golgotha (the Hill of Calvary) where Jesus was crucified and it's also said to contain the place where Jesus was buried. It is considered to be the most holy pilgrimage destination for a Christian pilgrim. After our visit to Garden Tomb we entered through the Damascus Gate to walk through the ancient narrow street to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Myra and I are standing in front this holiest site with the Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem
On the South side of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a stairway climbing to Calvary (Golgotha), traditionally regarded as the site of Jesus' Crucifixion and the most lavishly decorated part of the church, which contains THE ROCK OF CALVARY (12 Station of the Cross). The rock can be seen under glass on both sides of the Altar, and beneath the Altar there is the most visited site in the Holy Sepulcher. Myra and I both knelt under the Altar and put our hands in the hole where it is believed the Cross of Jesus was held in the rocky ground.
On the left side is a statue of Blessed Mary, believed to be working wonders (the 13th Station of the Cross) where Jesus' body was removed from the Cross and given to the family.
Beneath the Calvary are two chapels. On the main floor, there is the chapel of Adam. Tradition describes Jesus was crucified over the place where Adam's skull was buried. Theological significance that Jesus is the second Adam. The rock of Calvary's crack is seen through a window on the Altar wall. The crack traditionally being said to be caused by the earthquake that occured when Jesus died on the Cross. (WIKIPEDIA)
In the center of the church is the Rotunda. In the center of the Rotunda is the Chapel called the EDICULE, which contains the Holy Sepulcher itself. The Edicule has two rooms. The first one holds THE ANGEL'S STONE, a fragment of the stone believed to have sealed the tomb after Jesus's burial. The second one is the tomb itself. Myra and I both went inside to kneel and pray. There were hundreds of pilgrims standing in line waiting for their turn to go inside to pray. There was a large group of Muslims from India belonging to Bori sect of Islam. They had great devotion for this holy place. This was a new experience for me.
THE STONE OF ANOINTING- APRIL 18, 2013
Just inside the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the stone of Anointing, which tradition claims to be the spot where Jesus' body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea. Some also believe that it is the 13th Station of the Cross, which others identify as the lowering of Jesus from the Cross and locate between the 11th and 12th Station up on Calvary. The lamps that hang over the stones are contributed by Armenians, Copts, Greeks and Latins.
The first act of the pilgrims in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is to stand or kneel in devotion at the Stone of Unction or Anointing and pray. We observed many pilgrims put their rosaries, crosses or other religious artifacts on the top of the stone and pray. Myra and I both knelt on our knees to kiss the stone and pray. After our prayer Myra had a very powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit and felt the presence of the Crucified and the Risen Lord. We both held hands and thanked God for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Many names of our friends, Diocese of Eau Claire, for our new Bishop Jay Lambert, Church in Sudan, Church in Kenya, Dioceses recently visited (Canterbury, Raiwind, Lahore, Faisabad in Pakistan. Dioceses visited in Amritsar, Delhi and Calcutta- India, for Bishop's College Calcutta, Sisters of Charity in Calcutta and schools in the Diocese of Calcutta and Amritsar, for parish family by name and for family members by names -prayers were offered as our intercession standing under the Cross of Jesus. It seems our circle of friends in the Anglican Communion is ever widening. We stayed at this holy spot for more than an hour as we were spellbound and kind of having a holy religious experience which cannot be described in words. We praise God that we believe in the living and risen Lord. Prayers were offered for our parish, friends and families while lighting candles.
Walking the Way of the Cross- VIA DELOROSA - APRIL 19, 2013 Every Friday at 3:45 Franciscan Friars lead the procession to walk on the Via Delorosa. Via Delorosa literally means "The sorrowful Way." It is the traditional route in Jerusalem which Jesus traveled on the day of crucifixion from judgement seat of Pilate, also called the Praetoruim (Matthew 27:2-26) to the place of his crucifixion on Mount Calvary. The Via Dolorosa is now marked with Fourteen Stations of the Cross. Far as long as Christians have been coming to the Holy City, they have walked the last path of Jesus. It is told that at least for the last 1000 years it is the same way visitors walk today.
