HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE 2013
October 14, 2013 (Monday): TIBERIAS – CANA – SEA OF GALILEE (Boat ride) – TABGHA – TIBERIAS
After breakfast, we left for Cana and had our 9AM Mass there presided by Fr. Estong Bendita. On our way, Morning Prayer was said and Bible passages were distributed and I got this one: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy remains in you, and that your joy may be full,” (John 15:11).
Cana of Galilee was the site where Jesus performed His first miracle at the request of His mother Mary at a wedding feast of a poor couple, by changing water into wine: “Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him,” (John 2:1-11); and the healing of the royal official’s son who was near death (John 4:46-54).
The Mass started at 8:45AM in the Church of First Miracle (Wedding Church) and ended at 9:35am. The Wedding Church is built by the Franciscans in the nineteenth century over remains believed to date to Jesus’ day. The renewal of marriage vows of 6 couples was made during the Mass. After the Mass, signing of the Marriage Certificate and was signed by Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, DD; picture taking followed. We roamed around under the wedding church where remains were found.
Then we went to a souvenir store and bought some things. I bought rosaries, a ring with an engraved “I love Jesus” and others. We also had a celebration of the renewal of marriage vows of the six couples over a cup of wine and a wedding cake. And then drove to Sea of Galilee. While on our way to the Sea of Galilee our tour guide told us that the sources of living for Israel are the following: 1) tourism, 2) diamonds, 3) farming, and 4) technology.
We arrived at the Sea of Galilee at 11:15am, picture taking and then lunch in Miracle Restaurant-Coffee, on seaside of the Sea of Galilee and then drank a bottle of beer. After our lunch, we went to Tabgha.
Tabgha, from the Greek name heptapegon which means, “Seven Springs,” is an area situated on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. It is not far from Capernaum and is the site of the Church of the Multiplication, famous for its incredible mosaics and the place commemorating the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes: “Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted,” (Jn. 6: 11; Mark 6:30-46). The fourth resurrection appearance of Jesus (John 21:1-24) happened too. St. Jerome referred Tabgha as “the solitude” (in Latin: eremos).
We roamed around the Church of the Multiplication (or the Church of Heptapegon) and took pictures. There was a mosaic of the fish and loaves laid next to a large rock, which has caused some New Testament scholars to speculate that the builders of the original church believed that Jesus stood on this rock when He blessed the loaves and the fish just before the feeding of 5,000 men who came to hear Him. The site is maintained by the Benedictine monks.
Also at Tabgha, a nearby church is the Church of the Primacy of Peter. This is located north of the Church of the Multiplication. It was built on rocks at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Here Jesus prepared a meal for them on what is known as Mensa Christi, during which Jesus conferred again the primacy of St. Peter. This Church is honoring the memory of Jesus reappearing to his Disciples after his resurrection (third resurrection appearance) and instructing Peter to “feed my sheep”: “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was distressed that He had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep,” (Jn. 21: 17).
We left the Church of the Primacy of Peter at around 1:33PM for a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:1). At the boat, the Philippine flag was raised. The Nene, the wife of an ex-police general Cachuela was the one who raised it and assisted by a boat crew. A gospel passage on calming the sea was read by Fr. Estong and he gave the reflection. It was a windy and sunny afternoon; picture taking in the boat.
The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Tiberias and Lake Kinneret, is where Jesus accomplished numerous miracles: “Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm,” (Matt. 8:26); “And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea,” (Matt. 14:25). He also chose His first disciples on its shores.
The Sea of Galilee is also the largest freshwater lake of Israel. At the other side of the lake is Golan Heights. A key attraction is the site where the water of the Sea of Galilee flows into the Jordan River to which Jesus was baptized by St. John the Baptist. We came to the River to be poured out by the water to renew our Baptism. The assigned priest to do the pouring of water was Fr. Ching Salibay OP
We went to a diamond factory near Rimonim Mineral Hotel. We entered and somebody explained to us the process and the 4 characteristics of a diamond which are: Cut, Clarity, Color and Carat. It was like a homily I read that followed these 4 Cs of diamond: Christ, Church, Communion, and Charity. Then one of the owners of the factory, explained further these diamond characteristics and its price in the market for .51 to 5 carats ranges from 1,800 to 148,000 US dollar.
