ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

The Holy City

What do 2,700,000,000 Muslims, Jews and Christians all over the world share in common? Jerusalem, their Holy City.

In the little town of Madaba in the Jordanian highlands, the pavement of the Greek Orthodox parish church includes pieces of an ancient mosaic. The mosaic dates from the year 565 and is in the form of a map depicting biblical Palestine and parts of neighboring countries.

The most famous section of the map portrays the city of Jerusalem. Although it seems at first blush rather simple, it is actually a faithful representation of the layout of the Byzantine city – so much so that when Jerusalem’s Jewish quarter was being excavated and rebuilt by the Israelis, they used the Madaba map as their guide to the archeology of the city.

The inscription on the map, incomplete because some pieces are missing, says “HAGIA ?O?IS IEPOYSA,” or “The Holy City of Jerusa.”

For Jews, for Christians and for Muslims – that is, for half the human race – Jerusalem has always been the Holy City. In fact, that is still its proper name in Arabic.

For Jews, Jerusalem is the city that King David captured from the Jebusites and made his capital three thousand years ago. It is the city crowned by the temple built by King Solomon, the privileged and special place of communication with the God of Israel that housed the Ark of the Covenant, the chest that contained the tablets of the Law.

Jerusalem is the immemorial symbol of Judaism’s heart, Through the long centuries, every Passover wish and prayer has been “Next year in Jerusalem!”

As the psalmist poignantly cries, “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand be forgotten!”

Christians remember Jerusalem also as the place where Joseph and Mary presented the infant Jesus to the Lord in the temple; where the boy sat in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking questions; where the man often came to pray and teach and finally to face his crucifixion and death.

Above all, Jerusalem is the place of the resurrection, the place of the descent of the Holy Spirit, the place where the church was born.

For the followers of Jesus, Jerusalem is the focus of their earthly pilgrimage and the symbol of ultimate redemption. “I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Muslims venerate Jerusalem as the place where Abraham offered his first-born son to God, as the home of the prophets, especially the Lord Jesus, and most of all as the place where the prophet Muhammad had his great mystical experience, riding up to visit the highest heavens.

Jerusalem houses the Al Aksa, the farthest mosque, and is the holiest city of Islam after Mecca and Medina.

Jerusalem is not just a territory in the Middle East, but a value in the hearts of 2,700,000,000 people. Jerusalem, the place of encounter with the divine, the symbol of peace, is truly “The Holy City.”

Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA

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