Farewell to Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a holy city for the three world religions. There is no other place on earth where God is so remembered. Orthodox pilgrims from Russia in recent centuries have been one of the most significant groups of pilgrims in the Holy Land. Like centuries ago, each of them opens this earth in its own way.
Who can sleep last night in Jerusalem? The last days are always different from the first, and especially in Israel. The first day was a day of questions. Isn’t it early that I arrived in the Holy Land? Is it ready? Why didn’t I have time to read any of the books bought before the trip ?! And solid questions regarding those places where we visited.
Most of these questions remained unanswered, because the whole first day we, jumping over mud streams, fled somewhere in the heavy cold rain. They say that on this day we visited many places that we read about in the Gospel. But I don’t remember much. After all, yesterday I was doing something around the house, packing my suitcase, cars flashed habitually, people were worried at the airport. And today, in ten minutes, it should contain the feeling that I am standing on the spot where they crucified God, who became a man. Five minutes later – at the place where Christ was resurrected …
Every day he added a bright pebble to the mosaic of the overall picture. Here in Nazareth is the well where the angel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah. Here in the Cana of Galilee are those jugs in which Christ turned water into wine. Here is the cave in Bethany, where the dead Lazarus lay four days before he was resurrected. Every day, surprise grew: how much has been preserved from the Old Testament and from New Testament times!
Almost all Christian shrines are needed – temples, and around the minarets, the seething of Arab and Jewish quarters. Therefore, the pristine silence of Mount Tabor, on top of which Christ showed himself to his disciples in an unearthly radiance, was especially pleased. Now there are two monasteries – Orthodox and Catholic. We walked to the mountain on foot, chatting, picking Tabor acorns, instead of oaks growing on bushes, admiring the fertile valleys of Galilee. And Catholics rushed past in six-door taxis.
In the Orthodox Greek female monastery, three fat cats came out to meet us. Unlike nervous city cats, they sneaked up to us with such a thirst for communication, fawned so trustingly, as if they had no idea that there are people who are worth fearing.
On Lake Galilee, there is no need at all with the help of imagination to carry out a bulldozer clearing of the area from late layers. After all, the lake cannot be built up. Looking at it on a quiet evening from the terrace of the Russian monastery of Mary Magdalene, it is easy to imagine the apostles fishing in a boat and Jesus walking on the water.
In contrast to the water of the Dead Sea, hiding the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, the water of Lake Galilee seemed to me alive, unusual. The trip clarified not only the historical, but also the geographical picture. It turned out that the Jordan River carries the living water of Lake Galilee to the Dead Sea. The same Jordan River, in which Christ was baptized and whose water does not deteriorate in dishes for years. The Dead Sea absorbs this water and remains just as bitter and dead. So we indifferently absorb all the good that God gives us, and remain the same as before.
In such travels, not only monuments, but also living people warm their hearts. In ordinary life, you cannot meet so many good people in a year. It is unlikely that I will ever forget the old man in white, with a white donkey, whom I met on the slope of the Mount of Olives. How innocently he thanked Allah before taking the coin he deserved! I remember a Greek – a monk in the monastery of Grigory Hosevit, who was in such a hurry to warm up coffee for us that he heated the kettle with his hands on top, but still did not have time, we moved too quickly. And we captured Sister Siluan from the Russian Gornensky Monastery not only in photographs, but also in our hearts. In order to show us the monastery, this nun was torn off from some kind of housework, and she appeared, out of breath, in a soiled mantle. But very soon we stopped noticing this mantle, completely turning to the ears, and a few minutes later our women began to sneak away their tears stealthily. Not in mere words, but in the soul itself, this nun carried a joyful consciousness of God’s love for people. Such love, which understands all our weaknesses, gives us the opportunity to repent, is ready to forgive us and take in our father’s arms. It was this love that we were looking for here …
Last night I already knew that, although I was not ready, I came here not in vain. Now I better imagine how cold it was for Christ in the winter under the open sky, how lonely in the Garden of Gethsemane. I made new friends. But how much did not have time!
Apparently, my comrades had similar feelings. Because almost all of us at the last midnight in different ways came to the church of the Holy Sepulcher at the night liturgy.