Here's the man holding the icon ready to go down the steps. It was then our time to go down. We had our time in the Manger crypt -- just a few minutes -- to offer reverence. Roman Catholic nuns and Franciscan Monks scrambled to set up chairs and other items, including the bringing down of the icon to hang over the manger before the service. I remember this from last time.
After the service we headed back to the bus and went to a local merchandise co-op to do some shopping. I bought one cross and Steve bought a small dish, both out of olive wood. We saw some icons that are over 200 years old, but they were too expensive for me to buy.
We were asked to sing. The acoustics here are wonderful (I posted a short clip of the hymn we sang on Facebook). The young pilgrims in our group were all very moved by the experience. While I had been here before, I felt as though I was here for the first time again.
Back on the bus and we headed back to Jerusalem -- again through a checkpoint.
A trip to Ibrahim's shop near St. George's was our last stop of the day. He is such a kind man, and he knows his icons!
When I'm in Jerusalem, I feel as though every step I take I'm walking in the steps of pilgrims, residents, saints and sinners. It is an overwhelming feeling at times, one that makes me wish I had more time to explore every alleyway and meet more shop keepers such as the coffee vendor. It is a prayerful time every time I leave my room -- in fact, my ROOM is filled with prayer all the time as well. It can't be helped -- this is a land that fills you with prayer and pulls it out of you at the same time.
The rest of the evening will be for dinner, devotions and sharing. There's lots to share and talk about. I'm filled by joy yet there is a sadness that I feel as well -- you can't be here and not feel it, I don't think. The overarching feeling that comes in prayer is HOPE. Hope, just that. I'll have to work on unpacking that.
More pictures from the Church of the Nativity:
More pictures from looking at the Wall
More pictures from the Shepherd's Field
More pictures from lunch:
Here is a picture with Ruth:
More photos from our time in the Old City this afternoon: