10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
SHE: UNTOLD STORIES OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
Not a lot is known about Egeria (whose name, might actually be Etheria or Aetheria, some debate around this). Historians can only guess that she probably lived during the fourth century, perhaps in present-day Spain or southern France. No one knows about her family—who her parents were, whether she was married, or whether she had any children.
What is know about Egeria is that God still used her gifts in inspiring ways.
Egeria was one of a few upper-class Roman female followers of Jesus whose support was critical for the growth of early Christianity. She had a group of female friends back home, friends who were not able to make the journey with her. Since Egeria did not want them to miss out on the things she was seeing and learning, she wrote an impressively thorough letter(s) to them all, detailing her travels. Through Egeria’s experiences and willingness to leave her life of comfort, her friends were afforded the opportunity to see things through her eyes. Her “postcards”, sent to her friends in northwestern Spain from a three-year pilgrimage through modern-day Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Syria, detailed descriptions of biblical sites, monastic communities, and worship practices in the late fourth century. These “travel diaries” have also served as primary source material for the modern Holy Week liturgies and practices, some of these that we incorporate into our practices at Ambassador.
So, it turns out not just her friends benefited, but we do as well.
In fact, Egeria’s letter is the earliest surviving account of a Christian pilgrimage to Israel. In it, we have the opportunity to see what the early Church was like and how certain practices, like the celebrations of Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter, were taking shape around that time. Through it, we can better understand how our own traditions originated, all because Egeria decided to take a trip and write a letter.
For any of us who have received a Palm branch, or Palm Cross in church, or heard the story of the Passion read, and watched children march into the sanctuary waving Palm branches singing, the account below should be familiar. According to Egeria,
As the eleventh hour draws near … all the children who are [gathered at the top of the Mount of Olives], including those who are not yet able to walk because they are too young and therefore are carried on their parents’ shoulders, all of them bear branches, some carrying palms, others, olive branches. And the bishop is led in the same manner as the Lord once was led. [In the gospel accounts, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.]… From the top of the mountain as far as the city and from there through the entire city … everyone accompanies the bishop the whole way on foot, . . . .