Visiting Israel for the first time, I wondered what to expect. Would it be over-commercialized? Would the holy sites be little more than tourist traps?
More lamentably, would I be too old and cynical to appreciate the simplicity of, say, the Garden of Gethsemane or the Jordan River?
As it turned out, these fears were unfounded. I loved Israel. I was touched deeply by the direct experience of (as is often said) “walking where Jesus walked.” — along the Via Dolorosa, for example.
I cried at the Sea of Galilee and the Wailing Wall. The Church of the Annunciation brought me back to the story of the angel Gabriel’s calling of young Mary of Nazareth to a mighty deed of motherhood, what is often called theotokos — the “bearer of God.” I saw the place (or close to it) where this divine meeting actually occurred.
Israel filled my biblical imagination with the concrete realities of the ancient world. I found again a child-like faith within my heart that basked in the glow (or the halo) of the historical Jesus, his ancestors, and his followers.
I also realized afresh that I desire: 1) a humble faith that is also 2) intellectually informed. Can it be both?