Then Saher, our tour bus driver, brought us back to Rimonim Mineral Hotel for a rest at around 5pm. The hotel was walking distance at about 350 meters but the bus driver brought us to the hotel.
Take a short rest and then at around 6:47pm we had our dinner; listened to the meeting of the co-hosts for the next day with Fr. Ching Salibay OP, the shepherd of the group, with Millard Villaverde, our tour guide from the Philippines. We went back to our room, rest and sleep. And that was all for the day.
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October 15, 2013 (Tuesday): TIBERIAS – MOUNT OF BEATITUDES – CAPERNAUM – JERICHO – JORDAN RIVER – EIN KAREM – JERUSALEM
We ate our early breakfast at 6:15AM. At the same time we brought our baggage to the hotel lobby because we had to leave at 7:30AM bound for Mount of Beatitudes for an 8AM Mass presided by Fr. Ching Salibay OP. While on our way to Mount of Beatitudes, Morning Prayer was said; Bible passages were distributed and mine was: “Cast your burdens on the Lord, and He shall sustain you,” (Ps. 55:22).
Church of the Beatitudes is located on the Sea of Galilee near Tabgha and Capernaum. The Church is located on a small hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee and built on the traditional site where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Both Popes Paul VI and John Paul II celebrated Mass at the church during their pastoral visits to the Holy Land.
When we were in the Mount of Beatitudes, we saw the panoramic view from the top where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1-12). This is a breathtaking site overlooking the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. And the Church of Beatitudes displays beautiful windows and mosaics.
During the Eucharistic celebration which started at around 8:18AM, Fr Ching preached to us about the ABC of Happiness and they are: 1) It is Attitude. 2) Blessing to others, 3) Happiness is a Choice. Choose to be happy, “Gusto ko happy ka”
We left the Church of Beatitudes at 9:48AM bound for Capharnaum but Fr. Roming Buenaobra was lost and so some looked for him until he was found. This term was coined: the “Parable of the Lost Shepherd,” just joking.
We arrived in Capharnaum at around 9:58AM. It is situated on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. This is also the place where Jesus made His first disciples from among the humble fishermen. Capernaum is mentioned several times in the Gospels, as the scene of many miracles and sermons: “Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught,” (Mk. 1:21). It is where Jesus launched His Ministry (Matthew 4). A church built over the site of St. Peter’s Houseand the ruins of an ancient synagogue, among the oldest synagogues in the world, fascinated me. The synagogue consisted of four parts: the praying hall, the western patio, a southern balustrade and a small room at the northwest of the synagogue. Here Jesus taught in the synagogue, cured the sick and performed miracles.
The House of Peter is one block of homes from the old synagogue. Next to the House is the lakeshore of the Sea of Galilee.
And then we left Capharnaum, the city of Jesus at11AM bound for Jericho.
While on our way to Jericho, we saw huge desert land. That is why, a Holy Land pilgrim in the past said: “Mile after mile of the stony barren wilderness with occasional sightings of camels, goats, sheep and Bedouin settlements. These latter are a vexation to the Israeli government as they are an uncontrollable element of society, knowing all the hidden ways of the barren hills. Bedouin tents have the appearance of a small shanty town and it seems a marvel that they can access water in some very uncompromising terrain. Suddenly, all one’s preconceptions about desert and wilderness need revision as mile after mile of stark hills with a minimum of vegetation sweep away into the far distance on either side of the coach. The man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho alone in the story might possibly have been regarded as a fool by Jesus’ listeners! There is, unsurprisingly, a Good Samaritan Inn.”
I can now easy to understand that this barren place, which would have been familiar to Jesus, offered a way to escape from the excesses of large community living and reflect on the spiritual needs of humanity, oneself and the temptations of the world, unfettered by the pressure of a City or town. There is a famous Desert Spirituality that gave a great influence on the early Church specifically on St. Anthony of the Desert.