There were Franciscan Friars who led the liturgy of the Stations of the Cross in five languages. There were at least five hundred pilgrims who walked together on the "Via Delorosa" and we finally completed this sacred walk inside the Church of the HOLY SEPULCHER. Our own observation was that the streets were very noisy. As we started the liturgy at the first station
there was a mosque next door. The Imam gave a call to prayer as loud as he possibly could turn up the volume of his microphone speaker. We were disappointed as there was no respect for Christians who had walked on Via Delorosa for the last 1000 years. In this age when we are engaged in inter-faith dialogue and mutual respect for each other there should be a better way to live in harmony. It was the same way Jesus would have experienced it. It was the Passover Week. Jerusalem was bursting at the seams with Pilgrims. Many would have looked away for fear of the Romans. Myra and I tried to focus on the suffering of our Lord. We were truly blessed to share this walk with other pilgrims. On the Via Delorosa we offered prayers for our families, friends, members of Christ Church, La Crosse, Diocese of Eau Claire, and the Dioceses we visited in Pakistan and India.
APRIL 21, 2013 - PREACHER AT ST. GEORGE'S CATHEDRAL JERUSALEM The Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, The Bishop Of Jerusalem and the Very Rev. Hossam Nauoum, Dean of the Cathedral invited me to preach at St. George's Cathedral at 11: 00 a.m. The Cathedral was packed with pilgrims from many countries. There were Australians, Canadians, British, Americans, South Africans and Palestinians Christians known as the Living Stones of Palestine. After the service Rev. Canon Bill Broughton who has been in Jerusalem since 1956 invited us to lunch. Marion Jadon an English lady married to a Christian Palestinian and her daughter Elizabeth who practices law in London also joined us. Rev. Broughton orginally comes from Christ Episcopal Church, San Diego, California. He is 85 years old and still serves here at the Cathedral. He is an historian involved in excavation projects in the Holy Land. We had a lovely afternoon.
April 22, 2013 - GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE, JERUSALEM Just above the Kidron valley at the foot of the Mount of Olives stands the Garden of Gethsemane. The garden was identified as early as the 4th century CE as the place where Jesus prayed and was betrayed by Judas and was arrested. The actual age of the trees inside the garden ranges from 300 years to as many as 2300 years old. The spectacular Church of All NATIONS also known as the Church of the Agony was built in 1924. Myra and I are standing in front of a 2000 year old Olive tree.
CHURCH OF ALL NATIONS The spectacular church of All Nations also known as the Church of the Agony was built in 1924. As with conscriptions from across the world. As with the Church of the Dominus Flevit, the All Nations was designed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. The traditional rock of the Agony lies in front of the main Altar. the beautiful facade of the Church contains of an enormous mosaic, which is actually one of the Church's most memorable features. After visiting the Garden of Gethsemane we went inside the Church of All Nations to pray.
CHURCH OF NATIVITY - BETHLEHEM - APRIL 22, 2013 The Church of the Nativity lies in the center of Bethlehem of Manger Square. It is one of the oldest working Churches in existence today. The first Church was built by the Roman emperor Constantine back in the fourth century A.D. over the Grotto where Mary gave birth to Jesus. Constantine and his mother Helena, built a magnificent and majestic church adorned with beautiful marble mosaics.
Later during the sixth century, the Byzantine emperor Justinian built
a new and even more intricate church on the same spot. During the
Persian invasion in the 7th century the Church was spared destruction.
By the 11th century the Crusaders raised their flag above the Basilica
and renovated the Church. The Church of the Nativity today stands in the
Middle of Manger Square and is essentially the same as when re-erected
by Justinian with some additions from the Crusader period.
Myra and I visited the Church of Nativity this afternoon. The grotto is the Church's focal point. A silver star is set in the floor over the spot where Christ is said to have been born. In 1852 the shared custody of the church was granted to the Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches. The Greek caring for the Grotto of the Nativity. During our visit there was evening Orthodox liturgy was being offered.
CHAPEL OF THE ASCENSION - APRIL 22, 2013 The First church was built some time before 392 CE by Polmmenia, a wealthy Roman woman. It was later destroyed in 614 CE during the Persian invasion and then restored again by Modestus. The present octagonal form dates back to the time it was restored by the Crusader in 1102 when several alterations were actually made to the site. Today the custodians of the site are Muslims as the site was granted to two followers of Salah Edin back on the 12th century.
