Dreaming of Destinations and Traditions at Easter – the Holy Land and the Masters

Fr. Steve Mattson

Fr. Steve Mattson saying Mass outside the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (Photo: Courtesy: Marianne Vasievich)

With no disrespect intended, two of the world’s most frequently-cited “bucket list” travel destinations become top-of-mind this weekend: the Holy Land and Augusta National Golf Club. Participation in both Easter Sunday and the final round of the Masters Tournament, due to COVID-19, have been curtailed and postponed, but the passion for those two events and the devotion to them is eternal.

Sports enthusiasts consider the golf course at Augusta National to be a cathedral in the pines; “Amen Corner” is the name given to its pivotal stretch of picturesque holes. Television sportscasters describe tournament play in hushed, reverent tones. Normally bombastic broadcasters attempt to wax poetically as if they’re quoting scripture about a “rite of spring” and the “spirit of the game” amidst the blooming azaleas, dogwoods, and Georgia pines that populate the throughout the former nursery-turned-golf course at the end of Magnolia Lane.

Some would make a deal with the devil to play golf at the ultra exclusive club because faith may move mountains…but it won’t get you a tee time at Augusta National. You needn’t sell your soul – but it will be expensive – to at least walk the grounds as a spectator during the annual Masters Tournament by purchasing a badge through an online ticket broker or travel packager. The club also offers a yearly online lottery at Masters.com through which winners can buy tickets for the relatively low face value price of $115 per day. Parking is free and concessions and souvenirs are surprisingly affordable. It’s as if once you secure a ticket it feels like you’re a member of the club.

Augusta has its own small airport but is also only two hours from Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport with its many inexpensive Delta flights. Having been to the Masters Tournament a number of times I have found hotel lodging in Augusta that week, along with its inflated pricing, is difficult to secure. Reynolds Lake Oconee, a gorgeous golf resort about an hour to the east, might make for a comfortable option – especially for groups. The 2020 Masters Tournament has been indefinitely postponed.

The faithful who aspire to visit the Holy Land surely never imagined they be dreaming of merely being able to celebrate Easter week in their own neighborhood churches this year. Alas, social distancing means social media for the gathered who can gather only online to participate and pray via streaming services.

The artwork and imagery in churches often depict biblical scenes of Jerusalem and the Christian Gospels read like travelogues for places such as the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, Golgotha, the Temple, and the way of the cross, now known as Via Dolorosa (Sorrowful Way.)

Visitors to Israel can tour all of these places and more, including Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, the Dead Sea, and Jerusalem’s sites also revered by followers of Judaism and Islam: the Western Wall and Temple Mount.

 “The Old City represents the diversity of faith. When you go in through the Jaffa Gate you basically see the history of religion,” said Eyal Carlin, a commissioner for Israel’s Ministry of Tourism. “You’ll feel it while walking. People who visit Jerusalem are passionate; and the people of Jerusalem, the in the streets and markets, are passionate.”

Standing in these places and experiencing their close proximity will change the way you picture scripture forever, according to Fr. Steve Mattson, pastor at Lansing’s Church of the Resurrection.

“Pope Paul VI, after visiting the Holy Land called it the ‘Fifth Gospel,’ which seems exactly right. Being where Jesus was born, lived, taught, died, and rose again was transformative,” said Mattson. “All my scripture meditations are infused with memories of my pilgrimage.”

It is strongly recommend securing a licensed, educated guide to efficiently maneuver you or your group through the ancient and sometimes manic labyrinth of the Old City of Jerusalem. Details of a visit can be planned according to your schedule and budget at Israel.Travel

Contact Travel Writer Michael Patrick Shiels at MShiels@aol.com  His radio program may be heard weekdays at MiBigShow.com or in Lansing on WJIM am 1240 from 9-noon. His newest book “I Call Him Mr. President” with George HW Bush is at Amazon.com

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