Sunday, December 20, 2015

Monday, December 21: Horizons of Jerusalem/Holy Sepulchre

I couldn't stay asleep as prayer and reflection beckoned me awake early this morning. 

I thought and prayed about all we have experienced thus far. I smiled as I remembered fondly the Santas I saw on decorated Christmas trees in churches and in decorations outside of them (as in this picture). I reflected on the manger caves adorning almost every church we visited so far. There is a different sense of decoration and celebration here -- I can't wait to see what it is like on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

We started out with breakfast (delicous!) and our group photo on the steps of St. George's Cathedral.

We then headed over to Mt. Scopus, which means watcher. You can see Jerusalem from here. Iyad explained to us that there are three valleys that protect Jerusalem -- The Kidron Valley, the Valley of the Cheesemaker or the Central Valley (Tairopian) and the Potter's field (Jeropian Valley) -- which is where the garbage used to be burned. Jerusalem has two parts -- east and west. We are in East Jerusalem at St. George's which used to be part of Jordan. 

One of our pilgrims really wanted to get a "tall" view from the lookout over Mt. Scopus, and Kelli Grace helped her! Rebecca Miller -- you are one crazy pilgrim!

When we arrived at Mt. Scopus we could see the Mount of Olives where the Ascension is said to have occurred. We could also see the walled city of Jerusalem, where the Dome of the Rock dominated the skyline. We could also see St. George's. In the late 1800s when St. George's was being constructed people thought the Anglicans were crazy to build so far from the city -- turns out it is pretty close. There must have been much there at that time.

Steve and I took at picture together at the lookout point on Mt. Scopus, but I love this picture of him -- just like him -- looking over at the city.

We then went to another spot to look over the Judean desert. Iyad gave us a biblical history lesson, reading descriptions of the area from the Bible. It was so gratifying at the last site and this one to have the pilgrims respond knowledgeably to his questions -- not the priests, but the pilgrims. Young adults knowing the answers to some not-so-easy questions.  

The geography has changed since the time of Abraham -- it was more lush at that time than it is now. It was moving to hear the Biblical stories and watch Iyad point to where the area is, talking about the number of miles between the different sites. I kept thinking about Jesus walking from Galilee here. He wouldn't have taken the highway as we did yesterday which is a straight line (basically) to Jerusalem, but a route along certain paths and wadis. It would have taken Jesus 5 to 6 days to make the trip we did in about an hour and change. I kept thinking about our pilgrimage and the short walks we are taking. I'm looking forward to my sabbatical time when Steve and I will walk about 100 miles in 9 days from Melrose Abbey to Lindisfarne, taking some side paths. Walking to take in and absorb the walk, not zip through it. A slower, deliberately meditative walk. I wonder if that is what Jesus did? Was that one of the ways he prayed? Could he walk with the disciples in silence as Steve and I can do when we walk together -- lost in deep thought and prayer, or did they keep hounding him to talk with them, to share his thoughts?

Being in this land causes me to have memories of the first time I was here, and to look again at sites that moved me the first time I saw them. Will they be the same as I remember them? What may have changed? Chris Tumilty shared that there is a tree -- which we could see from the spot where we looked over the Judean desert -- that he has taken a photo of each time he has come here beginning with his first trip as a teenager. This is his 9th trip here. Here's my attempt at capturing that same tree. I have had so many wonderful conversations with Chris this trip -- he is one very deep human being!

We were taken back to St. George's to grab a cup of coffee and rest for a bit before we meet with Archbishop Dawani. He spoke about the situation here in Jerusalem and in the Province. Christians make up less than 1% of the population now in the area. 

After meeting with Archbishop Dawani we met with Iyad again to go over more the history of the area. 
Iyad spoke about Golgotha which was a site for stones for the city -- afterwards it was used for crucifixions and then a cemetery using Kokh tombs. Where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was originally outside the gates of the city.

Iyad did a masterful job introducing us to the city (new and in ancient times) as well as the history of Christianity in the region. After reviewing the map we started on our walk to see the pathway/footprint of the old and the new.

We walked outside of the current city wall and looked at the stones -- some dated back to the first century, some to the time of the crusaders. 

We entered the Damascus gate and were shown what we now know to be part of a pillar (the upper portion of the pillar was removed) that exists just inside the Damascus gate.

From Iyad's description outside and inside of the current walled city of Jerusalem it was easy to see the footprint of the city. We were then taken to part of what was the old church before it was destroyed (it was destroyed/damaged 12 times, rebuilt basically 4 times). Here in this picture is part of the entrance of the old Basilica that Helena built (mother of Constantine).

We then went through and saw further chapels and outlying areas of the current Church. 

We went into the church. We discovered, thanks to Mark, that the six religious denominations which control this property do not always get along! Of course, we knew that before today.

We looked, walked and looked some more. It was a beautiful introduction to the Church.

Here are some of the highlights:

The lower part of the stone of what was believed to be Golgotha, where Christ was crucified:

An Ethiopian Chapel:

 In the picture above Steve is speaking to the keeper of the keys -- a Muslim. He is reading him the Shibley diary that Ma translated.

Here is the altar in the chapel dedicated to St Helena.

Original "graffiti!"

Part of a limestone pillar that burned and exploded (yes, when limestone gets burned it can explode).

I was asked to light candles from the Holy Fire:

Steve with the Mosque of Omar behind him.

After we were done with our discoveries for the day, we were free to walk around the walled city and shop. We did, and took long walks as well.

Today I am finally feeling a bit more centered, but I still feel off-kilter. I think it may be a requirement to be here. There is so much to take in -- the history, the current situation, the people, the food -- so much to contemplate, enjoy, cry over, try to figure out. In the midst of all of the learning today, I kept asking myself, "Why?" Why this place, that time, this time, these people, all people? What is my role in all of this? It was a very humbling day!

We are leaving at 6:15 in the morning for Bethlehem, so this blog will not be as long as usual. More tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment