A medal for today
In the twenty-first century, the idea of a decoration might seem reserved to soldiers or to a few important personages honoured for services rendered to their country or for their work in such varied fields as science, art, performing arts, etc.
A pilgrim’s decoration: what does it mean today?I. A Sign
“You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, as on a seal engraving, ‘Sacred to the Lord’” (Exodus 28:36). In this chapter alone, there are five occurrences of the word “engrave”… But throughout Scripture, the Lord invites mankind to commemorate his acts by engraving.
It is, therefore, an ancient gesture to engrave an object to keep as a memory, to have under one’s eyes a sign or symbol of what has been accomplished.Holy Land pilgrim, what should be commemorated?
CHRISTI AMOR CRUCIFIXI TRAXIT NOS : Christ’s love attracted us. These words, engraved on the face, are part of the same breath as those of Saint Paul declaring to the Corinthians: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is just that: a confession of faith in Christ dead and resurrected in this country that he travelled.
Signum sacri itineris Hierosolymitani: Symbol of the holy voyage to Jerusalem.
The decoration, therefore, is the visible sign of a lived reality that remains engraved in the pilgrim’s heart. Each of the scenes represented on the medal evokes for him a place, a particular prayer, people encountered. As the pilgrim walked, he allowed the Word of God to touch him.
With the prophet Isaiah, he remembers that, “Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me; the Lord has abandoned me.’ Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name; your walls are ever before me” (Isaiah 49:14-16).
The Holy Land, engraved on the heart, engraved on the palms of the hands, engraved on a medal, is a symbol for the pilgrim, but also for those whom he meets after the pilgrimage, which is never really finished. “Engrave on your heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Teach them to your children. Speak of them at home and abroad.” (Deut. 6:6-7).
Today more than ever, Holy Land Christians are waiting for support: first spiritually, in praying with them, in not forgetting them, they who perpetuate here the Tradition of a living Church, by making their situation known. Coming here is already a way of helping them by favouring the country’s economy and with it, jobs.
Obtaining the decoration of Holy Land pilgrims attests further to this relationship that is created between the pilgrim and the residents of the country he visited. “These brothers who live where Jesus lived and who, gathered around the Holy Places, are the successors of the ancient, the very first Church, which gave birth to all the other Churches, have precious merit before God and we have a great spiritual debt to them; they participate daily and in a very special way in the suffering of Christ […]. If their presence were to end, the warmth of a living witness extended to the sanctuaries, and the Christian Holy Places of Jerusalem and Palestine would become like museums.” These words of Paul VI are astoundingly real today.II. A Gesture
A sign, the decoration is also a gesture. With the exception of pilgrims who arrive on foot and a few people whom the Custody would like to thank for their devoted service to the Holy Land, it is the pilgrims who purchase the decoration.
The money thus obtained is more evidence of the concern the pilgrim has for the Holy Land and for the Living Stones who live in it. The money is used at the discretion of the Custody to proffer aid to the poor and the ill. Every year, the entirety of these donations is spent on the needy.III. Conditions of Acquisition
The condition required by the decree (a certificate from the pastor of the parish) is no longer required, but the decoration is never sent; it must be collected at the Secretariat of the Custody, where the names of the beneficiaries are inscribed.Like a seal on your heart
May this object remind the pilgrim of what the Holy Land teaches, of the graces he received there, of the meetings he enjoyed and of this memorial that the Lord himself asks of him: “Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm” (Sg. 8:6).