|This was an intense, rock and roll religious day!
The morning was spent on the Mount of Olives. It's right across from the Temple Mount separated by the Kidron Valley. Great scenic view and pics of the Old City. Began at Pater Noster, a chapel on the side of the hill honoring the location of the Our Father. On the walls of the sanctuary and gardens are versions of the Our Father in 175 different languages. There's a rock in the church that legend says He wept and prayed over. Very peaceful and serene.
Walked down the hill a bit and stopped in the Jewish Cemetery. The Mount of Olives is home to three large cemeteries- Jewish, Christian and Muslem, so much of the olive groves are gone. Another amazing site for pics and we learned a bit about the history and traditions of the burial ground.
More walking down the hill, we stop at Dominous Flevit- The Lord Wept. It's a path and church were Jesus wept over the future demise of Jerusalem, which occurred 40 years later. We had mass in a side chapel overlooking the Old City, with a window facing the Temple silhouetted by a chalice- we saw this pic all over. Pretty special place for mass.
More downhill walk to the Garden of Gethsemene. The Church of All Nations celebrates the major event of where Jesus prayed and was turned over to the Romans on that Thursday evening. Not real large, with rows of olive trees, including new ones planted by recent Popes. Had our group picture here.
Walked to the bottom, crossed the Kidron Vally and entered the city thru the Lions Gate. It was high noon and there were thousands of Muslims entering for noon prayers, extremely crowded. After a brief lunch, we purchased a large wooden cross and walked the Via Dolorsosa-the Road of Sorrows-the oath where Jesus carried the cross. Most agree that this is not the actual path, but was established by the Crusaders and the tradition has remained. It start in the Muslem Quarter and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It climbs the steps th the Christian Quarter, passing thru the many vendor stalls and visitors. Kinda disconcerting, but everyone respected our prayers. We stopped and prayed at each station as we took turns carrying the cross. After the 9th station, the rest is inside the church.
The Holy Sepulchre Church is an interesting building. I think 5 different Christian religions share the site, with the Greek Orthodox having the largest presence. It kinda looks like a hodgepodge of chapels with the big Greek one in the middle. It's dark, damp and feels dingy, but not dirty. It does have an overall atmosphere of a huge cave or mountain, which fits the sites in the church. For those who have been to many Catholic Churches, like St. Peter's with all it's splendor, this is almost the exact opposite. And two Muslem families actually own the building. Although the church is now in the Jerusalem walls, excavations confirm that in Jesus's time, the area was outside the walls and a location for punishment and burial.
But you go there for the two holiest sites in Christianity. We walked in and immediately climbed very steep steps to the Roman Catholic area and did the 10th, 11th and 12th stations of the cross. Then right around the corner is the Crucifixion site, known as Calgary or Gothica-the place of the skull. There's a small altar over a portion of mountain rock, and below the altar, we bent down and touched the site and hole where the crucifix stood. Down below the altar is a glassed in base of the same rock that is part of the mountain.
After that, we did the final two stations, right outside of the actual Sepulchre, which is an ornate structure surrounding the cave where Jesus was buried and rose from the dead. It's a very dark building in a dark recess that is being supported by metal girders for 100 years, due to damage from a earthquake around 1920.
We entered the structure and there is a small slab of stone, maybe 1 ft square, that was from the rock that sealed the grave. Inside, there is a very small altar with a smooth rock the Jesus was laid to rest on. The room fits 4 people and they give us about 15 seconds to kneel, pray and touch. We all felt rushed and wanted to have more time to savor the moment, but there are many people waiting for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But it's a pretty solemn and humbling experience.
We toured the other church chapels, but we were still in awe of what we just experienced.
We spent a little time walking around the Christian Quarter, then went back to the hotel for dinner.
It was an emotional and exhausting day, but very fulfilling!