There is also a small mosque and minaret at the entrance to the site which dates back to 1620. The actual Crusader Chapel, whose main features of the crusader Chapel which guests visit today, preserves the main features of the Crusader building.
Myra and I visited it today. It is the place from Jesus ascended into heaven.
Mount of Temptation - Jericho West Bank April 23' 2013
Monastery of Temptation, Jericho
Jericho is the oldest inhabited city on earth estimated 8000 years old. It is here you have the Mount of Temptation, rising to a height of 350 meters above sea level and commanding a magnificent and panoramic view of the Jordan Valley. It is the site where Jesus spent forty days and forty nights fasting and meditating during the temptation of Satan, about 3 km northwest of Jericho.
A Greek Orthodox monastery was built in the 6th century over the cave where Christ stayed. This spot is another of the holy sites said to have been identified by Queen Helena in her pilgrimage of 326 AD.
"... Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" Matthew (4: 8-10).
It was quite a challenge for Myra to climb to the summit of the Mount of temptation. There is a chair lift to go on the top of the mountain. One has to still climb quite a bit up the bare, rocky slopes of Temptation Moutain. It is quite daunting, as the path leading to the Monastery of the Temptation is very steep and difficult to ascend. Myra had the temptation not to continue our sacred journey further. She prayed and asked God for a miracle. It is this week of April last year she was paralyzed and could not walk. The miracle happened with lots of prayers and a will power granted by The Lord. With lots of fear and trepidation she reached the top of the Mount and we truly spent time praising and thanking God for her miraculous healing. We sang songs and offered prayers for family members, friends and Christ Church parish family. A Greek Orthodox monk was very kind to let us stay there in the monastery. There are 30 to 40 caves on the eastern slopes of the mountain which have been inhabited by monks and hermits since the early days of Christianity.
After visiting the Dead Sea we drove to Jericho. It is an 8000 year old city still inhabited by the Palestinian people. Our first stop was at an old sycamore tree. Following the story told in the Gospel of Luke:
Luke 19: 1- 10. Zacchaeus the Tax collector
April 24, 2013 - Myra and I left this
afternoon from the central bus station to travel from Jerusalem to
Shknin town in Galilee. It took two and a half hours to travel by bus.
It is an old Palestinian town in Israel. Arab families here have been
living there for centuries. We are staying with Ali and Trees. They
have a beautiful home built next to the Olive tree farm on which many
fruit trees and herbs are growing. Our host Ali is Palestinian who has
seven brothers and eight sisters who live in this town. His wife Trees
is from Holland and has lived here for the last 22 years. Ali will
drive us in his car to visit Christian holy places. It is also nice to
live with a Palestinian family.
April 25, 2013 - CHURCH of the ANNUNCIATION
-NAZARETH - GALILEE
all over Galilee. Nazareth is famous as it's where Jesus' childhood was spent. In the ancient times this village suffered at the hands of the Romans during the Jewish revolt of Ad 66. It later flourished under Byzantines, and later became an important Christian site with the Crusader conquest of the Holy Land in 1099. After the resurgence of Muslim power in the 12th and 13th centuries, Christians found it increasingly dangerous to visit. Improving relations by the 18th century allowed the Franciscans to acquire the Basilica, and they have maintained a Christian presence here ever since.
Nazareth is a pilgrimage site. It is a fascinating town still with much of the traditional architecture. The present Basilica is built over the ruins of the original Byzantine church, and the successive crusader church. The Basilica is the focal point in Nazareth.
April 27, 2013 Nazareth Personal observation: Myra and I came to the boulevard where the church of the Annunciation is built. The first thing we noticed was right to the adjacent wall of the church there were Qur'anic verses published in big letters to condemn those who are non-Muslims. It is a holy place where hundreds of thousands of Christians come for Holy Pilgrimage during the year. The message is right in your face that non Muslims are condemned to go to hell. There should be some respect for the pilgrims. Such evangelism would not convert anybody to Islam. Instead it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Myra and I are staying with a Palestinian Muslim family in the village of Sahknin in Israel. This morning (April 27, 2013) I went to visit with my host Ali a few Christian families in Sahknin. There are 1000 Greek Orthodox living in this village for hundreds of years. One the elders of the Greek Orthodox clan here told me that Christians and Muslims have lived here for a long time in harmony like brothers. They have been building a church for the last 15 years. Muslim families have also contributed for building of the Greek Orthodox church. Tomorrow is the Palm Sunday for the Orthodox Christians. Ali will accompany us in the morning to worship with Greek Orthodox community in their church in Sakhnin.
April 28, 2013
Sisters of Charity we spent time in prayer and conversations to pray for peace for a world divided by religions, political ideologies, economic disparity, hate and terrorism. We also visited three Dioceses in North India. From India we flew to Turkey where we visited ancient Christian Holy places such as Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and Ephesus in Izmir area. I particularly called for an appointment with the Imam of the famous historic Blue Mosque. I sat for an hour alone on the floor of the grand and magnificent mosque and waited for the Imam to be available for our appointment. We met in his office in Blue Mosque. We talked about commonalities among our two faiths and to promote harmony and tolerance. At the same time the Imam was trying to teach me that Islam is the only Path to Allah. My message to him was that I have come with my message and prayer to extend a hand of friendship and peace. This was my pilgrimage to promote peace where there is hatred let me sow love. After an hour we departed on a note of tolerance. He called for me to meet the Grand Mufti of Turkey. Unfortunately he was not available that afternoon.
From Turkey we flew to Jerusalem where we have been visiting and praying at the Christian Holy places as part of our pilgrimage. Now we are in Galilee. The day before we visited the Church of Annunciation. Yesterday we visited an historic crusader city of Akko on the Mediterranean Sea. After this we went to visit the famous manicured gardens and Bahai Temple the holiest place for Baha’i where Bahaulla the founder of their faith is buried. It's followers believe that no religion has a monopoly on the truth, and aim to reconcile the teachings of all holy men. The ornate shrine houses, the tomb of Bahaulla (1817-92) who is the central figure of the Baha'i faith are considered by his followers to have been the most recent of God's messengers.
The gardens were closed till May 5. Every five years the Baha'i faith has an international gathering there. During this week there were 1100 delegates from 160 countries to elect nine members of their world executive committee. The manager of the gardens a young lady named Sameer was very kind to us and opened the main door for us to enter into the Gardens of peace and serenity. She introduced me to several delegates in the gardens. It was a special privilege granted to us. It was another effort I made as "ambassador of peace and reconciliation" to reach to people whom with I do not interact in my daily life. We continue our sacred journey. Tomorrow we shall worship with Palestinian Greek Orthodox Christians on their Palm Sunday in their church. On Monday as pilgrims we shall go to Sea of Galilee to visit holy places where our Lord walked, healed many, taught and called his disciples to follow Him. What a privilege we have been granted. Myra and I thank The Lord for such blessings. We also thank you all who have blessed our lives during our holy pilgrimage. Thanks be to God. Alleluia!
Outside of Jerusalem Akko (the historic Acre) is the most complete and charming old town in all of the Holy Land. After the Crusaders took Jerusalem in 1099, they seized Akko as their main port and lifeline back to Europe. This city was the Crusaders principal stronghold. Crusader Akko was destroyed by the victorious Arab armies in 1291 and what can be seen today is largely an 18th century Turkish town. Akko is right on the Mediterranean Sea. Crusaders lost this city to the Muslim army of Saladin at one point. It was regained by Richard the first, the Lionhearted." For most of the 13th century, with Jerusalem in the hands of the Muslims, Akko was the last stronghold of Crusaders. Neapolitan invaded Akko in 1799 but it was successfully defended by the ottoman governor. Akko is truly a beautiful city with a rich history with a lively souk (market).
We came back from Akko around 4: 00 p.m. We rested for an hour. Our host had purchased freshly caught fish from the Mediterranean Sea. On our return to Sukhnin Mr. Ali prepared our fish dinner. We sat under the olive trees and enjoyed our dinner.
