Hello friends . . . grace and peace,
I have considerable experience with the spoken, written and printed word. Today, in Jerusalem, was a reminder that none of them can adequately translate the pilgrimage experience we had in the Holy City. Several places of Jesus’ final days in Jerusalem, known to most of us only through printed Scripture, Sunday sermons or children’s pageants, became unquestioned reality before our eyes on a beautiful day in Israel. The Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, Mt. Zion, King David’s Tomb, St. Peter’s Church.
Our first one-day spiritual journey began on the Mount of Olives (photos above) and we were mesmerized by the teaching of Fr. Kamal Farah that was facilitated by a wireless microphone that allowed us to hear him through individual ear phones. From the crest of the Mount of Olives, we had a spectacular view of the city. It was this site that was David’s route in his escape from Absalom, where Jesus wept for Jerusalem, where he came on the night of his betrayal, and where he ascended to heaven. On the hillside are the above-ground tombs of Jewish residents of long ago.
From there we walked down a steep road to the Church of the Sepulcher of Saint Mary where it is believed in many traditions that the Virgin Mary was buried. The Roman Catholic faith teaches that Mary was raised to heaven before a natural death – the Assumption.
Walking down the steep hill, we followed a brightly-clothed group from Nigeria who were singing beautifully. Fr. Kamal explained that every Nigerian is allowed to make one lifetime visit to Jerusalem paid by Israel in exchange for the oil provided by Nigeria.
We then walked a short distance to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before his crucifixion. It’s a relatively small area with several olive trees, one that archeologists date to the time of Christ.
Lunch at a downtown Jerusalem restaurant was a wrap that included chicken, onions and vegetables. Schwarma is good.
We then drove to Mt. Zion, stopping first at St. Peter’s Church in Gallicantu to celebrate Eucharist. Fr. Ralph Osborne celebrated in a chapel of the church.
We went from there to the site of the house of Caiaphas, the high priest at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is where dungeons were discovered, showing holes in the rocks to help bind prisoners to the rock and a pit in which some prisoners had to be descended through a 3-foot wide hole. Fr. Kamal said there is no evidence that Jesus was put there after he was condemned but it makes sense since his trial occurred in the house of the high priest just above these dungeons.
We continued up Mt. Zion to the site where we were close to where The Last Supper occurred (no one knows for sure where it happened). Afterwards we ascended to the rooftops and got to see quite the spectacular sunset over Jerusalem.
Throughout the day, Fr. Kamal continued to point out the geography of Jesus’ (and ours today) journey in his last week and days. Up onto Mount Olives, down to Gethsemane, down further into the Kidron Valley, up to The Temple, further up to Mount Zion, down to Caiaphas’ house, down into the dungeon, back up to Pilate’s Palace, and finally, up to Calvary. It will be difficult to top today’s experience but Tuesday’s schedule includes a trip to Bethlehem. Nuff said. But please continue to
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6