Jericho is a small city within the Palestinian Territories, close to the northern end of Dead Sea; some 55 kilometers from Jerusalem; and is administered by Palestinian National Authority. This is possibly the oldest city in the world dating to 8,000 BC; more than 10,000 years. Jericho too the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world (Joshua 6:12-25). At the time of Exodus in the Old Testament, Jericho was the entry point of the Israelites under Joshua into the Promised Land. That is why this place is most famous as the location when Joshua brought down the walls with the blowing of horn: seven priests blew their trumpets and “the walls came tumbling down,” (Jos 6:1-27). The Elijah Spring, where the prophet Elijah miraculously sweetened the bad water, runs across from the Temptation Center. Also within close proximity are the historical sycamore tree Zechariah most probably climbed to catch a glimpse of Jesus. We viewed the Mount of Temptation (Mt. 4:1-11), where Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit on a forty-day of fasting and prayer after His Baptism prior to His public ministry in Capharnaum.
Several other biblical sites, beside the Mount of Temptation, exist in or around Jericho, including Herod’s winter Palace, the city of the Essenes where the Dead Sea scrolls were found, Hasham’s Palace, and the Tel es Sultan. The site of the Baptism of Jesus is 11 kilometers southeast of Jericho.
Other biblical site that can be seen in Jericho is the Mount of Temptation: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 4:1). Also called “Mount Quarantal” which means 40, in reference to Jesus’ fast of “forty days and forty nights” (Matt. 4:2). The Quarantal Monastery stands half way up the mountain.
We arrived at Jericho Temptation Restaurant for our lunch at 1PM. This restaurant sits at the doorstep of the biblical city of Jericho. After lunch we shopped for souvenirs at the ground floor and then left this Jericho Temptation Restaurant at 2:19PM drove to River Jordan where St. John the Baptist baptized Jesus and was also an occasion for all of us to renew our Baptism with gown for free. Saher our tour bus driver brought us to a sycamore tree (Luke 19:1-10) for awhile, have pictures of the sycamore tree and then proceeded to River Jordan. While on our way to River Jordan we passed through the Judean Wilderness where Jesus spent 40 days praying and fasting, and it is in this area that John the Baptist (Mark 1) lived and baptized Christ.
Jordan River is a river in Southwest Asia flowing to the Dead Sea. It is one of the world’s most sacred rivers where Jesus was baptized by St. John. The Jordan River is 251 kilometers long. This is also the place where St. John witnessed that Jesus as the Son of God and Lamb of God.
After Baptism we took pictures and then proceeded to the City of Jerusalem. Before going to Commodore Hotel, we visited two churches at around 5PM in Ein Karem.
Ein Karem is in southwest of Jerusalem and famous for the Church of the Visitation where the Blessed Virgin Mary visited St. Elizabeth and the Church of St. John the Baptist where St. John the Baptist was born: “During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth,” (Lk. 1:39-40).
The Visitation Church at Ein Karem is the place where St. John’s parents Zachariah and St. Elizabeth resided. The New Testament tells us of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth while they both were pregnant (Luke 1:39-56). According to Christian tradition, this is the site where Mary sang her Song of Praise, the Magnificat. This Magnificat is translated into several languages, including Tagalog and written on the wall outside the Church. The Upper Hall of the Church is dedicated to Mary and its walls are decorated with paintings in honor of her. Several sites within the village are associated with that visit. We took pictures and said some prayers and reflection.
After taking pictures we went down to Mary’s Spring, a spring and fountain at the center of the ancient village. According to one tradition, this was a place where Mary and Elizabeth met from Nazareth and where Mary drank and brought some water to St. Elizabeth residence. But the spring water is now contaminated by the runoff water from the nearby Hadassah Hospital. I washed my face with some of this water. The spring consequently became a place of Christian pilgrimage.
The last church in Ein Karem we went into was St. John the Baptist Church. When we entered the Church, the main gate was half closed and closed when we were about to leave but was open by the Franciscan in-charge. Inside the Church are the remains of an ancient mosaic floor and a grotto where, according to Christian tradition, John the Baptist was born.
After our visit in St. John the Baptist Church, we went to Commodore Hotel in Samuel Ben Adaya Street, Jerusalem, checked in, had dinner at 7pm, rest and sleep.
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October 16, 2013 (Wednesday): JERUSALEM – BETHLEHEM – JERUSALEM
Our early breakfast was at 6:15AM. We left the Commodore Hotel at 7:29AM and drove to Bethlehem for our 10AM Mass at St. Catherine Church near the Church of the Nativity. Morning Prayer was said and Bible passages were distributed. I got this one: “You are mine. Before I formed you, I knew you. And before you were born, I consecrated you,” (Jer. 1:5).
