In only nine days, I’ll be on a flight to the Holy Land, for a pilgrimage based out of St. George’s College. I’m traveling with Father Casey and parishioners from Transfiguration. As someone who has traveled internationally, but only to England, Scotland, and France, I find myself unable to imagine what this journey will be like. To prepare myself for such a mystery, I took on an accomplishable reading list. I’ve read the following books to get ready for this pilgrimage, but you don’t have to have a plane ticket to enjoy them.
Danielle Shroyer is a local writer, pastor, and Parish Episcopal School mom! In this book, she offers reflections on both her pilgrimage to the Holy land as well as deep insight into the challenging nature of the Lord’s Prayer. She was able to take a prayer I hear and pray multiple times a week, wrestle it away from my robotic recitation, and hand it back to me like dry bones with new flesh. She blends humor with an earnest desire to engage the living presence of God in every moment. While the context of the Holy Land is certainly integral to the book, her writing style is welcoming, and even if you’ve never visited the Holy Land you will feel like you’ve traveled the roads Jesus walked. Additionally, the book features stunning photography from Carter Rose, which will only make you feel closer to the holy sites that she visits, chapter by chapter.
I imagined, when I received this book as a gift from Father Casey in anticipation of our trip this summer, a wonderful theological discourse on the Holy Land. It’s a book by a Jesuit priest, which I assumed would be fantastic. I did not expect such a treasure trove of exegesis. In Jesus: A Pilgrimage, Martin has offered a book that I will preach from for the rest of my life. It is imaginative, but his starting point is most often a layer of history about the town or city, or a Greek word that helps illuminate both the location and my interpretation of the events in Scripture that have occurred there. This text proves to be as engaging as it is knowledgeable, and it’s a must-read for all.
I wondered if I would feel distant from this text, because of how hard I struggle to picture the world that I am only days away from seeing with my own eyes. However, Chacour’s brilliant storytelling transcends nation, and invites all readers to travel with him through his life’s work. When I say his storytelling transcends nations, I don’t only mean in its readership: I mean that his life’s story is one of walking into the battleground of humanity’s common lust for power. He is willing to walk into these battlegrounds—theological, spiritual, and literal—because of his vocational calling to wage peace where there is violence. Chacour stands out to me, having read this, as a true unsung hero of the Christian faith, and he makes me want to wage peace in my own life all the more.
There are many books you could read before going on a pilgrimage, but I feel confident saying that the most important is the Bible. I began reading The Path as my first book, but decided to leave it to the end, because I am going to take it with me on the pilgrimage. The Path is an adaptation of the Bible that links excerpts from the NRSV translation such that the overarching narrative, or path, of the Bible is made clearer to readers. I found that when I read it, because of how it shifts the way I am reading, I’ve encountered passages of Scripture that I’ve read time after time, but as if I’ve never heard of them at all. Like walking down a pilgrim path for the first time, each page feels like I’m turning a corner to encounter Scripture in a new way. The Path is an adaptation of the Bible for anyone who wants to meet the living God of Scripture.