Child Jesus in the Holy Land

The Bible comes to life in the Holy Land! The very walls of the church of the Transfiguration cry out what happened here. Jesus had told them days before that He would have to go to Jerusalem to suffer at the hands of the elders, scribes and chief priests, that He would be put to death and rise again on the third day. If you recall, Peter could not stand the prospect of the Lord suffering and dying. Jesus brought His closest Disciples to this bit of Heaven on earth to strengthen them for the days ahead, for the torture He would have to endure and they witness.

It was here, on this spot, that Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. It was here that a voice, coming from the cloud that overshadowed them, said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear Him.”

When Jesus was transfigured, and Moses and Elias appeared with Him, Peter, filled with joy, exclaimed, “Lord it is good for us to be here. If Thou will it, let us set up three tents here, one for Thee, one for Moses and one for Elias.” They wanted to stay up on that mountain of life and hope. They did not understand and subsequently did not want to ascend another mountain to what they feared was death and hopelessness. They loved the Lord and they loved the Life He brought to them. They did not want it to end.

But as the mosaics on the wall of the main Altar showed, the Angels were also there, living the moment and, like the Disciples, anticipating the future. Twelve Angels towered over the Sanctuary: Three Angels loomed above the Baby Jesus in the crib, depicting His Birth; three more Angels appeared, with one holding the Chalice and the Host, representing the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Who would be with us till the end of the world; then there were three Angels hovering over the Lamb of Sacrifice – a precious white lamb with its throat slashed and bleeding, portraying Our Lord and His willing Sacrifice on the Cross; and finally your eyes travel to three Angels, with one standing on the tomb, announcing the Resurrection – our hope that we too will rise.

The innocent Lamb bleeding! Each time we journeyed in faith to the Holy Land, this imagery of the Lord’s Passion, as seen through the sacrifice of a very precious looking little lamb, would be the one which would always draw us, bringing us down on our knees, our eyes spilling over with tears. Then on one Pilgrimage, while we were meditating on the Lamb, a pilgrim called us over to the mosaic of the Infant Jesus in His crib. The pilgrim insisted, “Look at His Eyes!”

Here before us was a tiny Baby with curly hair, a chubby Baby, a carefree Baby, a joy to behold, with a tiny bird in His plump little Hands. From a distance He had looked like an ordinary baby, so sweet, so peaceful, so adorable, so untouched. Then we stepped closer and looked into His Eyes! They were not the eyes of a baby. Those Eyes were Eyes that had seen the world and its sins and grieved. I could not take my eyes off the Baby’s Eyes. I wanted to shout, Lord what had you known when You were born? Did you know the agony you would one day endure, the rejection and betrayal that you would suffer, the pain that would accompany You to Your death watching Your Mother grieving at the foot of the Cross, the sorrowful Passion and Crucifixion that You would realize at the hands of those You had come to save? Did you see it all? Your Eyes say You did. Your Eyes say, You knew it before You were born and You said Yes!! Your Eyes say, with each step You took, You knew You were going one step closer to the Cross.

We have, by the grace of God, traveled the four corners of the world, but nowhere has any painting or statue more poignantly portrayed the Babe Who was born to die for our sins. This image in the Holy Land, revealed not only the purity and innocence of the Baby in the manger, but a wisdom far surpassing His Years. His path already preordained, the Baby illustrated on the mosaic wall of the Church of the Transfiguration looks as if He has already taken His first steps toward the Salvation of the world through His Passion, Death and Resurrection. This image of the Baby Jesus placed an indelible mark on our hearts and souls and we would never be the same. No matter how many days and nights pass, we will never forget the look in my Lord’s Eyes.

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