Under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, visiting the Bethlehem may require special arrangements, including coordination for transportation and guides because the site is in the West Bank and West Bank is under the control of Palestine. Bethlehem, literally mean “House of Meat,” or the Hebrew Beit Lehem means, “House of Bread,” located in the central West Bank in Palestine, approximately 10 kilometers south of Jerusalem. The Old Testament identifies Bethlehem as the City of David because he was crowned here as the king of Israel. The New Testament Gospels identified Bethlehem as the Birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth and has been a prime destination for Christian pilgrims for centuries: “And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn,” (Lk. 2:4-7).
The Basilica of the Nativity is maintained by the Greek Orthodox Church and one of the earliest and most important of all Christian ecclesiastical buildings, enshrines a grotto believed to be the place where Jesus was born (Luke 2:7). The Church of Saint Catherine, a Roman Catholic Church, is connected to the Church of Nativity at its northern end. Steps leading down from the main hall of the Church of Saint Catherine arrive at a series of caves, one of which is the Chapel of Saint Jerome.
The Milk Grotto located in the crypt of a small Franciscan chapel, celebrates the tradition that the cave was used as a place of refuge by the Holy Family before their flight into Egypt.
We arrived in Bethlehem at 8AM and entered the Three Arches Co. Ltd., a souvenir shop located in 388 Manger Street, Bethlehem, Palestine. We bought some souvenirs to be our ‘pasalubong‘ to friends back home and to help Christians who are living in Israel according to Joseph, our tour guide. Christians in Israel count only up to 135,000 as of 2013 census.
At around 9:15AM we went to St. Catherine Church for the Mass at 10AM. Fr. Roming Subaldo presided at Mass. His homily focused on Nativity. According to him that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (or House of Bread). Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is not after popularity but of saving people. Jesus loves all.
Kissing of the Baby Jesus and Picture taking took place after the Mass. We went into the Chapel of St. Jerome which, according to Christian tradition, is the site where St. Jerome translated the Greek Holy Bible into the Latin Vulgate.
Besides the Chapel of St. Jerome, there are other chapels in the Church of Nativity which include the Chapel of Saint Joseph, commemorating the angel’s apparition to Joseph, commanding him to flee to Egypt: “When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him,’” (Mt 2:13); the Chapel of Innocents, commemorating the children killed by Herod (Mt 2:16-18).
We entered the Church of the Nativity and fell in line Church and down to the Grotto of the Nativity which marks the spot of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:1-18). Beneath the altar, there is a silver star with the Latin inscription: “HIC DE VIRGINE MARIA JESUS CHRISTUS NATUS (Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary). We ended at around 12:15PM.
Nearby the Nativity Church is the Crystal Restaurant where we had our lunch. After lunch, at 1:20PM, we drove to Shepherds’ Field. We entered the Church of the Shepherds’ Field; a gospel passage was read by Fr Roming Subaldo, the shepherd of the day, and toured the place.
The Franciscans, the Custodians of Holy Land places, have a lovely Chapel of the Shepherds in the form of a tent, about 3 kilometers east of Bethlehem, whose cupola, with tiny glass windows, reminds one of the heavens and the stars. The place is located in the Village of Beit Sahour. The Shepherds’ Field is identified as the scene where the Angel of the Lord visited the Shepherds’ Field and informed them of the Birth of Jesus: “Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. he angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord,” (Mt 2:8-11). The shepherds saw the Star of Nativity. This image of the Star of nativity is enshrined beneath the Altar of the Church of the Nativity.
Afterwards, we went to the Garden of Gethsemane. The Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus spent his last hours praying before he was arrested, is located at the foot of the Mount of Olives: “And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I pray” (Mk. 14:32). To get there, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley: “… he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered,” (Jn. 18:1). It was also in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus and His disciples often retired and meditate and pray. When we arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane, we waited for awhile and then entered the Garden; spent 15 minutes there, and burned all the petitions sent to us and our own petitions too.
