Monday, November 8, 2010

"Overwhelmed" seems to me to be a weak word to describe the day we've just experienced. The picture above shows the last thing we saw as the sun set over Jerusalem this evening, and it is--in fact--the place where we spent a good part of the day. This is the Mount of Olives.

We began our day with a trip across the Kidron Valley, and our first stop on the Mount of Olives was the Church of the Ascension. Inside the church is a rock that has been honored since antiquity as the place where the Risen Jesus last stood on this earth, and he left his footprints in the rock.

A short distance from the Chapel of the Ascension is the site known as "Pater Noster"--the place where Jesus taught his disciples the "Our Father". On the chapel walls are large tile presentations of the "Our Father" is 157 languages, including Cherokee!

A short distance from "Pater Noster" is the site known as "Dominus Flavit" --"Jesus Wept". It is venerated as the place where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem just before the events of Holy Week.

Our next stop was the Garden of Gethsemane, where we were priviledged to celebrate the day's Mass--IN the Garden!! In the picture below our group is getting settled and waiting for Mass to begin.

Fr. Anthony presided along with Deacon Don. This was a very special day for Ramon and Marvine Garcia as they celebrated their 52nd Wedding Anniversary. In the picture below we paused to lift up a special prayer and blessing for them at the end of Mass. Happy Anniversary, Ramon and Marvine!

One of the most beautiful churches on the Mount is the Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene. 

Its seven gold spires are so visible that they served as a "reference point" for us when pointing out churches and other holy sites on the Mount of Olives from the other side of the Valley of Kidron.  Back accross that Valley is Mount Zion and the City of David. We visited the Church of the Dormition of Mary on Mt. Zion, one of the most beautiful Chapels that I've seen in person--the walls and ceiling are all mosaic and pictures truely don't do it justice. The main dome featured this beautiful icon of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus.

This was truly a place that invited you to stop and pray. There were many cameras in the group taking pictures here; since mine didn't come out very well I'll have to wait and see what my fellow pilgirms were able to capture "on film".

Trest of the afternoon took us to the "upper room" where Jesus gave us the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. We were blessed to spend a few minutes there by ourselves--an intimate moment in a very busy day. The "Upper Room" is also a site that is a memorial to King David--since we still don't know where King David is buried, this serves as a "poor second."

The last stop before sunset was the Church of "Galli Cantu" (the "cock crowed") which memorializes Peter's denial of Christ after he had been arrested.

THis was a stunning setting because we could look back across the Kidron Valley from here, find the Church of St. Mary Magdalene and--from there--see all the places we had visted in the morning.

"Galli Cantu" is also very near what we now know to be the High Priest's house. Caiaphas was a wealthly man with a large palace that included a dungeon. Our trip into the "Holy Pit" was a very moving experience. Through it all, George, our pilgrimage guide, explains in moving words the "mystery of faith" that the sites we are visiting call to mind. In the picture below we stop while George explains the events of the Passion of the Lord and connects them in sequence to the places we've just visted.

Tomorrow is truly a BIG day--our wake-up call is for 3:30am and we begin the "Way of the Cross" at 4am, with Mass at the Holy Seplechure at 6am! This is a privileged moment and a great blessing--we will have this holy site all to ourselves for 30minutes. What a blessing! Your prayers go with us tomorrow morning. May God bless you and keep you safe in his loving care!     --Greg Smithhisler, Liturgist

1 comment: