A pilgrim among the pilgrims

“Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem”

A monthly group gathering on the last Thursday of the month, called “Praying Together in Jerusalem”, reminds me of the Psalm 122 and eventually becomes one of my favorite Psalms for my prayer during our apostolic ministry in our guest house at Ecce Homo, in the Old City.

“I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord!
Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem”. Psalm 122:1

When I try to read and meditate on this Psalm, I arrive at the moment when I ask questions about a “house of the Lord” and “Jerusalem”. Why does the city become the house? Why did the psalmist use an image of a “house” to describe Jerusalem? Can we consider a house as a home where people take refuge, where members of a family live together, where the people come together in relationship?

James Luther Mays says that Jerusalem is praised for three reasons: it is a place of refuge; a place of praise; and a place of justice. In the description of Jerusalem in verse 3, the word “compacted” or “habar”, according to McCann, is used to describe human compacts or alliances rather than buildings or walls. It indicates that Jerusalem is a place “where people come together in unity” or “Jerusalem’s ability to bring people together” (McCann, Psalms, 1184).

The movement in the psalm from the subject “I” to the inclusive pronoun “us” is very significant – to also include in the relationship “my brothers, my relatives, my friends”. “Jerusalem is the sign and symbol of peace” only when justice is present then Jerusalem is the place of the Presence of God. Why do the nations “go up” and go to the house of the Lord?

The people who live in the Old City (Muslims, Jewish and Christians), and the pilgrims coming from different part of the world, are praying in different ways and knowing that the varieties of worship they bring, glorify the Divine Being. In particular, the “Praying Together in Jerusalem” Group brings people of faith and religious representatives together, united in prayer without any political agenda other than to promote harmony and respect – that Jerusalem will be the House of Prayer of all the nations and not a house of conflict. Meeting and praying together side by side is more than a symbolic activity – rather it is a means of self-transformation.

At these gatherings I take the opportunity to have a deeper conversation and ask myself questions about my faith and Christian, Muslim and Jewish beliefs where my points of view and biases are transformed into positive outcomes and attitudes. My personal encounter is informed through dialogue. I hope and pray that the activity of “Praying Together in Jerusalem” monthly Group will continue to be a movement for growth in our faith. I believe that Jerusalem is a place of pilgrimage for all, because we all benefit from the power of the pilgrims’ faith and prayers, and the joy they bring with them.

I believe that in whatever ways we choose to pray, in whatever language, whatever religious tradition we have, we are all addressing the same Divine Being. This is unity through diversity. As McCann says, “to enter Jerusalem really does mean to enter a new world; to acknowledge God’s reign, and to commit oneself to live under it is to be transformed and enabled to live for God’s sake and for the sake of others (McCann, Psalms, 1185) – to be a pilgrim on a journey inward, where one can have and experience a deeper level of Shalom in her/himself and be transformed, so that we can live for the benefit of others and of God.

Maria O. Malau, Novice NDS
International Novitiate – Jerusalem
November 6th, 2017