We started early today to pray the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa before the shops opened and the streets filled with people. I will do it this way every time from now on. The bus left at 6:30 and we started before 7 AM. The Way of Sorrows is always a very emotional time for pilgrims and there were not many dry eyes. We ended up at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where each pilgrim was able to touch their Rosaries at the place Jesus was crucified and to reach down and touch the top of Calvary where the Blood of Our Lord dripped onto the ground.
We then walked back to the Notre Dame for breakfast before boarding the bus at 9:15 to head for the top of the Mount of Olives. We visited the Pater Noster where our Lord taught his disciples the Our Father and where the early Christians celebrated the Ascension. The Ascension Chapel nearby is another site venerated as the place of the Ascension, but it is a Muslim mosque so this time we went to Pater Noster from which the earliest tradition was maintained.
Praying the Our Father under the trees and thinking of Jesus teaching it to the disciples in a pastoral setting was quite special.
The walk down the steep and narrow road used on Palm Sunday took us to the Church of Dominus Flavit. The name comes from the Latin translation of the shortest verse in the Bible “Jesus wept” (Jn11:35). The church is shaped like a tear drop and is the source of the classic picture from Jerusalem of the Eucharist within the black grated metal window design looking over the walls of the Old City. Pictures were taken by all.
From there we continued down the road of the Triumphal Entry through very crowded streets arriving at the Garden of Gethsemane. We arrived just in time for Mass inside the Church of All Nations, otherwise called the Church of the Agony. We all sat around the rock where Jesus prayed and sweat great drops of blood. Very moving.
I shared how this garden was related to the Garden of Eden. In one garden the first Adam was under a tree of life that brought about death; in the Garden of Gethsemane the Last Adam was at a tree of death that brought about life. And, it was not the physical suffering which weighed heavy on our Lord as much as the suffering caused by the Holy One of God taking on the weight of the sin of the world – he who knew no sin became sin for us.
A short bus ride brought us to a marvelous Jewish restaurant at the Ramat Rachel Hotel for lunch. At 1:30 PM we were on the road again, this time to Mount Zion.
The Church of Dormition was our first stop—the place where Mary fell asleep or died. I gave a short talk on the Assumption and Queenship of Mary and we prayed the Mysteries of the Assumption and the Coronation. After that she was assumed into heaven. Everyone loves this German Benedictine church especially the basement with the statue of Mary asleep surrounded by wonderful artwork. My favorite are the three holy women above her: Eve, Miriam, Jael, Judith, Ruth, and Esther. Janet loves the mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe and I the mosaic of the Pentecost.
How can you describe a visit to the Upper Room? Let’s try with two descriptions: chaos and profound. Groups compete for space and decibel levels. Pushing and jostling, straining to hear and limitations on time. Our headphones were indispensable at this site.
It was in the Upper Room that Jesus instituted the new Priesthood, the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pentecost took place here as did the return of Peter from prison. I had a lot to share here and we pray the Mysteries of the Rosary related to the Eucharist and Pentecost. Steve did a talk to explain the site and the significance of this place. We prayed to Mysteries of the Rosary here.
More could be said, but I’ve written too much already. Then on to St. Peter in Gallicantu where Jesus was tried by Caiaphas the High Priest and beaten and mocked. He was kept here over night in a cistern prison. It was also where Peter denied Christ, which is what the name means “Peter and the Cock Crow.” Everyone also walked on the old Roman Steps where Jesus walked as he was led to the house of Caiaphas.
We finished a little before 4 PM which gave people some free time to rest up, sit around and talk or go re-visit some of the sites. We gathered at 6:30 for dinner at the Notre Dame and after dinner I gave my traditional one-hour talk on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and about the history of Israel and the land.