by Jane Klieve
Wednesday, February 19

This was a very special day of walking and worshiping in the old city of Jerusalem.

Temple Mount

We waited in line for about an hour to pass through security and gain entry to this area which is controlled by the Muslims. As a result of the ongoing tension in the area, non-Muslims are restricted to entering through a single gate and may not bring either maps or any religious material inside. This is the site of the First and Second Temples and the Dome of the Rock where Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac and where Muslims believe Mohammed ascended into heaven.

Muslims came to Jerusalem in the 7th century and built a mosque on the site. This is the third holiest site for Muslims and each year between 300,000 and 400,000 people gather on the plaza to celebrate Ramadan. Up to 5000 people can worship in the mosque at one time and non-Muslims are prohibited from entering at any time. The Temple Plaza occupies approximately 35 acres or about one-sixth of the total area of the city.

Comments about this site:

Dick Entenmann was surprised that people come in to spend the day.

Fr. Todd McDowell noticed that the sign above the entry prohibits Jews from entering the space.

Gus (our guide) was standing at the entry of the building as we went through security & told us that non-Muslims are not allowed to enter after 10:00 a.m. — so we just barely made it.

Ecce Homo Convent

The place contains 1st century stone pavement dating back to the Romans. It’s fascinating to think about how long this “pavement” has endured! We celebrated Eucharist in a chapel that has a portion of Hadrian’s arch behind the altar. Afterwards, we toured the building and learned about the King’s Game.  We’ve heard the story about the soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ clothing and now we have a new sense of context. This game was played by soldiers carrying out crucifixions and there are several theories about how the game is played.  One holds that soldiers roll dice to determine who has the right to do various things to the “king” (the person about to be crucified).

Ecce Homo_opt

Celebrating at Ecce Homo with a portion of Hadrian’s Arch in the background.

From there we walked to St. Anne’s Church which was built by the Crusaders in honor of Anne, the mother of Mary.  The church has been built over the cave which by tradition is believed to be the place where Mary was born.  Becky Coulter commented that this seemed like a place where Mary would have grown up because it is so beautiful!  Next to the church is the Bethesda pool, where Jesus healed the paralyzed man. Our guide Gus explained that the Palm Sunday procession ends here.

Our journey through the Stations of the Cross along Via Dolorosa (The Way of the Cross)

The first ten stations are along the Via Dolorosa and the last four stations are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The path took us through the streets of Jerusalem and the bazaar. Fortunately, Father Todd and our guide Gus prepared us for the experience by explaining that while we would be focused on our faith journey, others around us would be continuing with their normal lives. Some people would recognize that we were pilgrims and be respectful. Others would have the opposite reaction – perhaps talking loudly while we were praying or raising the volume on their radios as a sign of scorn. This scenario was probably not unlike what Jesus faced on Good Friday.  Saying it, and seeing it, are two different things – Betty found it unsettling to realize that Jesus, and others crucified, were mocked and spit upon as they were paraded through the crowded streets and bazaar.

Along the way, we paused at each station and read Bible passages related to the event that took place there.  We learned that this ritual was created by monks in about the 4th century based on history and passages from the Bible. We all found this to be an emotional journey and we were uplifted by a three dimensional depiction of Mary with the risen Christ after the last station.

We enjoyed a late lunch at an outdoor café located a short walk through the bazaar from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  Falafel & Schwarma – delicious! Afterwards, we visited Christ Church (Anglican) which is on the grounds of the former British Embassy. This was our last official stop on our itinerary for the day.  Fortunately, Father Todd asked that we be driven to the Garden Tomb.  Ordinarily, this would not have been possible without an advance reservation, but once again our guide worked his magic and made arrangements for us to accompany a group that was just entering.  This may be the site of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection versus sites in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

From here, the group divided and some people visited the Armenian Church nearby (The Cathedral of St. James.) They were interested to see the sign outside the door which let people know that visitors are not allowed to cross your legs or have your hands inside your pockets inside the church. There were other admonishments as well, but these two were the most unusual. Once inside the church, Dick Entenmann was impressed by the monks’ responsive chanting.

Others in the group walked in the neighborhood or visited the bazaar.

Armenian Orthodox Church_opt

During our free-time on Wednesday afternoon, a group of us visited an Armenian Orthodox Church during their worship service. The monks’ chants were a cappella and beautiful.

Reflections from the group:

Christie Boyle: What an amazing day!

Becky Coulter: It’s interesting to think about the fact that Jesus is a prophet to the Muslims.

Dick Entenmann: Of all the things today, I was most touched by reaching down into the hole where Christ’s cross was set in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Ruth Moore: I had a hard time picturing it with all the glitter & glitz in the churches. When we went to the Garden Tomb, it was easier to imagine.

Click here to see all the pictures from our Grace in the Holy Land photo gallery

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