After the Garden of Gethsemane, we entered into the Church of Agony, a Roman Catholic Church, also called the Church of All Nations, home to some magnificent mosaics depicting the Agony of Jesus. According to tradition, the Rock of Agony lies inside the church where Jesus is said to have prayed before His arrest (Mk. 14:32-42). This Church is in the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and next to the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Grotto of Agony is not far from The Tomb of the Virgin Mary and The Church of St. Mary Magdalene. And near the top of the Mount of Olives is the Chapel of the Ascension: “And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight,” (Acts 1:9).
After touring, taking pictures and praying silently at the Church of Agony, our tour bus driver Saher, brought us to Pater Noster Church, one of several splendid churches in this sacred place called Mount of Olives. Mount of Olives is also called Mount Olivet, is a mountain ridge in east Jerusalem and is administered by Israel as part of the country’s capital, Jerusalem. It was named after the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The Mount of Olives is first mentioned in connection with David’s flight from Absalom (1Sam 15:30) in the Old Testament: “And David went up by the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up.” The Mount of Olives too is frequently mentioned in the New Testament (Mt. 21:1; 26:30) as the route from Jerusalem to Bethany and the place where Jesus stood when he wept over Jerusalem. Jesus spent time on Mount of Olives, teaching and prophesying to His disciples (Mt 24-25), returning after each day to rest (Lk 21:37), and also coming there on the night of His betrayal (Mt 26:39).
Pater Noster(The Lord’s Prayer) Church was named after the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples: “Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…” (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4). At the wall, inside out, of the Pater Noster Church, the Lord’s Prayer is translated into several languages of the world including Tagalog, Ilonggo and Pampango.
And then we went to Dominus Flevit Church, another splendid church of Mount of Olives, passing the Palm Sunday road: “And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it…” (Lk. 19:41). While walking along the Palm Sunday road, we saw cemetery of Jews (necropolis) and Muslims. Upon arrival at Dominus Flevit Church, a prayer was said and took some pictures. And then we went back to our tour bus waiting us near the Church of the Agony down below the Mount of Olives passing again through the Palm Sunday Road.
We drove to Commodore Hotel and arrived at 5:22PM. Bishop Gutierrez blessed all religious articles we bought. Dinner at 6:30PM, rest and sleep.
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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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October 18, 2013: JERUSALEM – EMMAUS – QUMRAN – DEAD SEA – JERUSALEM
Our breakfast was at 7AM and then headed for Ascension Chapel in the top of Mount of Olives at 8:15AM which, according to tradition, Jesus ascended into heaven: “When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight,” (Acts 1:9). We prayed at the Ascension Chapel for 5 minutes. The Mount of Olives is a sacred place for both Jews and Christians: “Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives,” (Matt. 26:30). On a rock inside can be seen a footprint which is identified, according to Christian tradition, as the print that Jesus left as he ascended into heaven. Afterwards, at around 9am, we proceeded to Abu Gosh for our 10am Mass.
Abu Gosh (Emmaus) is an Arab town in Israel, located 10 kilometers west of Jerusalem, that is, situated halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, is marked by the ruins of a 12th-Century church. Jesus appeared before two of his followers in Emmaus after His resurrection: After his resurrection, Jesus joined two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven milesfrom Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” (Lk. 24:13-16).
We arrived in Emmaus at around 9:32AM for our 10AM Mass at the Church of Resurrection, Abu Gosh. The Mass started at 10:04AM which was also the Feast of St. Luke. Fr. Ruben Oceno was the presider and homilist. He started by citing 3 Rs (Rest, Recharge, Reflect) on the first day Mass of the pilgrimage in Mount Nebo. He made mentioned about CSG – Come, Stay, and Go which is the pattern of discipleship- “come follow me.” Not all have the privilege to step on this holy ground. The call of Jesus to be with him is to stay with him. “O come all ye faithful is the joy to be with him.” Its nice to be here but Jesus answered: “No, go back to the Philippines.”
After the Mass we left the Church of the Resurrection in Emmaus, Abu Gosh (to fight) bound for Qumran for our lunch and arrived there at around 11:12AM. After our lunch, we shopped at the souvenir shop of the restaurant and then toured around the Qumran Park old community where Qumran manuscripts discovered and are enshrined now at Israel’s Museum.
