Holy Land Revisited

Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon . . . And out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying: “It is done!”   Revelation 16:16–17

Last November, a group of our parishioners made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and here we sit a year later and so much has changed!  I suppose things are always changing but somehow, this year, I believed many things have change but under terrible circumstances.

I spent some time reflecting on these changes and for no reason that I know of, at some point, my mind drifted back to the Holy Land and in particular on our bus ride through the valley of Armageddon.  As we approached the Valley of Armageddon in Israel, I had some trepidation in my heart, envisioning an ominous, desolate, desert place—the location where “the battle on the great day of God the Almighty” will occur (Revelation 16:14).  But again, God surprised me.  Though this valley has hosted battle after battle through the centuries, it is far from bleak and barren.  Rather, it is a huge stretch of rich green fields, encircled by mountains and wooded hillsides, interspersed with towns and buildings.  Fascinatingly, two of Israel’s most strategic military bases already lie squarely within its bounds.

As we were observing the valley, I breathed deeply of a wind of fresh, clean air.  The fertile plains were capped by an azure-blue sky. The vastness and beauty filled me with awe.  I was amazed to feel no fear, no dread, only a quietude that I was seeing the very spot that would usher in the beginning of the end of this earth as we know it.  There, in this valley of battles, the location of the most significant of all battles to come, God filled me with His calm assurance that life is unfolding according to His perfect plan. Even in this horrible year that followed with the Covid-19 virus, acrimonious political campaigning and turmoil in our Holy Orthodox Church in America.  I am comforted in all these upheavals in the world, in our country, in the Commonwealth and even at times in our Church by that unexpected peace that I felt in the valley of Armageddon in the Holy Land.

I remember the words of the psalmist David:  “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.  The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.  Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His heritage” (Psalm 33:10-12). Nations and empires have come and gone, but our job is to faithfully follow God’s teachings in our hearts and in our actions.  It is this faithful search to do the Lord’s will in each and every moment that will sustain us in troubling and difficult times.

Let us pray to our Lord that as we face battles of all kinds, may we remember the unexpected peace of Armageddon, a reminder that You, O Lord, have it all under control and that you will be with us always.

+Rev Christopher P. Foustoukos, Presiding Priest




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