I’ve spent most of this year with images of a religious geography telling truths our usual physical geography does not tell (Jerusalem is at the centre of the world), and with the idea that facing east towards Jerusalem (as Christian churches, worshippers and graves do, akin to Moslem facing Mecca) being our fundamental desired ‘orient-ation’ (which is simply literally ‘east-facing’ anyway). From where I usually stand, facing Jerusalem (as well, as it happens, as facing Mecca) is to face the rising sun, and I am now reminded that the mediaeval name for the land at the far end of the Mediterranean is the Levant, and discover this is the French for dawn.
Now I am here, which way do I look? Is it a bit like the puzzle of knowing which way is south for the one standing at the North Pole? No, it seems that I have allowed the sense of ‘facing Jerusalem’ to be too dominant. The Institute’s Director (an Orthodox priest) has twice reminded us that we should still be looking east from here, looking longingly in the direction from which we expect to find the Second Coming. He added that ‘without this hope, this place would crush you’: here at the centre of the world its conflicts and impossibilities are focussed and not resolved; the dawn is not in the Levant.
Meanwhile, on this out first Sunday, we attended Mass in French in St Anne’s Church very close to the Temple site, thus praying on the feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary at the traditional site of that birth (and hard by the certain site of the Pool of Bethsaida).