I am sat writing this in the garden of the Lutheran Guest House in Jerusalem where we have been staying for our pilgrimage to Israel which is called In The Footsteps of Jesus. Today has been day four and I feel that I have been assaulted by a series of sights, experiences, sounds and events that il will be reflecting on for many months to come. I did however think it would be good for me to share a few of these as it will help be to reflect on what I’m experiencing.
Having read the Bible we all have a mental picture of the stories of Jesus. What I wasnt expecting was how close things are to each other in and around Jerusalem. I had thought the Temple Mound would be the highest point in Jerusalem, it isn’t. It is overlooked by the Mount of Olives which is just a stone throw away from it. It is an easy walk from where we are staying to the Western Wall of the Temple and from there to the Mount of Olives. Today we travelled to Bethlehem from Jerusalem and the journey was short. I know we were driving but it’s less than the distance from Sarisbury Green to Fareham which isn’t that far.
But the main surprise was the distance between where Jesus was crucified and where he was buried. I don’t know why but I have never imagined them being that close together. The Church of the Holy Sepelchure however contains both of these within the one church building and they are less than 100yds apart! It has also surprised me that there is a very high level of probability that these are the actual places.
So far visiting the Church of the Holy Sepelchure has been the most moving part of my time. I was surprised how emotional I felt when we visited the church on the first evening after the group arrived. I had a deep sence of amazement and awe that I was standing feet away from the rock on which Christ was crucified and from the tomb, hewn from the rock face, where he was buried.
Yesterday morning some of us got up early (5.30am!) to visit the church. I went first to the chapel that houses the rock of Golgotha and spent some time in reflection. I then went to the large chapel that houses the, largely reconstructed, tomb. It was Sunday morning and there were services happening in every chapel and crevice across the whole building. At the entrance to the tomb a priest emerged followed by the small group who had been with him as he celebrated communion. Another Franciscan priest entered and a few people followed. Five of us took the opportunity and followed ourselves. We were the last in and they shut the door behind us. There in the small space of the place of Christ’s burial and resurrection we were part of a Catholic Mass in Italian and Latin. Being aware of the depth and breadth of God’s love was an awesome experience. receiving communion inside the tomb is an experience I pray I will never forget.
The journey continues and I hope to post more in the next week or so.