April 28, 2013 CELEBRATING GREEK ORTHODOX PALM SUNDAY IN SAKHNIN , ISRAEL Sakhnin is an ancient almost 3000 year old village now a town with a 30,000 population. These are Arab Israelis. Ninety percent of the population is Muslim and ten percent is Christian. The orthodox celebrate Palm Sunday and Easter on a different date than the Latin and Protestant churches. This morning Myra and went to St. Mary the virgin Greek Orthodox Church. They have been building this church for the last fifteen years and it is still not complete. The service was held in their parish hall. The orthodox service continued for almost three hours. The parish invited me to stand at their holy Altar. He greeted me with great warmth. I had never been part of a full Orthodox liturgy on a high holy feast day. It was a very inspiring spiritual experience for Myra and I. In the Arab tradition men sat on one side and women sat on the other side. After the service of Holy Communion was over. There was a procession of palms and olive branches with a band which circled around the congregation twice. The Greek Orthodox priest invited me to join him in the procession. Many families brought baskets of gifts to share with fellow parishioners. It was a very moving and joyous/uplifting experience to worship here within their Christian community. The Christian presence in the Holy Land is constantly shrinking. In 195, 21 percent of the Palestinian Population inside Israel was Christian. Today it is only nine percent. In 2009, the West Bank had a Christian Population of 167,000 which was 8 percent. Gaza Strip had 10,000 Christians which is 0.3 percent. Palestinian Israel 123,000 which is 9.1 percent. Then the non-Arab Christians in Israel are 29,000 which is 0.4 percent. The total number of Christians in the whole Holy Land is 331,000 which is 3.0 percent.
An important document written by the Christian community is found on webpage Kairospalestine.ps
After the Palm Sunday service we were invited to the home of Dr. Ghantous Geries Ghantous, a prominent Arab Christian scholar. Dr. Ghantous's family has been living in Sakhnin for many centuries. He has written many books on comparative religion. His name has been recommended by Christian, Muslim and Jewish scholars for Noble Peace Prize. He presented me his book: Tolerance - Religious Brotherhood And Freedom. It was an honor to meet him and his family. He has his own compound where four of his sons and a daughter live with their families. All of his children are highly educated and well placed. We were invited to a lunch at his home. We loved our time with Ghantous clan.
The orthodox families fast during the season of Lent. They do not eat meat except fish. They avoid any luxury during forty days. Today is the beginning of the Holy Week. They celebrated Palm Sunday in churches and with marching band in the streets of Sakhnin. We were invited to Palm Sunday feast and after this begins a strict fast for all Orthodox Christians here.
April 29, 2013 - Sea of Galilee, Israel
We visited the Church of Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes.
The Church of the Primacy of St. Peter: The Church of the Primacy of Peter is a small Franciscan Chapel built in 1933 to mark the traditional place where Jesus appeared to his disciples for the third time after his resurrection ( John 21:9) and where he afterwards reinstated Peter with the words "Feed my sheep" (John 15-19).
A black basalt Franciscan chapel, is built on the site where Jesus Christ is said to have appeared to the Apostles after his resurrection. Myra and I found people from many nationalities holding services of Holy Eucharist in various spots. We met pilgrims from Sri Lanka, India, South Korea, Greece, Romania, Philippines and USA. After praying in the church, we went to dip our feet in the Sea of Galilee.
April 29, 2013 Capernaum: GALILEE REGION Capernaum is town on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where he began his ministry and called his disciples unto him (Matthew 4: 18-21). It was an important Roman town and one of the focal points of Christ's teachings in Galilee. It was also home to a number of disciples, including Simon Peter. In Capernaum's fascinating archaeological precinct there are surviving houses from the period, as well as a church, built over the ruins of what is said to have been Simon Peter's (St. Peter) house. Next to it are remains of a synagogue where Jesus might have worshipped. Some say it dates back to fourth century.
(Note: I have been writing about our travels, observations, and particularly taking you along with us during our holy pilgrimage in the Holy Land. I have shared with you what I have learned from history and guide books. Other times local people here have shared stories with me. I have tried to share my spiritual learning with my parish family and friends. Myra and I have often remembered you in our prayers. Blessings and peace of Christ).
