What makes the Holy Land holy is not the scenery or its history or even its people; it is God who chose this land to be his land of promise. Nearly everywhere in the Holy Land has spiritual significance, but some sites are particularly helpful in leading us into a deeper walk with God.
The Bible passages associated with the places we visit are read throughout the pilgrimage. There are places, however, where the scriptures can come powerfully alive, such as on the day of our arrival when one of the Psalms of Ascent is read as we go up to Jerusalem.
Another is as we stand in the dungeon beneath the house of the High Priest Caiaphas where Jesus was held on the long night before his execution. Here the words of the prophet Isaiah and the psalms take on a very profound meaning.
Pilgrims often recount how spiritually powerful they found the experience of celebrating Holy Communion in the landscape of the Bible - the Shepherds' Cave in the hills outside Bethlehem; in the midst of the Judean Wilderness and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, not far from the place where the risen Christ met with his disciples and fed over 5,000 people.
Prayer has a deep and personal significance throughout the pilgrimage. There are many opportunities to sit quietly in the cool interiors of churches or in the garden shade. But there are two places where as a group we pray very special prayers.
We say the Lord's prayer together at the Church of the Pater Noster which stands on the Mount of Olives. On walls around the church and its vaulted cloister, translations of the Lord's Prayer in 140 languages are inscribed on colourful ceramic plaques.
Jesus healed the lame man beside the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. Here we pray by name for those who are ill or in need of God's healing in their lives. This is one way in which pilgrims can share the benefits of their pilgrimage with others.
Pilgrims can also join with the Jewish faithful and pray by the Western Wall. These stones have been soaked in the prayers of the faithful for generations, and there is a special sense of God's presence here. It is still a place of divine encounter for many.