October 17, 2013: JERUSALEM
Our breakfast was too early at 5:15AM and left at 6:16AM for our Via Dolorosa going up to the Holy Sepulchre. We entered through the St. Stephen’s Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. We started our 14-Station of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) at 6:25AM with Bishop Gutierrez as the first one who carried the Cross, and finished the Station to Church of the Holy Sepulchre which was built over the site of the Calvary (Jesus’ Crucifixion) and the Tomb of Jesus. The Church also houses under its roof the place called (Church of) Golgotha, that is to say, ‘a place of a skull’ as well as the last 5 Stations (10th to the 14th Station) of Via Dolorosa. it is named as ‘place of a skull’ most probably because of its form, that of a human being’s skull.
Holy Sepulchre houses also the place of Jesus’ Burial and Resurrection: “When it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea arrived; his name was Joseph, and he also was a disciple of Jesus…. So Joseph took it, wrapped it in a new linen sheet, and place it in his own tomb, which he had just recently dug out of solid rock. Then he rolled a large stone across the entrance to the tomb and went away,” (Mt. 27:57-60).
Perhaps the high point of every pilgrimage is honoring the Passion of Christ and walking the Via Dolorosa (or the Way of Sorrows), which is the route Jesus walked on His way to the Calvary: “So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on either side or Jesus between them,” (Jn. 19:17-18).
While doing our Station of the Cross, the route which Jesus walked on His way to Calvary weaves around between a tangle of shops, houses and kiosks. I was quite scandalized by what I saw as sign of commercialization of a sacred path. We stop at each station, with appropriate readings, prayers for each station, and singing.
After we finished our Station in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we joined a multitude of people at the Church of the Crucifixion and Burial and queued to get to the last two stations. The Orthodox presence was overwhelming. This response to the honoring of God is difficult for those of us with simpler views of what pleases God and what gives Him honor, as someone had said.
Our Mass was at the Chapel inside the Holy Sepulchre Church. Bishop was the presider. Fr. Ramil Poquita CP as the main celebrant. It started at 8:10am. The bishop was the homilist. His homily focus on faith like: 1st reading about faith: believing, trusting, obeying. He touched also the Responsorial Psalm as about salvation as redemption. The Gospel reading too which is about dying. Jesus died for us. So, as disciples of Jesus like us: listens, learns, and deepens.
After the Mass Bible passages were distributed and I got this: “To whom much is given, from him much will be required,” (Lk 12:48).
At 9:30AM, the Empty Tomb within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was our next queuing. So we queued five abreast then funnel down to a single entry doorway to enter the Empty Tomb where it is believed Christ was buried and resurrected. With a touch of sad irony, Joseph, our tour guide, had advised us to keep tightly packed together to deter those who might attempt to queue ahead of us or mix with our group. Sure enough, a woman, most probably a tour guide too, skirted round about more than a dozen of people. Many of us were delighted to see her sent to the rear of the queue, yet astonishingly she appeared at the grotto entrance at the same time as us. It is difficult to conceive what formative or subsequent factors shape an individual to be so aggressively pushy and in such a place.
When we finished everything in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we shopped and bought something at a souvenir shop outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. After shopping we started to walk at10:25AM to Jaffa Gate and the Citadel (Tower) of David.
Jaffa Gate is also known as Bab al-Khalil or Gate of the Friend, the only one of the Old City of Jerusalem gates positioned at a right to the wall. The name al-Khalil refers to Abraham, the beloved of God who is buried in Hebron. This gate leads to the Armenian, Christian, Muslim and Jewish Quarters.
The Citadel (Tower) of David is an ancient citadel located at the Jaffa Gate. This was built to strengthen a strategically weak point in the Old City’s defenses.
We rested for a moment at the Citadel, had a picture taking and then we were on our way to Mount Zion. Mount Zion is an elevation west of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The term ‘Mount Zion’ is applied to the Temple Mount or the City of David. For Jews, the term ‘Zion’ refers to the entire city of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. Important pilgrimage sites in Mount Zion are the Basilica of the Assumption (or Dormition) and the Upper Room of the Last Supper (or Cenacle).
Before we went to these two important sites, an explanation was made in the Zion Gate Street and then went to the Basilica of the Assumption (Dormition). The church is built on the remains of the Byzantine church of “Hagia Zion” and also of other churches. The Church of the Dormition Abbey is the traditional site of Mary’s Assumption to heaven. We entered to the crypt Mama mary and prayed the 4th glorious mystery-the Assumption
After we had done everything in the Church of the Dormition Abbey, we walked to the Upper Room of the Last Supper (Coenaculum), the place where Jesus and His disciples ate the Last Supper: “Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you,’” (Lk. 22:19-20). It is here also that the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist was instituted. Cenacle was also the place where the Pentecost took place.
While we were on the Upper Room, Bro. Millard, our tour guide from Manila and our co-pilgrims, prayed for us 8 priests to have happy, healthy and holy life. And they asked us 8 priests to pray for them too and we prayed for them by extending our hands to them and gave the blessing. After the Upper Room we walked to Harp of David Restaurant for or lunch.
After our lunch went to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu(“crowing rooster”) located on the eastern slope of Mount Zion. The entrance of the church is from the parking area which is located above the main level of the church. In the courtyard is a statue that depicts the events of the denial and include its main figures: the cock, the woman, and the Roman soldier. The churchis built on the house of the high priest Caiaphas: “Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered” (Matt 26:57) and where He was interrogated and imprisoned. And this beautiful Church commemorates St. Peter’s denial of Jesus after his arrest: “But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him,” (Lk. 22:57; Mk 14:53-66); but made his repentance and then being forgiven by Jesus. We prayed and went down to holy pit where Jesus was lowered down to this pit and spent the whole night after he was arrested.
After St. Peter in Gallicantu to the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed an infirm on the Sabbath: “Jesus said to him, Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your mat, and walk.’ Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. Now that day was a Sabbath.” (Jn. 5: 8-9). We entered as well the St. Anne Church nearby, where the tomb of Sts. Joachim and Anne were. We sang and the angel sang with us. We went into the crypt below the church.
After our visit in the Pool of Bethesda, went home to Commodore at around 4:15PM; dinner at 6:30PM and then went to Jaffa Street in Jerusalem for a bottle of beer. We went back to the Hotel before 1AM the next day.
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