Day 6, Part 1:
Today began with a quick stop at the Mount of Olives, where we had a expansive view of the city of Jerusalem, from the east side of the wall. It was raining and overcast, so it was tough to see at times, but Yair pointed out the Dome of the Rock (the mosque built on Mount Moriah, where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, and where the Muslims believe Mohammad ascended into heaven). We also talked about the eastern wall of the city, whose gate was bricked up by the Muslims so that “no Messiah shall enter here again”.
We also learned that there is a cemetery on the Mount of Olives where Jews prefer to be buried; they believe Messiah will come back down the same route he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, via the Mount of Olives, and they believe they would be among the first resurrected if they are buried right there in His path. (You can see the tombs at the bottom of the photo – they bury bodies underground but place mausoleums on top):
Next was Liturgy at the Holy Sepulcher for the feast of Theophany. It was very different from anything I’ve experienced in America. The structure of the church is different, and the presence of tourists along with the worshipping Christians made for an odd experience. The first thing we saw upon entering was the Anointing Stone, where Christ’s body was prepared for burial. Pilgrims were kissing the stone, wiping its fragrant oil onto their hands and scarves, weeping, laying their faces on it. This was the most moving part of the pilgrimage for me so far.
We entered the main church, where the Holy Sepulcher stands in the center. Only a few priests can fit inside, so most of the serving clergy, (Fr Panagiotis among them!) were standing outside the tomb during the service.
There is a separate church of the Anastasis mirroring the Sepulcher, which a much larger altar, so many of the clergy were in and out of that church during the service as well. After Liturgy concluded, we scrambled to reassemble our group and followed the Patriarch and clergy to the Patriarchate, where we joined in his audience chamber for a blessing and a group picture. He had a warm and friendly presence, and it was wonderful to be able to be close to him.
Church of the Anastasis
The Patriarch giving out holy water
The patriarch of Jerusalem, and if you look closely, Fr Panagiotis.
We were then joined by Fr Clavdios, a priest from the brotherhood of the Patriarchate, who is a priest-monk at the monastery of the Holy Cross. He will spend the rest of today and tomorrow with us. We all had lunch at a fantastic restaurant nearby, at the Hotel Norte Dame. Truly marvelous food and a rooftop view of Jerusalem.
After lunch we braved chilly and rainy weather to see the sights at Mount Zion, including the tomb of King David, which is controlled by the Jews, and required separation of men and women and head coverings for all.
Directly above the tomb was the Upper Room, site of several important events. The Mystical Supper, the apostolic council where they voted to replace Judas with Matthias, and the miracle of Pentecost occurred here.
Alcove in the Upper Room