Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up,
The tribes of the LORD,
to praise the name of the LORD
according to the Statute given to Israel.
A Word of Hope
The psalmist who gives us the passage above, in praising the holy city of Jerusalem, sings first of its design; closely compacted together. That image may sound claustrophobic to us today, but in the ancient world, the safer cities were built with their homes and public structures jammed together in an irregular concentric pattern with narrow streets, surrounded with what the residents hoped to be impenetrable walls. It was the best design to keep everyone in close communication and free from surprises from unfriendly invaders.
By today’s standards, most of the cities were small, both in population and acreage. Jerusalem, the great city of God and center of the Hebrew worship system, was about the size of Six Flags Over Texas. (It covered roughly 219 acres; Six Flags, 212 acres.) By comparison, Walt Disney World’s expanse is well over 30,000 acres. Yet, over three millennia later, we still study and ponder the history and sing the Psalms about this place that was the size of a small amusement park. In addition, it was located in the nation of Israel, a country smaller than the state of New Hampshire.
Years ago, when many of us gathered to celebrate the final beam placement of our new Interfaith Peace Chapel, my thoughts returned to Jerusalem. Though dramatic and imposing in its design, the chapel is not a large structure, especially when seen from either of the busy streets that allow a view. But that evening, it was the epicenter of something yards or meters cannot measure. Looking at the yellow sheetrock of the unfinished chapel in those days, I could envision how a distant glimmer of the gold plates of Solomon’s Temple must have made the hearts of ancient pilgrims race as they drew closer to the legendary city of their revered ancestors.
Even then however, it was not the city’s physical presence as much as its intense spiritual magnetism that beckoned to them. Even in the chapel’s incomplete form, the work of the Spirit was present and growing. On that evening in April, as peace blessings were offered by four of the world’s great faith traditions, I could comprehend better that this small structure could actually become the profoundly relevant center of peace that we have always hoped it would be. Every time we hold one of our meditative Reflect Services in that space, that feeling is rekindled in me.
Two verses later in Psalm 122, we read the famous exhortation, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” which is still a valid practice.I would also add:
Pray for the Peace of the Cathedral of Hope and for the Chapel named for interfaith cooperation.
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare