Editor’s note: Below is a free verse poem/reflection writer Serafina wrote, based upon a trip she took to Israel many years ago. Regarding her poem, she writes:
“The feeling in this reflection really happened for me. I was on a ten-day tour around the entire country (which at the time was a tinderbox of unrest – it was a scary time to travel). As I travelled through Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Masada, and the Dead Sea regions, I never felt Christ’s presence. I was so forlorn (and freaking out a bit!) I guess I thought I’d find Him so easily there.
“As we traveled north, the landscape moved from desert to green hills (farmland of kibbutzim) and I started to feel something incredible. There just outside the Church of the Beatitudes, I found Him. So vibrant, so powerful. I was graced to attend an outdoor private (two other people) mass (a young priest was on the tour with us) and I am telling you, it was as if Jesus sat down and embraced me. That is how tangible His presence was there for me. The Church overlooks a bluff, and you can see out over the Sea of Galilee – so, so beautiful! Jesus must love water, because in all of the parts of Israel that I toured this place is the most peaceful and gorgeous. Breathtaking!”
“Traveling Soul” (by Serafina)
I looked for You among Jerusalem’s churches kept sooty
By travelers’ candles seeking to leave a remembrance on such worn paths.
They flicker in the shadows of dusty archways…
But I did not find You here.
I marveled at the ancient, gnarled olive trees that Your Hands might have touched
As You walked in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Through the windows of its church
My soul strained to hear Your anguished prayers
In that midnight garden.
All was silent. My heart was heavy and missing You.
In the Old City
It was early Friday morning, and Sabbath was coming soon. I wanted to shout at the scurrying shoppers, haggling over spices and beads and fruits hawked by anxious vendors
Along the Via Dolorosa:
“Stop! Be quiet! Let me hear Him coming.”
But they would not-
And I could not
Hear You…or feel Your Presence.
I felt my heart break in two at seeing
The cleft of Golgotha’s rock.
I am sure the Earth’s axis
Begins her spin right here
On such holy soil
Still holding the essence of You.
I tried, I really tried…
I did not find You here.
So, on I travelled to Bethlehem
And saw the poor and gentle souls
Eking out a living in a town so old.
The star on the floor of that little church
Told me where You were born
But I did not hear a baby’s cry
So, I moved on.
Travelling further from Masada to the Dead Sea
I watch the heat dance, undulating across the winding roads.
I taste the hot sand – its scrapes across my pink, sunburned skin
Like the roughest grade of sandpaper.
My head hurts, I feel like I’m melting, and it isn’t even midday!
I think of the miles You must have walked, town-to-town and wonder…
How did You preach in this heat?
I searched for You amid the cooler caves and hillsides
But You were not there.
As my little bus made its way up to Capernaum
My fellow travelers in slumber from the mid-day heat
Heads, and arms, and legs relaxed into their dreams.
I couldn’t sleep…really now, how could I sleep?
I still hadn’t found You.
And suddenly like a mirage floating over the dusty road
The bone-bleached land turned verdant.
I wanted to shake awake the entire bus
But knew that I alone would witness this moment.
Something changed in me
I began to feel
A joy – slowly – rising.
I walk the grounds of the Church of the Beatitudes
And, at last, I find You waiting here.
My heart leaps like it never has before.
Finally…finally…I have found You!
Every little thing about this place
Swells with the Presence of You!
The most golden sunshine, the bluest water, such welcome cool breezes!
My soul rejoices in each Beatitude – Your voice inside my head whispers
I so want to be that ‘Child of God’…
The one You have Your arms around as You preach to the crowds.
I am spellbound.
I would be content to let the bus and its sojourners
Go on without me.
I could find a little resting spot and make my home here forever.
I lift my eyes to the Sea of Galilee just beyond the Church
And see You in that fishing boat
And know that Your Spirit still
Waits here to bless travelling souls like me.
Souls searching for You.
Have you ever travelled to Israel? Did you experience Christ’s Presence in a town, church, or other setting?
Have you ever travelled to a new destination and been surprised at the faith in that locale?
Serafina’s perfect day swings between teaching loud middle schoolers and finding peace in an adoration chapel. A strong cup of Colombian coffee, a bite of Swiss chocolate, and the music of George Michael are the fuels that keep her going. A daily Eucharist makes everything possible.