MAY 1, 2013. BACK FROM GALILEE TO JERUSALEM
Myra and I arrived by bus from Galilee today to Jerusalem. The bus takes two and a half hours from Karm'iel, Galilee to the central bus station in Jerusalem. It is a comfortable journey by bus through the most attractive region in the Holy Land. This is the Promised Land of the Old Testament. We arrived at noon and took a Light Rail (tram) line which is very economical. Taxi fares are expensive.
So we arrived by Light Train near the area of St. George' s Cathedral Guest House to pick our luggage. This week in Jerusalem is the Holy Week of the Orthodox Churches. St. George's Guest House was booked prior to my booking last December 2012. There are pilgrims from all over the world. The manager in the guest house helped us to find a room in a hotel in the neighborhood. May 1-2 we are staying at Meridian Jerusalem Hotel. In this hotel there is a large group of Coptic Christians from Egypt staying to observe the Holy Week in Jerusalem. I was told it is the first after a long time 8000 Coptic Christians have arrived to participate in the festivities of the Holy Week. After lunch Myra decided to rest in our room for the rest of the day. It was a wise decision on her part to conserve her energy for our final day tomorrow in Jerusalem and of the three months of holy pilgrimage. However, I am a restless soul and I wanted to explore the Jewish quarters near Jaffa Gate (on foot that afternoon) they are part of the western area of Jerusalem.
Jaffa Gate is the busiest of the seven Old City gates. It actually is the main gate for traffic and pedestrians coming from modern West Jerusalem. This gate was constructed during the reign of Turkish ruler Suleyman the Magnificent in 1538 AD. The breach in the wall allow cars now to pass. This was made in 1898, in order to allow the visiting German Kaiser Wilhelm 11 to enter the city in his carriage. The name in Arabic, Bab el-Halil or Hebron Gate, means "The Beloved," and refers to Abraham, the beloved of God who is buried in Hebron.
The Jewish Quarter is most easily reached on foot via Jaffa Gate. Today it stands as a fascinating living mix of more than three thousand years of Jerusalem history. Most of this area has been reconstructed since 1967. One notices that this area is noticeably more orderly than the rest of the Old City. It is in this area I found the Ramban Synagogue. In AD 135 Jews were exiled from
Jerusalem by Romans. When Rabbi Moses Ben Nehman from Spain visited Jerusalem in 1267 AD, he was shocked to find only a handful of Jews in the city. He bought land near King David's tomb on Mount Zion in order to build a synagogue. It is believed that around 1400 AD it collapsed and then was built again in 1523 AD. The historians tell us it was the only Jewish place of worship in Jerusalem under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Then in 1599 the authorities banned the Jews from worship in this synagogue and it was turned into a workshop. It was restored again in 1967 to a place of worship. It was interesting for me to watch the ultra-Orthodox Jews (baredim) who rigorously observe the Judaic Law and study the Torah. Their life style involves an uncompromising rejection of modern life and all it's trappings. I tried to strike a conversation with them but either they were rude or not interested to talk to a non-Jewish person.
From Jaffa Gate one can also walk to the Western Wall in an open- air synagogue where groups gather daily to pray. I learned that some worshipers visit daily to recite the entire Book of Psalms. Others offer their prayers and petitions daily to God. One can also experience here the presence of all three faiths. From The area of south of the Western Wall you also see the dome of the Harem esh sharif , the third holiest place for Muslims. In this one small area one experiences the most important lesson of the three Abrahamic faiths.
After walking for almost two hours in the Old city I went outside of the walled city and took a taxi just a short distance to the City Hall area in the western part of Jerusalem. Here I walked into the Russian Compound where Russian immigrants have been coming to live since the 19th century. It is here the Russian pilgrims erected a Cathedral for services in 1864, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. This church is fashioned in an unmistakably Muscovite style, with eight drums topped by green domes. It is a beautiful place of worship built to the glory of God.
