During the month of October 2012, some friends from St. Barsaumo Church in Toronto, along with a handful of friends from Edmonton and a friend from Calgary, returned from their travel to the Holy Land being accompanied by Father Estephanos Issa. Everyone who embarked on this journey did so for a specific reason. Perhaps, with the intention of sightseeing or to have walked where history was made. Whatever the rationale was, each traveller reaped from the trip what he/she had sown into it. Certainly, to have travelled without a spiritual purpose would be a great loss. One would forfeit the opportunity to gain heavenly blessings made available by God. Our loving God awaits for us and He has much to give, if we but ask. We need to remind ourselves that to request spiritual things pleases the Father, Who has taught us through His Only Begotten Son, "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).

This in mind, it may be the trip was taken with a spiritual aim having been set. To be enlightened spiritually, for example, or having a deep need to "Hear counsel, and receive instruction" from almighty God (Proverbs 19:20). If this be so, one did not return with disappointment or regret. Why? In the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle is noted an essential Christian duty, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:1-2). By fulfilling these verses practically in one's life, is to receive blessings from God without whom no blessings can be obtained.

On a journey such as this, if one wants to be aware of the Lord's presence or to draw near to God, one will have to ask God to be "the beginning and the end" of all things (Revelation 22:13). A verse that sums up this particular idea is found in Psalm 37:4, "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Surely, God neither disappoints nor does He differentiate between persons young or old; poor or rich; uneducated or educated. God is ever faithful, "For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us" (2 Corinthians 1:20). To give to those who request of Him, with fervent hearts, knowing He is able to provide generously according to His great love and rich mercy.

Throughout the days spent in the Holy Land, one had many opportunities to experience the great things Christ did, for the sake of mankind, while on earth. And so, for those who did not travel with us, let us, now, travel together to get for yourselves a taste and a glimpse of the Lord's awesome love for every living soul.

Jaffa, biblical Joppa. It was an ancient seaport and today, is one of the oldest towns in Israel. It was from Joppa that the Prophet Jonah set out for Tarshish, in an attempt to flee from the presence of the Lord and from fulfilling the word of the Lord to go to Nineveh. From this place and this event, we see God's awesome love for this people who were more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons. Additionally, we see that God concerns Himself with the salvation of the mariners as well as the people of Nineveh because "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). In truth, God's salvation is not merely for the Israelites, rather it is for each and every human being who believes in Him, as it is written in the Gospel of St. John, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). A second verse that reveals God's will for the salvation of mankind is found in St. Paul's Epistle to Timothy where we read about God our Saviour, "who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4 NIV). From the story of Jonah, we can be grateful to God for His compassionate care and be thankful to Him for His gift of salvation. Another example of Joppa mentioned in the Holy Bible, is found in Acts Chapter 10. It speaks about Cornelius, a devout and God-fearing Gentile, who in accordance with what an angel of God said to him, sent men to Joppa to bring back Peter who was staying in the house of Simon the tanner. In this story, Cornelius and Peter each saw a vision. Peter's subsequent visit to Cornelius' home, in Caesarea, was for him to fulfill God's will to have Cornelius, his family, his relatives, close friends, and all who heard Peter's message baptized in the name of the Lord. In these two stories, we can learn from Jonah's delayed obedience to God and his lack of concern for the salvation of the Ninevites, compared with Peter's immediate obedience to almighty God and his sincere interest for the salvation of Gentiles.


The Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth. In this visit, one recalls the Angel Gabriel's announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God by the Holy Ghost. Throughout, the angel's statement, we realize the faith and trust that the Virgin Mary had in God the Father. As well, in her humility, she was able to discern the voice of God because of her knowing the Word of God. From this event, we can know the importance of reading God's Word and keeping it in our hearts. In this way, we will be able to trust the Lord all the more while allowing our faith in Him to increase.

