Our final day in the Holy Land was nonetheless meaningful.
A few pilgrims joined Fr Panagiotis for the midnight Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and it was an unforgettable experience. It was much more crowded than the Theophany Liturgy we attended, and the energy of excited and joyful pilgrims was palpable. Fr Panagiotis had the great blessing of serving in the Liturgy, and was able to have the added bonus of spending time in the innermost Tomb chamber right before Holy Communion. Because this church is THE Church of the Resurrection, they always chant the hymns of Pascha while waiting for Communion. Father was in the tomb of Christ as the whole Church sang Christos Anesti! Such a unique and extremely special experience.
This morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we headed to the famous Western Wall of Jerusalem, or “Wailing Wall”. This is the central place of worship for Jews, the geographical focus of all prayers and a very significant journey for them to make. We saw all types of Jewish sects and levels of orthodoxy. It is the place ancient Jews would pray after the destruction of the second temple, when they were not allowed inside the city walls. They still pray for the restoration of the temple, and their ancient worship practices.
Next we took an hour drive to the ancient city of Lydda, where St George’s tomb is found. It is a mostly Arab area, and the building is split into an Orthodox Christian monastery and a mosque, each having relics of St George. The tomb was under the altar, and it streams myrrh.
Our final stop was the Holocaust memorial site and museum of Yad Vashem. They didn’t allow many photos, and I can’t really put a place like this into words. I’ll leave it for your imagination and future visit.
We had a few hours to do as we liked, then had our farewell dinner at the hotel, complete with reflections from pilgrims and many thanks to Fr Panagiotis and our wonderful, top-notch tour guides, Yair and Amos. Blessed trip for all, and hope to return again!