From here I further walked to a very interesting area known as Mahane Yehuda Market. It runs between Agrippas Street and Jaffa Road. It is one of the prime markets in a narrow middle eastern covered souk where you find a very colorful interactions of human lives. You have vendors of fresh fruits, fish, meat, spices, dry fruit, sellers of dairy produce, olives, clothing stalls, small jewelry stores, small cafes and sweet shops. I loved this place. I enjoyed my visit on foot to learn different parts of Jerusalem. I finally returned to my hotel around 8:00 p.m.
Jerusalem the old city has narrow streets and alleys. Most of the old city has to be discovered on foot. As a pedestrian you walk on cobbled stones and when they are wet they become slippery stone streets. It has been a challenge for Myra to walk in the old city. It is just a year ago that she had a ruptured brain aneurysm which left her for sometime paralyzed. It is a living miracle that she could walk as much as she did to visit these holy places as part of our holy pilgrimage. I give thanks to God for this. Your prayers are well appreciated.
MAY 2, 2013 - FINAL DAY OF OUR HOLY PILGRIMAGE IN JERUSALEM Jerusalem is filled with pilgrims because it is Holy Week for the Orthodox Christians. We took a cab to the new gate which leads into the Christian Quarters. This is another busy area lined with shops selling religious articles (icons, carved olive-wood crucifixes and rosaries) and Palestinian handicrafts. We stopped by a Christian Palestinian shop which supports 400 women in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Hebron, Beit Sauer and other Palestinian villages. It helped us to learn about their work to help many poor women to earn fair wages. I have ordered a white stole and chasuble with the Jerusalem Cross for our worship at Christ Church. The ladies here in this shop belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church.
We told them that we are on our way to the church of the Holy Sepulcher. We were informed that the entrance to the Holy Sepulcher is closed today as the large number of orthodox pilgrims from Greece, Coptic church, Ethiopian church and Eastern European Churches had filled the church to its full capacity to pray there throughout the day. We were advised to go through the Greek Patriarchate. We followed their advice and found that the door was opened as priest, Bishops and pilgrims from the Greek Orthodox churches had gathered inside the Patriarchate. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem was present in the great hall blessing the pilgrims. The first person we talked with was a Greek Orthodox Bishop from Illinois. He received us warmly and introduced us to the Patriarch. The Patriarch was so kind that he blessed Myra and I and presented us two beautiful Icons. It was a very moving experience to see so many orthodox Christians and to be in the presence of the Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The main entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was closed. A young Greek Orthodox from the Patriarchate accompanied and took us to the back door which opens into the Church. It was a clear sign from God that we were meant to be there to experience the worship and presence of our orthodox brothers and sisters in a very unique spiritual way. We had bought a packet of a hundred small Olive Wood Crosses for our parish family. They were blessed on the Holy Altar in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Words are not enough for me to express this holy and powerful experience.
The main entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was closed. A young Greek Orthodox from the Patriarchate accompanied and took us from back door which opens into the Church. It was a clear sign from God that we were meant to be there to experience the worship and presence of our orthodox bothers and sisters in a very unique spiritual way. We had bought a packet of hundred small Olive Wood Crosses for our parish family. They were blessed on the Holy Altar in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The words are not enough for me to express this holy and spirit filled experience.
After this I walked to the Coptic Quarters and Ethiopian Monastery to pray. I wanted more experience of this holy experience in Jerusalem. I walked to the Jaffa Gate to the Armenian Quarters to St. James Cathedral. There was a liturgy going on of the Holy Week and the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem in the Church of Holy Sepulcher and the Armenian Patriarch at St. James age. Thanks be to my parish family and friends who faithfully supported us with their prayers.
cathedral were Presiding. At the Orthodox Liturgies at the Holy Sepulcher and at St. James Armenian Cathedral congregations and pilgrims were standing in attendance with great reverence for hours. This evening I stood to attend these holy liturgies for at least six hours. I was not tired but felt spiritually renewed and empowered. After the liturgy the Armenian Patriarch blessed me. I left St. James Cathedral at midnight to come back to our hotel room. It was truly a day packed with visits to the holy places, worshipping with pilgrims, praising the risen Christ on a high holy hill of the Living God. Alleluia! We left our hotel room at 3:00 a.m for Ben Gurion Airport to take flight back home. Thanks be to God for these three months of blessed pilgrim