Feb 9, 2020
Day 7 of the Holy Land pilgrimage was great. Well, the morning was great. The afternoon was so-so.
When we left the hotel after breakfast, we made our way to Station 7 on the Via Dolorosa – the path that marks the 14 stations of the cross. (Station 7 is called “Jesus falls for the second time.”) We had a short communion service in a small chapel there. We had worship together because it was Sunday morning – but why there? Because this station is located in an old (now sealed) gate to the old city. It would have been the only gate open facing west in the time of Jesus – so Jesus had to walk through this gate on his way into Jerusalem. That’s kind of cool.
After worship, we made our way to…….drum roll…….the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the holiest site for Christians in the world! I knew this was going to be the highlight of the trip for me. The little gate that directs you to the church was out of the way and had a tiny sign over it – but once we walked through it….wow! From an architectural standpoint, the front of the building is clearly not as pretty as some of the other churches we’ve seen. That’s fine, though, because it’s what’s on the inside that makes this place special.
Once we got inside, we didn’t see things in order of the story due to the size of the crowd. First, we got in line to see the edicule – the small building that encloses Jesus’ tomb. The wait in line was about an hour, which wasn’t bad. The line snaked around the edicule itself so we got to see it from all angles. I managed to get this great shot – which is my favorite shot of the whole trip. This one will get printed and framed for the wall.
By the time we reached the end of the line to go inside the edicule, some Orthodox guy was standing at the entrance, telling people, “No pictures. Kiss and go.” In other words, “Don’t take pictures inside the edicule. Spend enough time there to kiss the burial shelf and then get out. We have a lot of people.” I didn’t kiss it, but I did touch it and pray. Although the moment inside was probably a minute or less, it was still amazing to see and touch the burial shelf inside the tomb. (The “kiss and go” made me think back to our family’s trip to Disneyland and how visitors can’t spend much time with the characters. Get your picture, get their signature, and move on.) Even though I listened and didn’t take any pictures inside the edicule, I did take more inside the church.
From the edicule, we quickly stopped at the stone slab that is said to be where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial.
Then we went upstairs and saw the Altar of Crucifixion where the rock of Golgotha is encased in glass. We waited in line for another hour to see this altar – but the queue area was full of amazing mosaics to look at while we waited. When we got to the end of the line, we saw the altar and the rock through the glass, but there was more. There is also a space under the altar to squat down, reach your hand through a hole in the floor, and actually touch the rock of Golgotha! That was cool.
After seeing the altar, we made our way downstairs because, as the legend goes, Jesus was crucified on top of Adam’s grave – so we saw that grave on the lower level. It was basically a bunch of rock behind and under glass.
We then left the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and had a free unscheduled afternoon to explore Jerusalem. Although the afternoon was nice, it was nowhere near as cool as the morning. Then again, nothing can compare with the holiest site in the world! A small group of us found a little restaurant and had a nice lunch. We then did some shopping at some of the street market stores. I found a shirt that I just had to buy for myself. It’s the perfect mix of my religion geek side and my Star Wars geek side. It’s a Star Wars shirt with “Star Wars” written in Hebrew!
After shopping, some of us walked on the wall of the Old City. It was a long walk and had a few good views – but, honestly, it wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. It was a lot of walking on rough and wet stones. Thankfully, there were some hand rails along the way. I am also very happy that I got good walking boots before coming here. They made this walk a whole lot better. According to my step counting app on my phone, I have put in nearly 11,000 steps today and have walked 4 miles. I can believe it. One good picture I did get from the top of the wall shows the Dome of the Rock in the distance.
Some of the group continued exploring, but I joined the group who then made our way back to the hotel. After dinner tonight, we will listen to a little presentation from the pastor of the Lutheran congregation in Jerusalem (which is actually located not far from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre).
We didn’t see many different sites today compared to other days, but that’s okay. We got to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – which was amazing, even if we were told to “Kiss and go.”
We have been told that tomorrow will be our heaviest walking day of the trip. I’m considering today’s walk on the wall practice for tomorrow.
Thank you for your continued prayers and for reading my blog. I am grateful to know that you are supporting me. I am excited to share more about this trip with you after I get home. Thank you.