We arrived at the check point and waited for the checkpoint to open at 8:00. Ilyad joined us this morning (Mark went back to Jerusalem last night), and is our guide today with his son Sammi.
We sat and listened to Iyad talk about the history of the area.
Mt. Moreh, Gilboa, Samaria -- Iyad spoke about the land and the history. I can't write all that he said because I was intrigued by the link from the past to the present. We were passing through biblical history in a way I hadn't experienced in 2009. I felt a deep connection to the land and the stories. It made my mind drift to prayers I felt and prayed as I did when I studied this part of First Testament studies -- I felt myself drawn to and praying psalms in my head as I heard the stories. The Bible was coming alive for me in a new way.
We arrived 20 minutes late at St. Matthew's -- but the congregation had waited for us! As they saw us coming the church bells were rung. Fr. Salim handed me an alb and a stole -- it was large for me, but I didn't care -- I was so happy to be here with him and this very warm congregation.
I read some prayers and the gospel in English. As he preached in Arabic I started reading ahead in the English worship bulletin from St. George's Cathedral in Jerusalem. I began to cry as I read the words "he died here in Jerusalem". At the end of the sermon he gave a quick synopsis of it to us in English. It was about Mary (of course), her obedience -- her YES to God. I had to pull myself together at the end of the sermon (I was still emotional from reading the words of the Eucharistic prayer during the sermon) as he asked me to say a few words during the announcements.
The next thing I knew Fr. Salim asked me to celebrate the Eucharist. He asked me to celebrate using the prayer I had read a few minutes earlier and cried over. I thought I would be okay. When I got to the words again -- I started to cry. I had to stop. I was overwhelmed, and still feel overwhelmed, saying the words of the Eucharistic Prayer in that space on this day, having been to Nazareth, on our way to Jerusalem. I have been to the Holy Land before, but I don't think I will ever be able to celebrate the Eucharist again in the same way -- this was a great gift I received today, but it also feels like a great burden that I need to unpack. How can I help the Christian communities here? How can I be an advocate for them? How can the peace of God which passes all understanding be realized in this land? How can I invite others into the great impact of the words of our Eucharistic prayers?
I distributed communion -- the person with the bread dips it in the wine and puts it in the mouth of the people. For younger children, they receive the bread and the cup is touched to the top of their head.
In this picture two of our women pilgrims are drawing water from the well -- again it made the scripture come alive for me!
Fr. Justinian wrote many icons which are for sale in the area of the well. Steve bought one of the Trinity. The man working there gave me a gift -- a small jug (pocket size) of water from Jacob's Well. I hope that fits in my little bag to bring home on the plane as I don't normally check a bag (we came with just a backpack and a carryover each.
Bank. We drove by the city of Shiloh, where the ark of the covenant was kept before it was lost to the Philistines. We drove by terraced hillsides -- terraced over thousands of years by the people who lived and work on this land. It is designed so that the land doesn't erode and so that they could plant and use the land for food production. There were also watchtowers built -- people needed to protect their land especially during harvesting time. They are typically made of stone -- see Isaiah chapter 5 per Iyad.
We then headed over to St. George's Guest House in Jerusalem -- our home away from home for the remainder of our trip. Crossing the checkpoint, Israeli soldiers boarded the bus and asked us for our passports and the little piece of paper (visa) we were given when we entered the country. We were happy to show them.
At St. George's we were greeted warmly and shown to our rooms. Apparently the room Steve and I are supposed to be in is not available tonight but will be tomorrow. I'd be happy to stay where I am, but apparently someone is supposed to be in that room tomorrow. No worries -- good thing I pack lightly.
At 5:15 I headed with the rest of the pilgrims to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before dinner -- without cell phone, iPad, backpack -- only us. We were asked to experience this for the first time without "things" to distract us -- not money, not electronics -- nothing! When we got there Vespers was being offered by priests who some of us assumed to be Assyrian at the site of the crucifixion. We waited a few minutes and got in a short line to reverence and pray at the site. We then walked down to the Holy Sepulchre and prayed there as well. A few minutes to walk around -- all in silence. We met up outside and walked back to St. George's in silence through the streets in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Devotions and group time followed dessert. We prayed Compline together. We shared thoughts and feelings. It was as moving at the end of the day as it had been at the beginning.
....and the pilgrimage journey continues tomorrow.
More pictures from St. George's Orthodox Church:
More pictures from St. Matthew's Angli an Church:
More images from Jacob's Well in Nablus: