Friday, April 1, 2011

Pastor's Sabbatical - 5th Post - Israel

1 April 2011 Friday
This is our last full day in Jerusalem, and it has been a warm day too!

But first let me get you caught up with what we did yesterday and then I will let you know what today has been like.

Site of the Ascension
Yesterday we started up on top of the Mount of Olives with a great view of the old city of Jerusalem where you can see the Muslim guarded, but crusader built, site of the Ascension of the Lord. It is a small building built over what traditionally has been thought to be the site of Jesus' Ascension. We walked to Pater Noster Church for view of the grotto cave of teaching (Our Father).

We celebrate mass at this church and continue our walk down through the ancient cemeteries to see the Dominus Flevit Church which commemorates where Jesus wept as he entered into Jerusalem. We met a nice Franciscan from California who is assigned to the Church. There seems to be more tourists around in the last few days, making some of the religious sites a little more difficult to visit. From there we visit the Church of All Nations or the Gethsemane shrine on the mount of Olives. The church is designed with purple and blue windows which give it an appropriate somber feel.

After lunch we go to St Stephen's Gate and enter the old city to do the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross) which brings us to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We do the last few stations on the roof (yes the roof) of the Holy Sepulchre.

roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
 We enter and pray at the site of Jesus crucifixion and tomb. The church is controlled by five different religious groups so there is a whole mixture of art and style. It was very crowded but it was good for us to be there. We had time on our own there and then we wandered back to where we are staying.

at the site of the Ascension

I don't know if many people reading this has ever been to Jerusalem or have read much on the old city, but there are four sections to the old city. They are the Jewish quarter, the Muslim quarter, the Armenian quarter and the Christian quarter. They are all in a relatively small area with an ancient wall that surrounds the old city. We are staying just outside the New Gate of the old city so it is easy for us to go in for a visit.

Getting back to today, Friday, we started off walking through the old city and learning more about the history and significance of this city. We end up visiting the Cenacle, the site of the Last supper, Pentecost and the Resurrection appearances. Below it we visit the tomb of King David. From there we walk through the excavations of the Jewish quarter and end up at the Western Wall and offer a prayer.

We then walked over to the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu for mass. This site is where Peter denied Jesus three times and where Jesus was imprisoned. There are ancient stairs on the property as well that lead to the Kidron Valley and we offer a prayer at each step as we remember Christ being lead to his torture.

Church of Jesus in Chains
This ends our touring for today. Being Friday, things start shutting down in the afternoon for the Jewish people. I understand the buses will shut down and cab service will end. It will get quieter, I am sure, at sunset.

Tomorrow is our last day here, we will get up early again and pack our bus and walk over for mass at the Holy Sepulcher. If the timing is right, we should be able to visit a couple more sites on the way to the airport and be back in Rome by eight or nine o'clock at night.

I hope everyone is doing well back home. This has been an excellent experience. Please keep me and my fellow pilgrims in your prayers. Know that you are in my prayers and mass that we will offer tomorrow morning at the church of the Holy Sepulcher.

God Bless,
Fr Joe

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