Boker tov again … the same day…….. I am trying to catch up to our trip!
We got up and were out of our apartment and “on the street” at 5:50 A.M.! We were hoping to find a cab and to reach the Holy Sepulchre for the 6:30 A.M. Mass we had learned of online. No eggs, no peanut butter, Nada … my culinary expertise did not have time to create a “masterpiece” … LOL.
It took a while to hail a cab and it took even longer to get the cab driver to the Lion’s Gate. He kept wanting to drop us off at each gate he came to (I just got here and I think I knew more than him …or maybe he just wanted to get rid of us!).
We had planned to begin our day Walking and Praying the Via Dolorosa (The Way of the Cross) to the Holy Sepulchre where the last of the Five Stations of the Cross are. Running short of time, and because most of the Shrines of the Stations were not open yet, we did walk the “Way of the Cross” in our own silent Prayers as we tried to figure it out.
Entering the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, we had no idea at all of what to expect, even after researching. We immediately found ourselves just inside the Holy Doors, kneeling and venerating the Stone of Unction where they prepared the Body of Jesus Christ, after his death, for the Burial in the Tomb. This was an incredible beginning to our day and nothing we had ever expected.
editor’s note: Often, when on pilgrimage, the unexpected turns out to better than what you had planned, thanks be to God.
Because it was early, there were no crowds and each of us had time to spend and Pray and venerate at this most Sacred Stone …it was overwhelming to say the least. We then went left, as if we knew what we were doing. I guess that we did, because it took us to the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre and the Tomb of Our Lord … it was not open yet. We could hear that Mass was just finishing inside as people waited outside the closed doors. We followed the signs to continue to the Chapel of Mary Magdalene , which is directly next to the Sacristy for the Holy Sepulchre. There was a Priest approaching the Sacristy so I stopped to ask him for advice. He looked very Irish (and it turned out that he was). I asked about the Mass Schedule and he told us to go to the Latin Calvary Shrine and explained to us how to get there (as he was Vesting). He told me that the Mass was going to be in Italian and I told him that it didn’t matter. He also told me that the Mass scheduled at the Holy Sepulchre was reserved for that morning and that we would have to stand outside the Shrine. Once again, he told me and said “You must go to the Mass at Calvary” … walk up the stairs”.
We did so, and we never would have found this area of the Holy Sepulchre on our own, as we climbed the steep stairs to what we found to be “GOLGATHA” … “CALVARY” … the spot where Our Lord, Jesus Christ, died on the Cross for each and every one of us … we never expected this (why would anyone?).
As we reached the top of the steep staircase, we realized that we were standing at THE FOOT OF CALVARY! Mass was still ongoing there, so we quietly waited on the Greek side and, after the Final Blessing, we went up to the Foot of the Cross and Venerated the Stone at the actual Foot of the Cross where our Lord, Jesus Christ, died!
It was a unique and emotional moment for each of us, individually, as we took our turn in this most Sacred of Sacred Places. I was last, and, when I stood up, a new Priest (the one I had met) was already prepared to begin Mass on the Latin Side. In the beginning, there were very few in the Congregation and we were able to sit on the bench near the spot where Jesus was Nailed to the Cross … directly beside the Altar. I tried to concentrate on Mass as my mind raced and I tried to comprehend where we were at the moment and what, exactly, was going on. At Communion, it all hit me, and I broke down crying as I never have in my life … fully aware of my surroundings and the Sacrifice that Our Lord, Our God, made to give each and every one of us Eternal Life! The experience and the emotions I felt ….. I don’t know that I can ever explain as I am certain that Susan, Johna & Sam feel the same.
Gathering our wits together, we exited down the long and steep staircase, knowing that we still had a little time before the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre would open so that we would be able to enter and venerate the actual Tomb of our Lord. So we began (with our Holy Sepulchre Map) to explore the remainder of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre.
We decided to grab a quick capuccino first and Sam bought a loaf of fresh bread and we all enjoyed our breakfast!!
We then went to the Church of Saint Helena and the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross. Both were deep down below the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. The story of Saint Helena finding the Holy Cross of Jesus is a good one and you are able to find it all on the internet.
Next, we went to the Prison of Christ, where they kept him before His Crucifixion. It was closed, so we made our way back to the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre. We got in line behind about only 12 pilgrims and waited for the Chapel and Sacred Site to open as Mass had just finished. We let three Religious Sisters from another Order in front of us. Of course, they would or could not talk to us “as different”, but we respected them. Again, waiting for the unknown, our inner excitement grew as they opened the door to the Sacred Site and the Orthodox allowed no more than 6 people to enter.
The first Chapel is the Chapel of the Angel. This is where the Rock that the Angel moved away from the Tomb of Our Lord at the time of his Resurrection. This is where Mass is celebrated and it is very, very small. We could see from outside, through a small opening window and into the actual Tomb where three or four small people could get in and kneel before Our Lord to Venerate the Place where they Laid Our Savior to rest. It worked out well, so that Susan and I were able to enter the Tomb together, along with one other Religious Sister. We were able to venerate the Tomb of Our Lord … words cannot explain … nor were Susan and I talking about it together at the moment. Susan and I later talked that, while sad, it was not as sad as the site at Calvary … because this was also the place of Our Lord’s resurrection. Johna and Sam also were able to experience this after Susan and me. They each have expressed (and have kept private thoughts) of the experience but both were affected by the experience.
I can’t imagine the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem and Bethlehem during the High Season, with the multitude of crowds who push, shove, yell and jockey for position at these Sacred Places. We all feel Blessed to have been here “off season” and early so that we missed having to stand in long lines and to have had the time we did in these Sacred Places this day.
We decided to go to the Wailing (Western) Wall in the Jewish quarter. It was hot and there was a long line at the wall, so we skipped it, and headed for the birthplace of the Blessed Virgin near the exit, the Church of Saint Anne.
We walked by a bakery that had fresh bread and a takeout fafalel store. I said let’s get it now, but I was vetoed by the others, who said that we could get it later.
The Chapel was very near the exit and the Bakery was the other way so Sam said he would go back and get the bread and fafalel. It was hot and I was hurting, so Sam went alone and we waited… and waited…..and waited. I figured he was talking to everyone he passed, so we all went back for him. We met him just at the next gate out, so off we went and found ourselves in the Muslim quarter. They looked at us a little funny so we quickly got a cab and were back to the apartment in 20 minutes. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and organising our next day and went to bed after we got back from dinner.
Another early day tomorrow.
God Bless all of you
Love Susan, Tom and the Kids
Prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows
O Most holy Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ: by the overwhelming
grief you experienced when you witnessed the martyrdom, the crucifixion, and
the death of your divine Son, look upon me with eyes of compassion and
awaken in my heart a tender compassion for those suffering, as well as a
sincere detestation of my sins, in order that, being disengaged from all undue
affections for the passing joys of this earth, I may long for the eternal
Jerusalem, and that henceforth all my thoughts and all my actions may be
directed toward this one most desirable object.
Honor, glory, and love to our divine Lord Jesus, and to the holy and
immaculate Mother of God.