Another busy and packed day today: this is beginning to feel like a fact finding mission with so much information that I can’t remember it all, even by the end of the day.
Began by travelling out to Abu Guosh, which is associated with the resurrection appearance of Jesus at Emmaus. Here we celebrated Eucharist in the Monastry, surrounded by walls with part murals on. When the area had been taken over by Muslims in the Middle Ages or earlier, the faces of the holy people had been erased as they considered it disrespectful to show them. A simple, quiet and beautiful place, the Eucharist became even more powerful.
And then on to the Church of the Visitation, associated with Mary’s meeting with her cousin Elizabeth where the baby Jesus ‘leapt in her womb’. Fascinating wall containing The Magnificat in umpteen different languages and a lovely statue of Mary and Elizabeth in front of it.
After visiting the house alleged to be Elizabeth’s we went up the steps into the Church itself. Quite fascinating And very beautiful.
after returning to Jerusalem for lunch we moved onto Mount Zion. All I can truly say is “wow”. Not particularly outstanding but the experience of being there was intensely moving. We began in the Upper Room which I think most of us felt wasn’t the original (it couldn’t be) but then we moved down the hill to the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu. This church commemorates the denial of Peter at the Last Supper. We heard the story again, read the Scriptures and when we began to sing the Easter hymn “Thine be the glory” it just caught me. Singing our hearts out with a huge painted wall of Jesus on the cross right in front of us was tremendous nous. Many of us let the tears and emotions go.
But more was to follow, for we then went underneath the church to where there was a great pit. As we all stood in this pit we were reminded that it would have been something like this darkened place where Jesus would have been put awaiting trial. Then Psalm 88 was read which concludes with these words, “You have put me in the pit, in the regions dark and deep……………… You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness”. Try reading the whole Psalm as you imagine Jesus in a deep pit and you might begin to understand the sense of despair and desolation He must have felt. At the end of the Psalm there was simply silence; the moment was awesome and deeply, deeply spiritual. The atmosphere was electric and the sense of being in the presence of something far beyond our experience was tangible.
After we came out we were shown what are called the Golden Steps. At first glance no more than a set of eroded steps and stones going down the hillside, but then Rami our guide explained that when they were discovered it was realised how they linked the Upper Room are at the top of the hill all the way down to the Kidron Valley and the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus would’ve walked these stones from the Last Supper to the Garden and as Rami put it “He descended the hill a free man, and then returned up the hill arrested and facing judgement” It gets to you, the realisation that this is what God was prepared to do for us, for me even.
Tonight is our last night in Jerusalem, for tomorrow we set out for Jericho, the Mount of Transfiguration, and finally the Sea of Galilee where we’ll stay until our time is over. Thanks for the encouraging comments people have given me over the last few days And for letting me share this wonderful experience.