photo 4 - Jerusalem my destiny

Alice in the Holy Land: The hidden truth


From January 17 until January 27, U.S. Catholic and Catholic Theological Union are cosponsoring a Holy Land pilgrimage that is led by CTU’s eminent scripture scholar and Jerusalem expert, Franciscan Father Leslie Hoppe. U.S. Catholic’s popular scripture columnist Alice Camille is also accompanying the group and leading prayers, reflections, and discussions. She is filing blog posts from the trip. Here is a recap of the group’s fourth day:

Was it only yesterday we were in Bethlehem? This morning found us on the Mount of Olives, preparing to take the deep descent into Gethsemane. The descent is both literal and emotional. You experience the steep drop of the street past thousands of tombs, the site that commemorates Jesus weeping over the city, and finally come to a full stop at the Church of All Nations, the place that recalls where Jesus undergoes his agony “on the night before he died.”

Father Leslie tells us that the word we translate as agony is deceptive. Part of the creed of archeologists is that the truth lies below, and that includes beneath the meaning of words. The agony here is that of the athlete who anticipates the event for which he has prepared his whole life. It is the determination of the final race that consumes Jesus on that night. He is so ready to begin that the strain of waiting is nearly unbearable.

We who have descended that narrow plunging street enter the Church of All Nations with a fresh appreciation of Gethsemane for our meditation. The church is kept deliberately dark and silent, its purpled stained glass windows and cobalt blue ceilings reinforcing another kind of silent, holy night than the one we celebrated in Bethlehem only yesterday. From all eternity, it seems, God yearns to save us, to run that vital race. The soul-hush in that space makes me wonder how prepared we each are to take on the destiny awaiting us. The truth, indeed, lies hidden below.

To read more of Alice’s blog posts from the Holy Land, click here.

Image: Photo by Alice Camille

About the author

Alice Camille

Alice Camille is the author of Working Toward Sainthood (Twenty-Third Publications) and other titles available at