Friday, December 20, 2013

The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage (Servant Books)

The idea of traveling to the Holy Land has always been something of an interest of mine. To walk where Jesus walked, pray where He prayed, and see the sites of the Crucifixion and Resurrection are my biggest motivators. Unfortunately, I have not made it over there yet. Hopefully one day I will, but until then I have Fr. Mitch Pacwa's The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage.

The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage is a gorgeous coffee table book, which highlights significant Biblical places (e.g., Gethsemane and Cana) and churches of importance (e.g., Ascension Chapel). The book is divided into the following eight geographical sections:
  1. Bethlehem and Ein Karem
  2. Jerusalem Old City
  3. Mount of Olives
  4. East of Jerusalem
  5. Mount Zion
  6. North of Jerusalem
  7. Western Galilee
  8. The Sea of Galilee
When I first opened this book, I went through it and only looked at the pictures. I must confess that if this book included nothing but those pictures, it would be worth the price for the pictures alone. After my surface investigation of this book, I decided to get serious and take the time to actually read the accompanying text. His descriptions and attention to detail make you feel like you are on an actual pilgrimage with Fr. Pacwa. It also makes you wish for even more pictures in the book or perhaps for an accompanying DVD tour. Each chapter then ends with a prayer, which can be used for guided meditation. So far I have only had time to quietly reflect on a couple of these places. I plan to re-visit the book many times in the future though, especially when the places tie in with major feast days in the Church.

My favorite place to read about was a toss-up between The Holy Sepulcher Church and the Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Holy Sepulcher Church is venerated as the site where Jesus was both crucified and buried. Underneath the altar is an actual rock from Calvary. How awesome this place must be in which to worship. There is a yearly miracle that occurs here, which Fr. Pacwa failed to mention, and that is the Miracle of Holy Fire. I chose the Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary as my second favorite chapter for Fr. Pacwa's inclusion of an excerpt from "The Book of the Passing of the Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God." This was incredibly fascinating to read, and it sheds light on questions of "Did Mary die?" or "Why was Mary assumed into Heaven?"

If going to the Holy Land sounds awesome but you currently lack the funds or opportunity, then I would recommend this book instead. While it's not the same as an actual pilgrimage (Really, what is?) it will at least provide you an introduction, a sampling of what is in the Holy Land. When you finish the book, do not casually put it on your bookshelf only to forget about it. Instead, place it on your coffee table or another place where you will see it everyday. It is a book you can visit multiple times throughout the Church Year to meditate with, especially seasons like Advent or Lent, and grow closer to God.

This book was provided to me for free by Franciscan Media in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click the link and hit Yes!