Our day began, as usual, with the chanting of Prime. Today, however, we also had the great privilege of our chaplain, Fr. Slaton, offering in our chapel before we left a Votive Mass for Pilgrims, followed by the traditional chanted blessing for those setting out on pilgrimage, sung by all.
Our direct flight from Detroit to Amman, Jordan was to be 14 hours, passing through many time zones. So, to simplify things for purposes of common prayer, we adopted our destination’s time once we passed through airport security. By that measure, it was already time for Vespers and Compline! So, while most people traveling in our pilgrimage group were getting lunch, we stepped into the airport’s “reflection center” (i.e., chapel) with our chaplain to chant the holy Office.
I had never been inside a place so perfectly devoid of religion; a beige, oval room with sterile, indirect light glowing from the edges of its low drop-ceiling. Two wire chairs sat thrown aside in what I suppose must be its corner. Once we had dispelled the thick spiritual oppression that hung over the room by sprinkling holy water, we started our Office. A curious, fellow pilgrim joined us to listen. She would be the first of many to join us for prayer.
None of us had ever been to the Middle East, except for Dearborn (which is driving distance). Neither had I ever flown Royal Jordanian airlines before and didn’t know what to expect. Father gave the traditional Roman blessing of an airplane (yes, there really is one!) once we were on board and situated. The plane ride was thankfully uneventful. Once in Jordan, we were greeted warmly by members of Amman’s very small Christian community. Many Americans do not realize that not all Arabs are Muslim. In fact, many of the Christians in Jordan and Palestine are from families and tribes that were among the first disciples of Our Lord and the Apostles. Despite waves of pressure to convert to Islam over the centuries, a few have held out even to this day, though their numbers have fallen significantly in recent decades due to emigration and other pressures. Our pilgrimage guides have organized our expenses to try to patronize the local Christian families and businesses as much as possible to help alleviate their poverty.
We were staying the night at a Christian-owned hotel before setting out the next day. The night was clear and fresh; the moon an especially bright crescent with wisps of high clouds rapidly passing through its intense glow. Our group wake-up call from the hotel was to be at 6:30am. The brothers and I would rise at 6:00am to pray before the other pilgrims awoke and the day started. What I did not expect was what happened at 5:00am. Click the link below to have a listen. To be continued…
[Apologies for the time it took to get this posted. I did not have access to a sufficiently fast connection while in Palestine.]