Today we had a day of intensity, probably the most from our journey as we would be visiting the place of Jesus' death, but also his resurrection. We started the day at 5:25 a.m. walking through the Damascus Gate, later called the St. Stephen Gate, to follow Christ's footsteps at he carried the cross. We carried a much smaller cross and we took turns carrying it, four by four at a time, stopping at each station to recite it and sing "Were you There."
After our procession along the streets of Jerusalem, we ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the place where Jesus was crucified and buried. We ascended the steps to Golgotha, the skull. (From Wikipedia "also called the Church of the Resurrection or Church of the Anastasis by Orthodox Christians) is a church in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, a few steps away from the Muristan. The church contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the fourth century, the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus of Nazareth was circumcised, presented in the temple, where he drove out the money changers, and was crucified, at a place known as "Calvary" or "Golgotha", and Jesus's empty tomb, where he is said to have been buried and resurrected. The tomb is enclosed by the 18th-century shrine, called the Aedicule (Edicule)."
As we walked these ancient streets, cats were everywhere, sniffing garbage and hoping for a handout from the local shopkeepers who weren't quite open yet. Cocks were also crowing, making it a bit eerie. And our guide, Shafiq, mentioned that we should be glad we could not hear the Muslim's mocking us, saying "stupid heretics" as we walked with the cross. This surprised me as they did not seem to show it in their outward appearance as we passed them.
Shafiq later mentioned that most of the shops in the Christian quarter were now run by Muslims calling themselves Mary and Joseph. He showed us the Christian shops. The whole experience put a different perspective on the holy wars. The tensions were very palpable here unlike Great Falls, Montana, where multi-faith is more accepted. Shafiq explained about tensions between Protestants and Catholics too.
The we walked back to the hotel to have breakfast, this time exiting through the New Gate. Shafiq said the St. Stephen's gate used to be the animal market, selling sheep and goats, even from when he was a child, but now it is the garbage collection, with dumpsters all over. He also explained about the bricks from the Herodian period in the wall around Jerusalem, which have frames, or borders around them and the slit windows in the wall to protect from flying arrows.
The St. Stephen's gate, also called the Gate of Lions, since four of them flank the sides, had a place to pour boiling oil on any enemy that might attempt to come through the gate.
Then we went to St. Anne's church, possibly Mary's birthplace, with contained the baths of Bethesda. The cisterns were still there and were still collecting water.
Then we visited the place were Ponius Pilate would stay, the Antonia Fortress, named for Marc Antony.
Our final stop on the walking tour was the Western (or Wailing) Wall. It was here that I delivered 14 petitions from friends into the cracks. Among them was Chrissie Jacksons last(?) prayer request, that only God knows. The wall is a holy place. It is the only section of the Second Temple that the Romans did not destroy in 70 CE.
At the Wall, women and men are separated into different sections, partitioned by a barrier. Christians pray alongside Jews, reflecting their shared spiritual heritage. United States presidents as well as popes have left prayers.
But what becomes of these handwritten prayers? Jewish law dictates that holy texts may not be destroyed, and these notes fall into that category. So, twice annually—before Passover in the springtime and before the Jewish New Year in the fall—the notes are removed and buried on the Mount of Olives.
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After, we had a traditional "sandwich" lunch of falafel or chicken swarma with salad wrapped in bread and pound cake for dessert. Our meal gave us energy to head back to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, this time to visit the tomb, which had a long line. The Orthodox priests did not give us time to do anything except take a quick look at the tomb, which is covered by marble to protect is as people were taking pieces of it as souvenirs. However, the renovators did remove one actual piece and displayed it under glass, so we could see what the actual wall of the cave looked like. The line stopped once for an incense ceremony, which was interesting.
The it was back to the hotel or a chance for shopping. Mom and I along with Mary and Yvette to visit the gate of Damascus in daylight, since it is the gate that leads from Syria to Nazareth. We were able to enjoy the market, watching the many women selling grape leaves, collard greens, beans, green almonds and other produce. I purchased some strawberries, which were very delicious.
We purchased a bracelet of the local stone: malachite and headed back to the hotel. Then after dinner, we were taken on a tour of the history of the shroud in a museum attached to our Notre Dame hotel.