Qumran is one of the most striking archeological sites in the world and home to the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered last 1947. This place is located on a dry plateau about a mile inland from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea in the West Bank.
After our tour at Qumran Park, we headed to Dead Sea where the seawater is 35% salt. Dead Sea, which is also called Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Israel and the West Bank to the west, and Jordan to the east. Its surface and shores are 422 meters (1,3385 ft) below sea level, the lowest elevation on the Earth’s surface on dry land. The Dead Sea is 378m (1,240 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. The Dead Sea is 67 kilometers (42 mi) long and 18 kilometers (11mi) wide at its widest point. It lies at the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River. In the Bible the Dead Sea is called the Salt Sea, the Sea of the Arabah, and the Eastern Sea. The designation “Dead Sea” is a modern name, which never appears in the Bible.
The mineral content of the water, the very low content of pollens and other allergens in the atmosphere, the reduced ultraviolet component solar radiation, and the higher atmospheric pressure at this great depth each have specific health effects.
We were instructed to swim on our back and not on our breast. It is too salty that no living organism can thrive in it and we could literally float without any effort. The black mud can heal one’s skin problems. We took a dip in the water before we proceeded to Jerusalem for our final pilgrimage site, the Western (Wailing) Wall where Jews all over the world gather to commemorate the destruction of the first and second temple and pray for Israel’s restoration.
The Western (Wailing) Wall is the holiest of Jewish religious spot in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is called so because, for centuries, the Jewish people have gathered on the wall of their Lost Holly Temple after the Romans destroyed it last 70 AD. This Western Wall was built by Herod the King of Judea in 20 BC. It took for 11 years to construct it, according to a Jewish historian, Josephus. During the construction, it rained only during nights so as not to interfere with the workers’ progress.
At almost 4PM, we drove to Western (Wailing) Wall and arrived there at almost 5PM; entered into the gate and instructed to bring only our cameras because there would be inspection and laser-machine scanning. We went to Western Wall and have a short prayer and petition wearing a skull cap; entered a synagogue and then went back to the Commodore Hotel in Jerusalem. Dinner at 6:30PM and then rest and sleep.
Executive Resources, Inc.: “An Invitation to Join Pilgrimage to Jordan and the Holy Land plus Dubai” – Manila
Executive Resources, Inc.: “Scriptural Readings to the Land Where Jesus Walked” – Manila
Qassem Company: “Our Tour to the Holy Land” – Old City, Jerusalem
Vered Hasharon Travel and Tours: “Personal Holy Land Travelogue” – Jerusalem
For more pictures please see: My Facebook
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October 19, 2013: JERUSALEM – SHEIKH HUSSEIN BRIDGE – AMMAN AIRPORT – DUBAI
We woke up at around 4:30 in the morning; prepared everything for our travel to Amman, Jordan. Check out from the Commodore Hotel after an early breakfast was served at 5:15AM. Departed at around 6AM for the border of Israel and crossed once more the Sheikh Hussein Bridge to Amman, Jordan. After crossing the Bridge, we passed through immigration and customs formalities of Israel at around 7:52AM and finished everything at around 8:55AM.
While on our way to the boarder of Israel and Jordan we prayed the holy rosary, sharing of experiences of pilgrimage were being done. We, at the same, summarized the pilgrimage experiences through the four (4) groups of Holy Rosary Mysteries.
While waiting for our turn to enter the Immigration of Israel, Bible passages were given and I got this one: “Abba, all things are possible for you: take this cup from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want,” (Mark 14:36). I didn’t like what our tour guide did but I got this passage. God’s will must be followed no matter what because He knows more than me.
A security person checked our passport before we rode the bus. We then proceeded to Amman, Jordan and the security personnel of the Jordanian government at a check point checked our passport again. Adam, our tour guide from Amman, Jordan, collected our passports and he was ahead of us for the processing at the Jordan Immigration.
Then we entered the Immigration of Jordan; let our bags passed through the laser machine or screened by a screen machine for security and safety purposes. And then went up to the bus at around 10am. Left for Amman, Jordan at around 10:05AM.We arrived at a certain restaurant in Amman, Jordan for our lunch and then went to airport at around 1:30pm.