As we think this week about the incarnate Christ, here is a thought-provoking excerpt from an article by:
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This is where it happened.
When I thought of the Incarnation, I have always thought about how God took on flesh. He could not be harmed and He could feel neither cold nor hunger, but He chose to become subject to all those miseries when He humbled Himself and showed up here, on this earth, as a tiny baby in the arms of a young holy virgin. When I thought of the Incarnation, I thought of Christ’s human body.
But in the Holy Land, I began to understand that the Incarnation means more than that. It means that Christ entered into time and space. Yes, He sanctified the waters of the Jordan when He was baptized, but He also sanctified these lands when He walked on them, when He suffered and bled on them.
God didn’t have to take on a body. He didn’t need one. We needed Him to take on a body — to stand with us on this actual earth, to speak with us, to enter into Hades and break open the gates of Paradise for us.
We need a Holy Land too. We need holy places. It’s not that God needs to occupy to specific points on this earth, but it’s that we need to make our offering of pilgrimage. We need to see and to touch. We need to travel to our churches on Sunday mornings, and to go visit monasteries and to venerate myrrh-streaming icons. We need to make an effort, to engage in a struggle, so that we can feel ourselves coming towards God on this human journey. Our journey is not just spiritual — it’s physical too; it happens in time and space. We benefit from the action of making a pilgrimage. We need it.
So many of the holy places preserved in Israel and Palestine are in caves, and it struck me that God wisely chose a land built on rock, so that holy places would be dug down and carved into stone. He chose a place where even after waves of conquerors and invaders, after the buildings and the churches were destroyed and in ruins, the caves would remain so that we would have holy places to visit. He knew.
On my final day in the Holy Land, I venerated the Anointing Stone at the Holy Sepulchre, saying goodbye as it were to God’s holy places. I thanked Him for the fullness of His Incarnation, for leaving us these places and being so present in them, so that we could pursue our spiritual journey in such a tangible way. And as I arrived home, I thanked Him for being here too, ever-present and filling all things.