Wednesday, June 28, 2006
”Jesus loved the Temple; Paul loved the Temple.” I said these simple words two years ago at the Western Wall while filming our documentary on Paul. I was almost mobbed for speaking the name of “Jesus.”
The bus dropped us off at the Dung Gate near the ancient City of David and I led my pilgrims through the metal detectors into the courtyard between the Jewish Quarter above the Western Wall to the right. Janet led the women to their sector to pray while I led the men to the men’s section. Those without hats picked up cardboard yarmulkes to place on their heads. A head covering is there to remind us that we are in the presence of God.
I took pictures while these good men folded their prayers into small paper squares and squeezed them into the cracks of the wall while the Orthodox Jews bobbed and prayed at the wall. Everyone enjoyed the experience and I hope they had a real sense of the holiness of this place where the Temple stood and where Jesus was teaching the Doctors of the Jewish Law – remember the Fifth Joyful Mystery?
Mary was a real girl. She was not a goddess, nor an angel – she was a simple Jewish girl, actually a tough little Jewish girl who was born in Jerusalem in the very shadow of the temple. She was not only a tough little Jewish girl but also the Immaculate Conception.
The bus dropped us off at St. Stephen’s Gate (I love that gate :-) and we walked up the steep incline past the back entrance to the Muslim shrine of the Dome of the Rock and up to the large door on the right leading into the Church of St. Ann and the Pools of Bethesda. St. Ann’s Church is build over the Grotto where Mary was born.
We had Mass there and Tony McNoskey sang the Ave Maria in this church with acoustics made for a voice like his. (Once the priest in charge told me if you do not sing, you have not prayed.) I gave a talk on the Immaculate Conception in the cave where it all took place.
After this beautiful celebration we drove to a restaurant between Jerusalem and Bethlehem for a buffet lunch. What a spread! After lunch we went to Mount Zion which is outside the Zion Gate and outside the ancient walls.
We visited four sites here: first, the Church of the Dormitian where Mary fell asleep or died. This is a gorgeous church – one of my favorites in all of Israel – with an apse mosaic portraying each of the primary Old Testament prophets holding in their hand a symbol of how they prophesied about the coming Messiah. For example, Micah holds in his hand a miniature of the city of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
Below is the ivory statue of Mary reclined as in sleep with the holy women of the Old Testament remembered above her in mosaics: Eve, Miriam, Jael, Judith, Ruth, and Esther. Also we saw one of my favorite mosaics of Mary laboring in prayer with the apostles to give birth to the Church on the 50th day, Pentecost. There is so much to see in this church that it is impossible to even begin here.
And which site "saw" the institution of three of our seven Sacraments?
We climbed up the stairs to the Upper Room where I gave an extended talk about the institution of the priesthood, the Eucharist,and the Sacrament of Reconciliation; also the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and Peter’s escape from prison (Acts 12).
Below the Upper Room we prayed at the Tomb of David before walking down to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu – the place where the cock crowed. Here we read Psalm 88 in the pit where Jesus spent Holy Thursday after being tried and beaten by the High Priest. We talked about Peter and the charcoal fire – why a charcoal fire? After this everyone walked on the same steps Jesus ascended when he was taken to trial. These steps will never forget the REAL footprints of God!
Everyone had three hours free to explore the Old City of Jerusalem, to shop, to nap or to pray. Then came dinner and a free evening. Another glorious day.