The Church of the Visitation, Ein Karem. This church is believed to stand over the place where the Virgin Mary, being with child by the Holy Ghost, visited her cousin Elisabeth, who had conceived a son in her old age through a miracle from God. Here, in the house of Zacharias and Elisabeth, the Virgin Mary stayed about three months. Even though the Virgin Mary was aware that she had been chosen by God to be the Mother of God, yet in her selflessness she humbly came to serve her cousin without having been asked. From this visit, one discovers the necessity of serving God through others, whom He puts in one's path. Of course, one ought to remember that serving should not be taken lightly instead "serve Him in sincerity and in truth" (Joshua 24:14), "In holiness and righteousness" (Luke 1:75) and "acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28).

The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. It was here we were able to remember the glorious birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream proclaiming the purpose of Jesus' miraculous birth, "for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). In addition to, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matthew 1:23). What love...we should thank God for His presence among us and gratefully accept His gift of salvation.

The Shepherds' Fields. Here the humility of the simple shepherd's, who were merely watching over their flock, was blessed with an extraordinary appearance and announcement. As it was "the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them...And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord'" (Luke 2:9-11). In this place, the humble spirit of those shepherds was honoured and rewarded. They became the first to hear of the Saviour's birth and the first to make known the message of His salvation. From this place, we can learn to keep our hearts humble, before the Lord, for our almighty God is able to exalt and give grace to those who live in humility.

The Jordan River. This is where the baptism of our Lord Jesus took place. Indeed, the Only Begotten Son had no need to be baptized, yet here as in all deeds done by the Son, one witnesses His obedience to the Father's divine will. In visiting this baptismal site, one had the opportunity to step into the water as a symbol of renewing one's vow. As infants, the baptismal vow was made on our behalf, but now as adults, one had the blessing to actually understand for oneself the spiritual meaning of the gift of baptism, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38).

The Mount of Temptation, Jericho. Here occurred the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. As our Lord Jesus was tempted of the devil, so are we. As Christ resisted him, "Get thee behind Me, Satan" we ought to do likewise (Luke 4:8). In the Epistle of James we are taught, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). By submitting to God, our Father, and by resisting the devil we, too, will overcome and the devil will leave us. In having gone to the temptation area, we can be mindful of the need to know the Word of God, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (Psalm 119:11). And then, through knowing it, we can speak it against the devil when he comes to tempt.

The Marriage Feast in Cana of Galilee. It was here our Lord Jesus Christ did the first miracle -- the water that was made wine. This celebration reminds us of the significance the Lord placed on the mystery of marriage, given that He was in attendance. Moreover, it is essential to note that our Lord Jesus was called to the marriage. A needed lesson for those who are married and for those who are to marry, to invite our Lord and God to be a part of their marriage as its head, its foundation and all things in between.

The Sea of Galilee. Here was where the miraculous draught of fishes happened. The people were crowded around the Lord to hear the Word of God. Afterwards, the Lord said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught" (Luke 5:4). Simon answered the Lord and said, "Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake" (Luke 5:5-6). Through this event, we receive a valuable lesson that is, the necessity of hearing the Word of God. Then, upon hearing it the need to accept it with obedience and faith. In so doing, though we may not understand or make sense of what the Lord asks of us we can confidently be assured that in obeying we can reap various kinds of blessings in our spiritual lives.

The Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem. It was here where many being impotent, blind, halt or withered lay. In this place, was a certain man who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years. Our Lord, in His loving kindness, asked the man if he wanted to be made whole. Having answered, our Lord Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked" (John 5:8-9). From this site, one recalls the goodness and mercy of our Lord and God in granting health to this man. Whatever one's illness may be, one always needs to be aware that God almighty is the true Physician and that, according to His holy will, He is able to heal for He has said of Himself, "I am the Lord that healeth thee" (Exodus 15:26).

The Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha. This is where our Lord Jesus Christ taught the multitudes through the holy words found in chapters 5 through 7 in the Gospel according to St. Matthew. In this Sermon on the Mount, our Lord proclaimed great things among them: those who are blessed along with their accompanying reward; what was said by those of old time in comparison to the gospel of love upon which the Lord spoke; on how to do alms; teaching The Lord's Prayer; on the need to forgive in order to be forgiven by the Father; on how one ought to fast; on not being able to serve two masters "You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24 NIV); on the need to seek the kingdom of God as a priority; to not judge others; teaching to ask, seek and knock; to enter in at the strait gate; to beware of false prophets and an explanation of who is a wise man. And now, having visited this mount all these spiritually deep messages can be more meaningful not only to hear, but also to live by.

The Sea of Galilee. Here Christ stilled the tempest. Our Lord entered a ship followed by His disciples, a great tempest arose in the sea and the ship was covered with waves. The Lord being asleep was awakened by His disciples who said, "Lord, save us: we perish" (Matthew 8:25). The Lord replied by questioning their fear and faith. Then, the Lord arose and He rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm. Having done so, the disciples marvelled at the fact that the winds and the sea obeyed Him. From this incident, we can acquire a vital teaching and that is, He Who created the heaven and the earth is able to rebuke the wind and the raging of the water in whatever form it shows up in our lives. Like the disciples, let us go quickly to the Lord with whatever difficulty or hardship that comes our way. For we have His Word "call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me" (Psalm 50:15). Indeed, our Lord is ever present to grant us peace, quell our fears and increase our faith.

The Church of the Loaves and Fishes, Tabgha.
Here one recalls the compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ, in taking the five loaves and the two fishes and after giving thanks the little was blessed and all ate and were filled. This place and this miracle bring to mind the words spoken by our Lord, "For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world...I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger" (John 6:33, 35a). With these verses, we can recognize the need to be fed by the Word of God in our lives that we may not hunger in a spiritual sense.

The Basilica of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor. Upon a high mountain, before Peter, James and John, our Lord Jesus was transfigured. There, appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with Jesus. Then, a bright cloud overshadowed them and out of the cloud came a voice and said, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him" (Matthew 17:5). In visiting this place and from this command, we can keep close to heart God's earnest desire that we, too, please Him by hearing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Then, through keeping His words, we may live a true Christian life.

St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Monastery, Jerusalem. Here in the upper room where our Lord Jesus instituted The Last Supper with His twelve apostles and said, "Take, eat: this is My Body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me" (1 Corinthians 11:24), and "This cup is the new testament in My Blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me" (1 Corinthians 11:25). And so, in this deed was revealed the Lord's perfect love for all people having earlier spoken of Himself as being the bread of life, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51). To have actually been where The Lord's Supper took place is most special, but to realize the wonderful gift of the Lord's holy Body and precious Blood that was given and shed respectively is what's more important. Therefore, to partake of the Holy Eucharist ought to be done repentantly, worthily, respectfully and humbly in order that it may be a source of blessing, guidance and light to one's path.

The Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem.
Here was Christ's agony and betrayal by Judas Iscariot. In this garden, our Lord prayed three times saying, "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39). This teaches us, in all things that the Father allows us to face we should go to Him in prayer, being submissive to His holy will, as His Only Begotten Son did before us by example. Another crucial lesson learnt in this place, is the gentleness with which our Lord handled Judas' betrayal. Our Lord was aware of what Judas was about to do in His words "he is at hand that doth betray Me" (Matthew 26:46). Then, Judas came to Jesus and said, "Hail, Master; and kissed Him" (Matthew 26:49). Jesus replied, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?" (Matthew 26:50). Surely, this incident shows the gentle nature of our Lord. In the midst of His deep agony and hurtful betrayal, He was able to speak lovingly with Judas by calling him friend. From our Lord, we can learn to have a gentle and loving spirit with those who betray us and cause us misery.

Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, Jerusalem. This church commemorates the triple denial of Jesus Christ by the apostle Peter as well as his repentance and reconciliation with Him. As a symbol of the Lord's prophecy to Peter, "That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice" (Matthew 26:34), on the church's roof there is a golden rooster atop a black cross. From this visit, we need to be conscious of our sins and understand the great pain and agony we cause Christ each time we deny Him with another sin. Also, it is thought that this church is the site of the house of Caiaphas the high priest. If this be so, it was where the trial of our Lord Jesus occurred. Though our Lord Jesus Christ was sinless, yet He endured the disgrace of being judged instead of every sinner. In this, let us keep in mind "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).

The Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross), Jerusalem. This was the way that our Lord Jesus Christ followed from the Judgment Court to Golgotha, being the place of the crucifixion. During this route, our Lord tolerated tremendous pain and suffered severe agony, in bearing His cross on His back. The Via Dolorosa consists of Fourteen Stations. These Stations are numbered using Roman numerals, I: Jesus is condemned to death; II: Jesus carries His cross; III: Jesus falls for the first time; IV: Jesus meets His mother; V: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry His cross; VI: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus; VII: Jesus falls for the second time; VIII: Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem; IX: Jesus falls for the third time; X: Jesus is stripped of His garments; XI: Jesus is nailed to the cross; XII: Jesus dies on the cross; XIII: Jesus is taken down from the cross; XIV: Jesus is laid in the Tomb of Joseph of Aramathea. The final Five Stations are found inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. From walking this path, we can be spiritually moved. By recalling everything the Lord Jesus Christ willingly accepted to go through, in obeying the will of the Father, and thus, allowing us to be saved from the sting of death that is attributed to sin. Let us give glory, thanks, honour and praise to Christ Who, by shedding His precious Blood, obtained eternal redemption for all who desire to accept it. As the death of Christ served a great purpose, to satisfy the justice of God so, too, His resurrection from the dead. In that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ rose from the dead, one day, "we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (Romans 6:5).

The Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.
This is where our Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven. From this place, we remember the words of our Lord while He was on earth, "In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3). In this declaration, given by our Lord Himself, we can have joy in that His return is assured. This being so, we ought to live, "soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:12-13).

Here ends our travel to the Holy Land. Welcome back to Canada! Thanks be to God -- it was a blessing from Him to have gone, to have been aware of His presence, to have been touched spiritually and to have been kept in peace for "safety is of the Lord" (Proverbs 21:31). Indeed, God the Father has "done great things for us; whereof we are glad" (Psalm 126:3). In His graciousness, He has given us God the Son, to be our Saviour and Redeemer through Whom we can obtain the gift of eternal life. He has also given us God the Holy Spirit, to teach us and be a Comforter to us. No doubt, God's goodness, a greater awareness of Who He is and a deeper meaning to one's faith in the Lord can be experienced on such a journey. To live a true Christian life one needs to seek direction and guidance from the Lord, even when going on a trip as this. Thus, it is essential to have a spiritual aim when contemplating travel to the Holy Land. If not, you will go and return not having received any blessings. Therefore, if you want to be drawn nearer to the Lord -- go. And if, you want to have a stronger personal relationship with the Lord -- go. Go for the right reasons, having a spiritual mindset because "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" (2 Corinthians 9:6). In this way, you will be able to acquire spiritual rewards that are to be had. For sure, blessings abound in travelling with the Lord's presence throughout the places visited, but first, one needs to "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8). And so, if ever an occasion to journey to the Holy Land opens before you -- do go. If, however, this cannot be realized, be not saddened, keeping one's eyes set on the heavenly Jerusalem is much more important. After all, this ought to be the ultimate spiritual goal of every living soul. Amen.

Bible quotations are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.

Written By: Raeda Aziz

                December 5, 2012


 Quick Links


> Articles

> Church History

> Watch Full Mass



 Social Media


> Prayer Request

> Facebook

> Youth Facebook

> YouTube

> Twitter

> Google+

> Youth E-Mail List

> General E-Mail List



Church Activities


> Sunday Liturgy - 11:00 am - 1:00 pm

> Sunday School Classes - 11:00 am - 1:00 pm

> Thursday Bi-Weekly Bible Study - 8:30 pm - 10:00 pm

> Syriac Language Classes - Friday @ 8:00 pm

> Choir Training - Friday @ 8:00 pm

> Youth Bible Study - 1st & 3rd Sunday of the    

   month - 2:00 - 4:00 pm