September is a month for celebrating two places of pilgrimage in the Holy Land. We recall the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem on September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. On September 8th we celebrate the Feast of the Birth of Mary at the Church of St. Anne near the ancient pool of Bethesda, not far from the temple mount.
Pilgrims to these ancient sites can face a dizzying array of archeology, history, art and devotion as guides hurry them through on their way to the next holy place.
The two feasts can bring perspective to these important pilgrim places. They can remind those who have been to the Holy Land of what they experienced there and prepare those who may be going for what they may find there.
Feasts and holy places are teachers of faith. We return to them again and again to learn what they teach. Like good teachers, they never run out of the wisdom of life.
Besides these two pilgrim places, what others in the Holy Land should we remember? Certainly in Jerusalem there’s Gethsemani where Jesus prayed before his death, the Mount of Olives where he taught his disciples, Bethany where Lazarus was raised from the dead, Mount Zion where he ate with his disciples before he died.
Beyond Jerusalem, there is Bethlehem where he was born, Nazareth where he was raised, Capernaum and the Lake of Galilee where he ministered, the Jordan River where he was baptized.
I hope to offer some reflections on the two September feasts in the next few days.