Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Written In My Heart

by By Diane Valentine, PhD, MTS

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Editor's note:    This post originally appeared in Voices from the Vineyard, found at https://alumni.saintmeinrad.edu/page/Voices

It's been said, "Memories are moments in time." What about spiritual moments, the ones that so indelibly give us signposts of God's presence?

The day after Ash Wednesday, with the imprint of ashes fresh on my forehead, I traveled to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage. I left behind my daily routines and Billy, my husband. He cannot travel, homebound since last year.

To help us stay connected, I sent him emails and photos. This communication didn't seem to be enough and I wondered how I could share the deep movements I was experiencing, thespiritual momentsthat drew me closer to God.

The inspiration came when our guide offered an olive wood cross for each pilgrim to carry during the Stations of the Cross. Immediately, I was impressed that this cross could go where Billy could not.

Our pilgrim group met at 5 a.m. and boarded the bus while Jerusalem still slept. There was a spiritual anticipation, one of identifying with the suffering of Jesus along the route millions of pilgrims had made. Along the ancient path were occasional lights, and the time of day gave an unobtrusive reverence for our journey while a drizzling rain splattered on the limestone pavements.

We gathered along the Via Dolorosa, prayed and quietly sang at each station, allowing the familiar words to impart the reality of where we were. I clung to the olive wood cross for Billy, to hold that "way of suffering" for him.

We walked under a stone arch marked "Holy Sepulchre" and crossed the courtyard to enter the church to reach our destination and finish the stations. No singing as we joined hundreds of pilgrims in the church, each group making its way to the various altars and sacred places.

We climbed the steps to Calvary and, as I knelt under the Altar of Crucifixion, I pulled out the olive wood cross and placed it there. My heart was full of emotion that God would send his Son to be a sacrifice. Words to describe were absent. I tucked the cross back in my pocket and felt as though Billy would receive a blessing from this symbolic act. This small cross had been to Calvary where Jesus said, "It is finished."

I thought I had completed this journey with the cross until I came to the Stone of Anointing. Almost involuntarily, I drew it out and laid it on the stone, the place where tradition says Jesus was anointed for burial. How humbling for our Savior, "becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8).

Suffering and death are not the entire story. Jesus rose from the dead and his tomb, the Holy Sepulchre, located in the Aedicule, is where our pilgrim group had Mass that morning. The cross left my pocket again and I laid it on the marble plaque over the tomb where I was privileged to kneel momentarily. "He is risen," my heart sang silently and hoped Billy would feel that exhilaration.

Being in the place of the empty tomb was the pinnacle of carrying the cross to places where Billy could not be. The small, simple, olive wood cross, made in Bethlehem, became a holy treasure to share with my husband, spiritual moments written in my heart.

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.


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