We started out early, heading to the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. Unfortunately when we got off the bus and up to the security area (you have to go through a metal detector to get up there).we found out that the Dome of the Rock was closed due to the Prophet's Birthday yesterday.
spent time at the Wall praying. I prayed for my family, for the diocese, for the Church. I prayed for peace in this Holy Land in this Holy Season. I prayed for the people of Israel/Palestine. I put my hand on the Western Wall and could feel the prayers of others that have come before me: prayers of pain, joy, contrition, love, despair, thanksgiving, hope. It was overwhelming -- I felt I needed time apart, but that was not to be just then. At lunch I was quiet -- sitting working on my iPad. What I was really doing was processing the prayers I felt at the Western Wall -- the prayers I offered and the overwhelming feelings I had touching that Wall.
walked through looking at the various layers of building that occurred in the area. We walked along the Eastern Wall -- the other side of the Western Wall. It was amazing to see the Herodian level as well as other building there. Iyad is such a great guide -- he knows so much about the history of the area, the Bible, the people -- and he makes it all come alive for us.
While we were there was an older Swiss Roman Catholic Priest who came into the shop with his small group from Switzerland. He was speaking French. Mark welcomed him and spoke with him in French. He was told that I'm a bishop and came over and kissed my ring. My pilgrims found that quite amusing! He was very kind. We shared our bread with the Priest and his small group of pilgrims. They bought coffee to drink and took our places at the tables as we left.
We went inside and saw the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit. No photos were allowed in there. I remember Brad Karelius telling me that it was his uncle(?) or Great-Uncle (?) who was the one the Bedouin brought the scrolls to. I said a prayer for Brad then.
Back to St. George's to rest up before we had our early dinner. We left the grounds of St. George's at 7:00 -- in a caravan behind Archbishop Dawani's car heading to Bethlehem for Lessons and Carols at the Church of the Nativity.
After the opening welcome statement and the singing of a hymn the dignitaries left and those who were caught outside of the chapel were shuffled in and took what few chairs were vacated and sat on the floor or stood.
It was amazing to be there, singing a Capella and doing the lessons together. It was beautiful to hear carols I haven't heard before and lessons in different languages.
When I rose to read the lesson I was assigned, I was moved to tears but held it back. I looked at the Archbishops and the people gathered, and took a deep breath and started. It is one of my favorite readings. I'm going to be processing this for a great while.
When we left from the service we discovered that one of our pilgrims was told that the couldn't bring his camera into the service because it was a security risk. When he went to retrieve it afterwards it was missing. We still don't have it but hopefully will have it back in the morning.
It is late, we are tired but thrilled to be here.
A blessed Christmas to all!
More pictures from the Western Wall:
More pictures from Richardson's Arch and the walk towards the Lion's Gate/St. Stephen's Gate:
More pictures from St. Anne's and the pools of Bethseda:
Picture from outside of St. Anne's towards St. Stephen's Gate:
More from the Israel Museum:
More from Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity: