Bishop's Thought

by ben last modified 18 Jan, 2019 03:52 PM

From the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury

Christmas came twice for the curates who went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

We arrived in Bethlehem on 6th January, Epiphany for us but for Orthodox Christians it was Christmas Eve. We went through a check point in the security wall between Israel and Palestine by Banksy’s ‘Walled Off Hotel’. “O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie.”

In the Church of the Nativity there was a big service, the equivalent of Midnight Mass I suppose, broadcast on TV. In the shepherd’s fields we remembered the angels singing ‘Glory to God and Peace on earth’. In Manger Square, along Star Street from our hotel, there was a huge Christmas tree and a mosque with the Islamic call to prayer.

We stood on the Mount of Olives experiencing the famous view of Jerusalem looking towards the gold Dome of Rock. It is a holy place for Muslims, Christians and Jews. Now only Muslims are allowed on what was the Temple Mount. Christians walk the Via Dolorosa, the way of the cross. Jews pray at the Western Wall, part of the second Temple destroyed in AD 70. We read Psalm 122 - ‘O pray for the peace of Jerusalem’ and we did. In its peace lies the world’s peace.

In the north of Galilee we went to Caesarea Philippi. We were near the Lebanese and Syrian borders. The site had been called Banyas where there had been a temple to the god Pan who created confusion – panic – among the people. Peter declared Jesus is the messiah. Jesus said his followers are on the way of the cross. Who is Jesus and who are we?

We met pilgrims from around the world. In Cana, where Jesus at a wedding turned water into wine, we heard the prayers of Nigerian Christians that their country will become again a happy country. That is now my prayer for Brexit Britain.

Early in 2019, following in the way of Jesus, we pray for the peace of the world.

+Nicholas Sarum

Taken from our latest Grapevine. Page here; email archive here

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