2,000 year old tree piously thought to be the one Zacheus climbed.

The Land of Jericho

Fr. Slaton and Br. Joseph under the tree of Zacheus.

Fr. Slaton and Br. Joseph under the tree of Zacheus.

The first stop for the Israelites upon entering the Promised Land, and for us as well, was the city of Jericho.  Archaeologists will tell you that this place has been continuously inhabited for 8,000 years, making it a contender for the oldest city in the world. Jericho is a natural oasis in the desert, a place where vegetation and water is plentiful.  Both today and in Biblical times, it is the main source of fresh fruit for the region.  Our Lord preached here too.  In the holy Gospels we read of a stout tax-collector named Zacheus, who climbed a sycamore-fig tree so he could see Our Lord over the crowd (Lk 19).  Tax-collectors were not popular people among the Jews because they were collaborating with the Roman occupation and made their profit at the expense of the native populace.  But Zacheus sought the Lord with great fervor, and was famously told to come down from his perch so that Jesus might dine with him in his house.  Our Lord often broke with social taboos to reach out to people ill-regarded by society.  Our Lord became incarnate for the redemption of sinners, not the perfect.

Br. Alexey enthusiastically reaches out to locals.

Br. Alexey enthusiastically reaches out to locals.

The city’s layout and size have changed over time, but many of the ancient roads remain in use still today, including the one Our Lord is thought to have used in that scene.  Indeed, Biblical scholars feel quite certain that the location of this exchange is still an open square today.  Interestingly, there remains a single tree, a sycamore, at that place that botanists have determined to be more than 2,000 years old.  This means that Our Lord certainly would have passed this tree on His way.  Its singular longevity has led many piously to believe that it is the very tree, memorialized in the New Testament, that the vertically-challenged Zacheus shimmied up to catch a glimpse of the Messias.

Jericho is located on the outskirts of the Judaean desert, and not far from the place on the Jordan where Christ was baptized by St. John the Baptist.  After His baptism, Scripture says He was compelled by the Spirit into the desert.  There, Our Lord fasted for forty days and was tempted by the Devil.  The place were the early Christians believed Our Lord to have stayed during this time of preparation is called the Mount of Temptation.  Catch a glimpse of the solitude Our Lord embraced in the spirit of holy penance by clicking on the link below…

 

Posted in Pilgrimage to the Holy Land 2015 and tagged , , , , , , , .