By Kathleen Nichols
We shivered with cold and anticipation before dawn, gathered around the small rust-colored boat altar on the Magdala shoreline for a sunrise Mass. The crimson outlined clouds brightened as our voices proclaimed, ‘holy, holy, holy Lord!’. (Isaiah 6:3) They professed with us: ‘the Heavens and Earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the highest!’ (Mark 11:10) Mingled with morning birdsong over the Sea of Galilee, this ancient yet ever new cry for freedom and salvation rose up to God from the Holy Land.
The Holy Land extends throughout the Levant, and we traveled a good portion of it while filming for the upcoming Lenten virtual ‘Pilgrimage of Freedom’Pilgrimage of Freedom: from Egypt, into Sinai, and then on to the deserts of Israel and Jordan. We walked barefoot over the ‘holy ground’ where Moses removed his sandals before the burning bush. This is the place where the word ‘holy’ is used for only the second time in the Bible – theologically 26 generations after creation when, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested.” (Genesis 2:3). Exodus and the Ten Commandments are thus a new creation, a new covenant based on God’s saving presence with his chosen people. “I myself will go with you, to give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
Toward the end of our trek, I felt we personified the last part of the Song of Songs:
Who is this coming up from the desert
Leaning on her Beloved? (Song of Songs, 8:5)
Each one of our lives retraces the ancient Israelites’ route to freedom, following the desert experience of being formed into a Holy People. The Lord’s goal is to save us from slavery to sin, bringing us into the promised land of His loving rest. Our daily pilgrimage in the Covenant, with its Commandments and Beatitudes, is a path that makes us fully alive; it makes us Holy. Lent becomes a time to intensify our own Exodus journey of ‘leaning’ fully on the Lord, to be loved, and to love with the heart of God, the Holy Lord.