Friday, December 25, 2015

Saturday 12/26/15 - Garden of Gethsemane, Beth-Phage and the Palm Sunday walk, Dominus Flevit, Caiaphas Palace (Peter in Galicantu).

We started out the day by going to Beth-Phage, where we celebrated the beginning of the liturgy for Palm Sunday. Instead of blessings palms, we blessed olive branches. We processed into the church singing All Glory Laud and Honor. We heard scripture read. We had time to pray. 

We are moving today from the wonderful birth of Jesus and fast forwarding to walking with him through the last days of his life. In a way it was so uplifting and amazing to be here in the Holy Land at Christmas -- but that does not protect us from walking through Good Friday. We cannot and must not shun that day and sprint through it to Easter. This walk this day is that beginning. Our entry into the church to pray and hear scripture read is our invitation to take time apart and remember what was done for us. 

We went back to the bus for a short ride, bypassing part of the walk to a slightly shorter version. This was due in part to the fact that on Palm Sunday the narrow street is completely cleared -- today it is congested.

We started our walk down to Dominus Flevit, Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations (The Church of the Agony). It was a slow, deliberate walk on a steep, stone street. I was praying as I was walking down, careful and cautious as I took each step on the slippery stones. Then it happened -- I slipped and my legs went out from under me. I landed in a seated position, with my left hand and arm taking the impact of my fall. I sat stunned, trying to figure out if I had broken anything. I haven't broken anything, just bruised a few areas. I wanted to cry but I didn't want to worry my fellow pilgrims. In my normal, "make them feel better" way, I said a few minutes later as we continued our walk down the steep street: "The 15th Station: The Bishop falls for the first time". This made everyone laugh, which broke the tension as we continued our walk.

I realized a few minutes later that my fall was a metaphor for what happens to us: even when we are deep in prayer, when we live a life a prayer and feel close to God, we are not insulated from hurt and pain. When it happens to us, we need to understand that we are surrounded by love -- I felt that when I fell, not only from my fellow pilgrims, but from God. We are never insulated from hurt or pain, but we are given the strength and courage to deal with it and through it. This was an interesting time for this to happen to me, and it set me up for what was about to come.

We continued on to one of my favorite places -- Dominus Flevit -- the place where it is believed that Jesus, looking over at Jerusalem, wept.

To say it is one of my favorite places is not particularly accurate -- it is a place where my discomfort begins to grow. It is a discomfort that I need to feel and be reminded of -- it is the discomfort of knowing that we do not just jump from Palm Sunday to Easter -- forgetting the hard days in between. We can't go from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the empty tomb without remembering and understanding the days of the Passion. We too suffer. We too can be dead inside. We too die. To walk through these days in this Holy Land is a humbling reminder to keep our hearts and minds and souls focused on God. Jesus looked over from this spot to Jerusalem -- you can see it through the window here -- and he wept. I wept too. I felt the pain, I feel the pain.

We then walked down to the Church of All Nations -- this, too, is one of the most moving places I visited in 2009 -- and the feeling has not changed. Leyah read the scripture -- the sun was in a bad position for this photo, but it was not lost on me that Leyah, from where she was standing, was across from the Golden Gate. It has significance for Christians and Jews -- the Jews believe the Messiah will come through that gate.

I knew there was a service that was about to start, so I went up to say a prayer and touch the rock where it is believed that Jesus agonized over what was to happen to him: (Mark 14:35-36)  And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36He said, ‘Abba,* Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’ 

I didn't need the sign outside the church to tell me to be quiet -- you can't help but be quiet in that space. Many people have touched that stone and prayed. You can feel it in the air and on the stone -- prayers of all kinds. My prayer is like many others before me: "Father, not my will, but yours be done. Not what I want, but what you would have me do."

As I knelt down to pray, I thought about all the times I want what I want, not necessarily what God wants for me. I thought about the last time I was in this space and how I prayed -- that was the time I was discerning  a call to be Bishop Suffragan. I resisted that call at that time, but that changed at Calvary on that trip. I'm wondering what will shift in me -- what I will be called to -- by the time I get to Calvary.

We then moved through parts of the Garden of Gethsemane to go back in the bus. The ancient olive trees there were beautiful. Did Jesus sit under one of these, or the mother tree of one of these trees? Did he find any comfort here? There was a sign that said "PEACE" (you can see a part of it here in this picture) under one of the trees. Peace for the world? Peace for Jerusalem? Peace for every human being? 

We headed over to St. Peter in Galincantu
 -- built on the ruins of what was thought to be the home of  Caiphas. I thought about Jesus walking there across the Kidron Valley -- it is not far. As I walked toward the building I took this picture -- I felt the same sense of dread I did the first time I saw it. I knew the story from the Gospels, but I didn't think it would hit me as hard as it did -- then or now. 

But it did hit me hard. Very hard.

Iyad as usual gave us a wonderful introduction to the history of the church and the spot. We went in the front door and down to a chapel.

In the Chapel we heard scripture. We also looked down a hole to a pit below -- it is believed that Jesus was lowered down there on a rope. Maybe you can see that there is a person standing down there. It is deep, dark and dank. Deep -- Dark -- Dank. Iyad shared with us that more than likely it was muddy, and Jesus could have been standing knee deep in mud in that place. How could he rest? Did he rest? 

On the way down to the pit, we passed by the steps that Jesus would have walked on to get to this place. We also saw the statue of Peter and the rooster -- the cock crowded three times -- and Peter denied Jesus three times. When have I denied you, Lord? When have I turned my back on you? I keep thinking and praying about this even now.

We went down into that hole. On the way we saw where people would have been flogged. Did they hurt Jesus there? Who have they hurt there? 

As we descended the steps down into that pit, I couldn't bring myself at first to take a picture. I've taken a picture of so many other places, but I could not take one immediately in that space. From the top looking down to a small piece of it, I could. But not in there. NOT IN THERE. Why? It felt overwhelming. It was filled with pain. 

Steve read Psalm 88. I could take one picture of him there -- right before he started -- his eyes closed in prayer behind the podium. I offered a prayer. Jesus entered into a great darkness -- willingly. In the Garden of Gethesemane, on the Rock of the Agony, Jesus turned his will -- his life -- over to God in a profound way. He was lowered into a deep, dark, dank place -- a small space. He didn't run from it, he didn't hide from it. Sometimes we too find ourselves in such a place. I know I have. I have and will remember this place -- a place of darkness, of separation. Prayer has gotten me through so many dark moments, even when that prayer is only that one word prayer that I can muster: "Help!" Jesus had to move through that darkness, through ridicule, torture and death. It can feel like that for us sometimes as well. Yet, we know we are never alone -- one who has felt that pain loves us unconditionally, and walks with us through these dark moments if we but turn our heart, mind and soul toward him.

We walked up out of the pit in silence -- there are no words to say coming out of the pit. Many of us were quietly crying.

This was a very heavy day emotionally and spiritually. While the morning passed quickly, we jumped from celebrating joyously the birth of our Savior yesterday to walking through part of his Passion and coming Death today. 

I knew this was going to be a rough day -- I think I instinctively felt it and knew it was coming last Sunday in Zababdeh when I celebrated the Eucharist and cried at the words of the First Eucharistic Prayer in the Liturgy Booklet for the Lord's Supper from the Cathdral of St. George in Jerusalem:

All glory and honor, thanks and praise be given to you Holy Father, heavenly King, Almighty and Eternal God, at all times and in all places, through Jesus Christ your only son our Lord. For he is your living Word; through him you have created all things from the beginning, and formed us in your own image. Through him you have freed us from the slavery of sin, giving him to be born in Bethlehem to share our common life, and here in Jerusalem to die upon the cross; you raised him from the dead and exalted him to your right hand on high. Through him you have sent upon us your holy and life-giving Spirit, and made us a a people to serve you for ever.

I couldn't help but cry through that prayer, and through this day. It has nothing to do with the physical pain I'm in from the fall, but the emotional and spiritual pain I feel in this place, walking the path towards the death of the person whose birth we celebrated joyfully yesterday. That's why that prayer made me cry last week -- I AM in that place. I AM walking with him, and it hurts. We all are hurting today.

We did go to lunch, and it was greatly subdued from the mood we have been having while eating together. There was no laughing or singing. You can't pray and walk through what we walked through today and not be moved. It was a quiet lunch, almost silent. 

Steve and I went for a walk after lunch. We had Turkish Coffee at a coffee dealer who knows Bishop Bruno -- he treated us to the coffee. We then went and found the warm peanut vendor and bought some nuts. We found a pomegranate juice vendor -- fresh squeezed right in front of you pomegranate juice -- it was refreshing, and took me back to our first days in Nazareth. 

We rested for a while and I continued to pray. I went to finish this blog, hit the wrong button and lost the whole thing. I had to recreate today's blog, and in a way that was a great gift. The writing poured out of me again, this time in one piece, instead of piecing it together after each stop. It helped me process a bit more of what I/we experienced today. It is humbling and a great privilege to be on pilgrimage with this wonderful group of young pilgrims.

The group gathered in relative quiet, and we remain that way.

Until tomorrow -- our time in the desert.

More from the Church at Beth-Phage:

More pictures from Dominus Flevit:

A Byzantine mosaic next to Dominus Flevit:

More from the Church of All Nations:

More from St. Peter's in Galincantu:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Diane for this post. You photos and reflections generate other powerful thoughts. Continued blessings on your journey. Peace and love. Lucky