Saturday, June 11, 2016

Bethphage, Dominus Flevit, Gethsemane, St. Peter's in Gallicantu, the Dead Sea, and Gathering Together

Today, the North Carolina pilgrims got up and left very early to pray the Stations of the Cross in the Old City while the Louisiana pilgrims gathered a little later to walk the "Palm Sunday Walk" from Bethphage (Beth = house / Phage = figs) on the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane.
We began as close as we could to where Jesus is said to have mounted the donkey to ride into Jerusalem. It was a walk of mixed emotion from jubilation intermingled with the anxiety and coming doom of the cross. The present Bethphage church was built in 1883 on the remains of older churches – a Byzantine church and above it ruins of a church from Crusader times. Inside the church is the Memorial Stone of Bethphage. 
Starting at the Bethphage Church, Steven Roberts blessed our olive branches and we read scripture, prayed, and sang "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" as we walked.
There is a beautiful painting inside the church depicting Jesus' entry into Jerusalem.
Next, we walked downward toward the Old City past the Mount of Olives cemetery, an extremely large Jewish burial area. 
It was a steep descent towards Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley, but everyone was able to manage. We stopped at the Dominus Flevit (Our Lord wept) Church or the "Tear Drop" church.
There are tear bottles at each of the four corners to represent the tradition of gathering tears for the departed.
There was a super wonderful panoramic view of Jerusalem from this church and one can see the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount from here.
Continuing our walk, we headed down to the church built over the Garden of Gethsemane. While the word Gethsemane means "place of the olive press" and the actual garden is the entire huge area, there was a smaller garden full of olive trees, giant roses, bougainvillea, hollyhocks, and more. 
Some of the olive trees in the garden are the oldest known to science and have regenerated after 800-900 years. So, the trees we see there may be the grandtrees of the ones in Jesus' time. They are noble and reverent in their silent peace. 
Next to this garden is the Church of All Nations, also known as the Sanctuary of the Agony of Jesus Christ and The Basilica of Gethsemane. 
Inside, there is a lage slab of bedrock that is said to be where Jesus prayed before he was to be arrested. Many pilgrims were on the same path as our group today and many knelt at this rock and prayed earnestly.
Our final pilgrim site of the day was to the Church of St. Peter's in Gallicantu. Gallicantu means "cock's crow" and the weather vane is a rooster. It is a lovely church set on top of ruins of caves and dungeon areas and beside lengthy steps leading down into Jerusalem. Jesus walked these steps. 

The church location is also associated with the High Priest Caiaphas' palace. The church belongs to the Assumptionist Fathers, a French order established in 1887 and named for Mary's Assumption into heaven.
Now it was time for lunch and our pilgrims had a quick meal at the Notre Dame Center before dispersing to either walk in the old city or have a two hour break before heading out to the Dead Sea. 
In reading ahead about the Dead Sea, I found the following post interesting:
"Ten Things You Didn't Know About the Dead Sea"
It was 43 degrees out at the sea and this equals 109.5  It's safe to say it was HOT.
Half of our pilgrims waded in the water and several more floated (they tried to swim) in the sea. The other half enjoyed cool beverages and some social time. As Earth's lowest place of elevation on land, the shore is 1388 feet below sea level. Did I mention it was hot?!
After this exciting adventure, we gathered at Iyad Qumri's house in Jericho for a fabulous dinner and some down time! What amazing and generous hospitality! At the beginning of our pilgrimage, during our first meeting together, we selected a prayer partner from folded papers and prayed for them the entire trip. Since the NC group leave early, we revealed out partners tonight. 
Gifts were exchanged between prayer partners and gifts were also given from the whole group to Iyad Qumri, Omar "the Magnificent" (our driver), John Peterson, and Canon Mark Stanger.

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