We are over halfway thru our pilgrimage. We are falling in love again with the Bible. Now that we have visited so many Holy places, we want to read about it again. Yesterday Bishop Sylvain pointed out an institute here where people come to study the Holy Lands and scripture for 6 weeks. Never say never. Everyone here is taking hundreds of pictures and videos. There are dozens of tour busses wherever we go. Thousands upon thousands are connecting with their faith here. The Faith is alive.
We go to Mt of Olives, the place of Ascension of Jesus to heaven. There is a small Byzantine era shrine marking the spot enclosing a Crusaders era shrine with some bedrock where Jesus stood. This is also the place of the second coming. Mark 11: Queen Helena builds a church right next door. It is where Jesus taught the Disciples the Lord’s Prayer. There are inscriptions of the Lord’s Prayer in all the world’s languages. Fr Susal sings it in Tamil, his native language. Others of our group chant in Ojibway, Cree, Tagalog, French, Spanish. It sounds like speaking in tongues!
We descend and enter the Garden of Gethsemanie below the east wall of the Old City. We read the relevant passages and talk about Jesus sorrow here. He accepts God’s will to suffer and die. He will not resist his arrest. But it will be his human body that is crucified, not his divinity as God. It is here that his humanity is suffering, not his divinity. Luke 22 tells the story. Accepting suffering is radical discipleship. It is the deepest love God reveals to us thru allowing his Son to die on the cross for us. We learn all this agin as we celebrate Mass in the Basilica of the Agony.
We ascend the east side of the Old City and stop at the house of Caiphas the Chief priest. Jesus tells Caiphas you will see (me) the Son of Man coming (Dan 7:13). Caiphus is enraged at this prohphetic reference from Jesus and tears his priestly chord. We descend narrow stairs to the scourging beam and pillars where Jesus is tortured. We descend further to the prison below where Jesus was imprisoned awaiting crucifixion. Psalm 88 is read. It is here where we all experience a tearful moment.
After lunch we head back to the Mt of Olives for the panoramic view. Then we walk down the Palm Sunday route to the bottom of the valley. It is steep but worth it as the views are stunning. Eight of us are dropped off at the Lions Gate entry to the old city. We strole through the narrow streets lined with vendors down to the Wailing Wall.
This is the west wall of the Temple Mount and is the closest wall to where the Tabernacle was located when the Temple was here. It is crowded with devout Jews and tourists like us. Marie goes up to the women’s section of the wall and Dave the men’s. It is an incredible experience to see such expression of the Jewish faith with hundreds reading and bobbing their head forward and back. A man singing haleluah is escorted out. I am asked to hide my cross.
We head back to the hotel. There is a disturbance at a nearby tram station – women apparently are protesting mandatory military service but we are not sure. We call it a night.