Home

Saturday in Jerusalem

Michael and Roz insisted I do this!

Actually, I am only too happy to add my thoughts to Michael’s and Mark’s and Sr. Carol’s. This has been an outstanding experience! In addition to the obvious (or maybe not so obvious) value of a journey through Israel and the Holy Land, the trip has been planned with great precision and creativity by Roz.

This is my first trip with Roz and I must say it has been superb. Judy and I enjoy it immensely! Possibly the most gratifying (relaxing) aspect is being on “auto pilot” – having no decisions to make!!

More seriously, the trip has been both very enlightening and affirming – enlightening in the light (no pun intended) the trip has shone on the interfaith issues we are meeting in the College’s Abrahamic initiative, and affirming in showing that we are doing the right thing for the right reasons at the right time in our history. We continue and will continue to seek the right way!

The right way, however, certainly involves experiencing other people’s culture in the most immediate human way. This sheds an emotional light that cannot be experienced by simply reading – no matter how widely or deeply – about other faith traditions. For me, two examples shine forth.

First, placing a prayer for the health of my great-niece, a prayer for the well-being of my grandchildren and a prayer for the future of Notre Dame College in the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall) was a very moving experience. The obvious sincerity and emotional commitment of my fellow worshipers – almost universally but not entirely Jewish – was palpable. It was humbling! To be in the presence in this very holy place of people so deeply committed to their faith was a moving experience.

Equally moving was a Mass that Sr. Carol arranged for us to attend on Saturday evening at a Paulist monastery. It was quite moving for many of the same reasons my experience earlier that day at the Wailing Wall was so touching. At first, I thought a Mass at a monastery would be conducted in the company of monks. Not so; it was a Mass in Aramaic for the local Palestinian community. The attendees were very ordinary people from the immediate area – the south side of Jerusalem on the way to Bethlehem (I am not sure that geographically that is how they would describe it). Both the priest who celebrated the Mass, the two nuns who were welcomed into the order that evening and the parishioners were so welcoming to their American visitors.

As I said, the Mass was conducted in Aramaic; Sr. Carol, however, did read the Second Reading and the Gospel in English – so I had a tenuous but real understanding of even the homily. The power of liturgy shone through – even with the language barrier, we understood, shared in the mystery and the feeling of community! Communion was conducted by dipping the host in wine and placing it directly on the tongue. In an unexpected way, it took me back to the Latin Mass; in fact, at times, I recalled the Latin responses when my English was subsumed in the congregations’s Aramaic responses!

Most gratifying, however, and reaffirming was the humble but warm parish gathering after Mass. Since it was in honor of the two Sisters, we stayed for a bit of sharing – juice and honey cake and warm exchanges across the language barrier with our hosts. It was the quiet communal oneness that one hopes to experience all the time, but often misses.

As we were visiting, I noticed on a blackboard in the school hall one of my favorite quotations. The great Hebrew sage Hillel’s three questions – “If I am not for me, who will be? If I am only for me, what am I? If  not now, when?”

To read this quote in a Paulist monastery, after attending a Roman Catholic Mass conducted in Aramaic on the outskirts of Jerusalem on the same Saturday I prayed at the Western Wall and heard the muezzin call the Islamic faithful to afternoon prayers as I walked through the Christian quarter of Old Jerusalem, told me that Notre Dame College’s Abrahamic Center is on the right mission, at the right time in the right place – Notre Dame College, South Euclid, Ohio, in the second decade of the 21stcentury! Shalom!

Dr. Andrew P. Roth
President
Notre Dame College

The NDC travelers atop Mount of Olives in Eastern Jerusalem.

The NDC travelers atop Mount of Olives in Eastern Jerusalem.