Saturday, March 6, 2010

Friday 5 March 2010

Our morning was spent on the Mount of Olives.

We began at the Church of Dominus Flavit. (I have to say that, as far as church names go, I really like Dominus Flavit, it's just fun to say!) The site is not fun. It marks the spot where Jesus sat and wept over Jerusalem, in Matthew 23:37: Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! The church itself is shaped like a teardrop, and the window behind the altar looks out over Jerusalem. My fellow pilgrim Gareth gave a lovely reflection on this space, and you can read it at the Jerusalem Mile project blog here ( I really recommend it).

After hearing Gareth's reflection we were given much time for prayer and photos. I sat on the wall for a long time looking out over Jerusalem. I understood why Jesus wept. This beautiful city is so embroiled in conflict. The parties have changed many times in the last 2000 years, but it's still a city at war, still a city that stones its prophets.

First, the church of Dominus Flavit. Next, another sideways view: the window behind the altar. Finally, the view from the Mount of Olives, looking out over Jerusalem.

We walked down the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. I had a hard time not being seriously crabby there. It was full to overflowing with people. The church was lovely. It's called the Church of the Agony, but most folks refer to it as the Church of All Nations, as donations came from around the world to build it. The gardens were beautiful, but fenced off so that we couldn't actually get to them.

I fretted a bit, and then sat down on a bit of the edge of the wall with a view into the garden. Almost at once, my annoyance abated. I listened to the conversations going on as people walked by my little perch. One man said, "Jesus really was a revolutionary, and as the church has been institutionalized, we've lost that character....." and then he and his companion were out of ear shot. I couldn't even recognize most of the languages, much less understand them. I was struck by the fact that most of us had come here, on pilgrimage, because of the pull of this first century revolutionary. Then, as I continued to look into the garden and pray, I could almost picture Jesus in there, afraid, wondering what would happen, and then betrayed by one of his close friends. Powerful.

First, the Church of All Nations, then my view into the Garden of Gethsemane. Finally, an ancient olive tree, perhaps dating close to the time of Jesus.

After lunch, we visited the Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Mark. This church is on the site believed to be the home of St. Mark, and venerated as the site of the Upper Room. In the Upper Room, Jesus ate his Last Supper with his friends; he washed their feet. In the Upper Room, his disciples hid after his death and resurrection. In the Upper Room, he appeared to them, and the Holy Spirit came upon them with tongues of fire. Holy holy space, it was.

Sr. Justina, one of the caretakers of the church, prayed the Lord's prayer in Aramaic. It was sung in a haunting and beautiful way; I could scarcely breathe. I asked her later, and she told me that all prayer and worship in her church is sung, except when they read from the Acts of the Apostles; she invited me to worship with them on Sunday night, which I will do if we are back from our Sunday adventures in time. Sr. Justina also told us much about her life and faith. She is one of the 1 million people who still speak Aramaic at home and in worship.

We had to go down to get into the Upper Room, Jerusalem has risen in 2000 years, as buildings have been built on top of one another. There, Andrew led us in a mediation about Eucharist, reminding us that the Last Supper was the Passover meal, a meal of Liberation! The passover lamb was sacrificed to mark defeat of slavery in Egypt. We were invited to offer prayers about Eucharist, and there were many lovely ones. Mine: Help us to remember that when we gather at your table, Lord, we are eating a Liberation meal.

First, Sr. Justina. Next, an icon of footwashing at the last supper, and finally, the sanctuary at St. Mark's.

We walked from St. Marks, to the Church of St. Peter Gallicantu. This French Church is on the site of Caiphas' House. Gallicantu means cockcrow, and it marks the spot where Jesus was brought after his arrest, and where Peter denied him three times. There are also caverns under the church that may well have been where Jesus was imprisoned after his arrest. It's one of the places that made the drama of those events more real for me.

The church was lovely, full of art. I impressed my friends by translating the French that ringed the cross on the ceiling (and myself, too, in actual fact!).

Next to the church are a set of first century steps that lead up the Kidron Valley from the Mount of Olives. Jesus would have walked those steps as he moved from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane as a free man, and then back up the steps, after his arrest.
First, St. Peter Gallicantu, next, the cross from the ceiling. Finally, the steps leading up through the Kidron valley.

A number of us left the Church of St. Peter and went to the Western wall to observe Shabbat prayers. I really didn't understand much of what I was seeing. No one person led what was happening. Men gathered in small groups (families? minions? I really don't know) and prayed either alone or together. Groups broke into song; a few danced. There was added tension to the event. Earlier on Friday, violence broke out on the Temple Mount: 15 Israeli soldiers were injured and two Palestinians were shot. All around the Old City, and at the wall, were lots of soldiers with assault rifles and other weapons.
We couldn't take pictures at the Western Wall after Sabbat started, but we were able to take photos of the preparations.

1 comment:

Wayfarer said...

What an amazing experience this must be for you! Thank you so much for taking time away from it all to share it.