Saturday, June 28, 2008

Jerusalem and Amsterdam.

Late on Thursday I returned to New York after a little more than two weeks in Israel and the Netherlands. On Monday I fly to Chile, where I'll spend a month improving my Spanish. Thus my stopover in the United States will be a relatively brief one, giving me time to unpack, repack and rest a little before I head to the Southern Hemisphere.

I had a fine retreat in Jerusalem, the graces of which came as much simply from walking around and experiencing life in the Old City as from formal periods of prayer. The Christ I encountered during this retreat was less the Jesus of the Gospels than the Christ of faith who lives in the Church and in the pilgrims from around the world who still flock to Jerusalem despite the precarious political situation. During the retreat, I spent a few hours every day at my favorite church, the Holy Sepulchre, which you can see behind me in the photo right below the title of this post. I could say a lot more about this - and perhaps will in another post - but for now I'll simply say that I'm thankful for having been able to spend much of my retreat praying and reflecting at the central shrine of Christendom.

My stay in Amsterdam presented a religious experience of another kind, as I enjoyed the chance to hear the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra play in their own hall. In the second photo shared above, you can see me standing outside the Concertgebouw proudly holding my concert ticket. The RCO is one of my favorite orchestras; for me, hearing them live at the Concertgebouw is a great privilege, sort of like attending a Red Sox home game. The program combined a work I know fairly well (Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition) with two I'd never heard before (Robert Schumann's First Symphony and the Overture of Carl Maria von Weber's Euryanthe). I'll leave a technical evaluation of the performance to better-qualified critics, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the concert. It was, like my retreat and the broader experience of my time in Jerusalem and Amsterdam, an occasion of grace for which I give great thanks to God. AMDG.


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