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Greetings from Jerusalem

By Fr. David Steffy, L.C., Chargé of the Holy See

May 5th, 2024 - Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center

Dear Friends of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center,

Easter time greetings from Jerusalem, united in our prayers and intentions for peace.


During April and now May, Jews, Christians, and Muslims celebrate major feast days linked to their traditions and the holy city of Jerusalem. Living here gives one a perspective that is both unique and enriching. I am writing this on the Holy Saturday of the Orthodox Christians. The Old City’ gates are temporarily closed to help control the crowds gathered for the lighting of the “Holy Fire” in the Holy Sepulcher. I never heard of the “Holy Fire” before coming here, and if you have not, l suggest you look it up. It is fascinating.

Holy Fire in the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem


Despite the war and the dread of further escalation, life goes on. The flowers are blossoming and Spring reminds us of new life and the beauty of the cycle of life. Hope is in the air despite the harsh reality of division and conflict which threaten to divide us interiorly and relationally. It is impossible to make sense of it all, but perhaps we can find meaning in what is happening.


Recently, I was meditating on this passage from the first letter of Peter, “Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly (1 Peter 4,12-13).” This is not any easy passage to embrace but it struck me how apt is. No matter how strong and resilient we are, what is happening in the Holy Land and in the world in general “surprises” us, to say the least.


Confronted with this situation of unrest and instability, how should we respond with hope; a hope that is at the heart of Passover, Easter, and Ramadan?  Personally, I find consolation not only in scripture and my faith in God but also in the encouragement of heroic men and women who have transformed their suffering into love by finding the meaning inherent in life. One of those men, for me, is Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist who survived three years in concentration camps, and after being freed, found out that his wife, parents, and brother were murdered in the camps. I read his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” in high school and it made a deep impact on me and how I approach the sufferings and “surprises” of life.


Three quotes from his works especially touched me. “In some way, suffering ceased to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” And “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Finally, “No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.”


These quotes remind me that love, freedom, suffering, and meaning are interwoven and how we live and integrate these concepts in our lives determines who we are and how we behave towards others. The innate dignity of the human person as being made in the image of a loving God is something that Jews, Christians, and Muslims share. We continue to pray that we find solutions to our personal and relational conflicts by respecting and honoring this belief.


Last night as I dined at our rooftop restaurant with a priest friend. I was surrounded with goodhearted banter and joy expressed in the many languages of those visiting and staying at the Notre Dame Center: Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, French, Italian and English, to mention a few. It is amazing how an open spirit, good food and a breathtaking view lends itself to building bridges and communion among us. It’s not as hard as we think to find meaning when our hearts are open, and we create the environment where hope is in the air.


Again, I join with you in prayer for an end to the war in Gaza, a return of the hostages and a peaceful resolution of all hostilities both in this region and throughout the world.


Thank you again for all of your prayers and the support.


Sincerely in the Risen Lord,

Father David Steffy, L.C.

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1 Comment

The Holy Fire is a beautiful ceremony rich with Easter devotion.

Also, sadly, only a miracle in people’s hearts.

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