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Holy Land Pilgrimage

Baptism of the Lord at St. Catherine’s

January 15, 2019

This past Sunday, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we had the blessed privilege of assisting at Mass at St. Catherine’s Church—the local Catholic parish located next door to the Basilica of the Lord’s Nativity in Bethlehem.  Many things made this a most solemn and joyous celebration, but perhaps one of the most profound aspects of this Mass also presented a great difficulty to us pilgrims: namely, the Mass was said in Arabic, a language which none of us from Mundelein can speak or fully understand.

Yet, this language barrier did not present to us an insurmountable wall that made the Mass unintelligible.  Rather, as the words and sounds of an unfamiliar language rose up to God like incense, this cloud of an unfamiliar tongue became to us like those clouds which veil God Himself.  Such a language veil reminds us that, to a certain degree, we can understand the great doctrines of the Faith, but we can never wholly comprehend them.

Bearing this in mind, as we assisted at Mass in a manner unfamiliar to us, we did not understand the readings, some of the prayers, and certainly the common responses.  As such, we were made to fall silent before the great mystery of Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist, as we rightfully fall silent before the mystery of Christmas, or the mystery of Christ’s Baptism by St. John.  As we contemplated Christ’s Baptism and Christ’s great sacrifice offered to God for us in the Mass, we welcomed God into our hearts and spoke words to Him known only to Him and to us. What a blessed experience this was, an experience which allowed us to share in the humble silence of Our Lady and St. Joseph which they observed that first Christmas night—a night in which they saw and heard things that they could not fully comprehend, things that veiled God’s presence and majesty. Yet, in this silence the blessed hearts of Sts. Mary and Joseph cried out to God with shouts of joy as they beheld Our Lord Jesus Christ in the manger.  Yesterday, due to the cloud of Arabic words which rose up to God like incense, we silently beheld that same Christ who laid in the manger, as He was offered on the altar.

 

Andrew Buchanan

Diocese of Joliet

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