“I will take my place around your altar”
“My friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38)
Today, we were privileged to visit the ruins of the church where these words were proclaimed by St. Paul to the people of Antioch of Pisidia. As I was standing and looking around at the landscape that surrounds the ancient city in ruins, I was struck by the permanence of St. Paul’s words. They were the one thing that stood the test of time in this city. Great temples were built of marble, massive aqueducts were constructed, grand stone facades were erected, and yet the inspired words of the Holy Spirit, spoken through Paul, are all that remain.
The power of these words still transforms hearts today. Indeed, Jesus Christ has brought us the forgiveness of sins through his death and resurrection. Through him we have the chance to be in communion with him and the Father who made us for himself. Paul was so convicted in this and did not fail proclaim it throughout his life.
Along with the church, we explored the ruins of the old city of Antioch, which included a Roman Theatre, long roads made of marble, and the ruins of a massive Roman Temple erected for worship of Augustus. It was impressive to see the detail of the architecture up close. While we were in the Roman Theatre, we got to experience the beautiful acoustics of the space. The design of the theatre amplifies the voice of the speaker at the bottom for all those to hear in the seats above. We took advantage of the setting and chanted the Ave Maria.
The Roman temple also had its own profundity as it used to be a place of pagan worship where animals were sacrificed. Seeing the altar there in stark contrast to the altar we saw at the old Cathedral of St. Paul was something extraordinary. It deepened my gratitude for the true sacrifice we get to participate in at Mass. The temple altar left me uneasy and restless; with the altar in the church, I sensed the presence of Christ and felt compelled to prayer.
Today’s journey was filled with graced experiences of the missionary zeal of St. Paul. I pray that all of us will grow in our capacity to be led by the Spirit just he was and boldly proclaim the Gospel message by our lives. Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother and St. Paul, may the Lord grant us his peace.
-Francis Strong, Diocese of Peoria
Photo credits to Ryan Nooraee (Diocese of Rockford) and Thanh Ho (Diocese of San Jose) are the photographers for all of these pictures