Jonathan's Blog

Reflections on the glory of God

Our Holy Land Pilgrimage – Day 9

Day 9 – Tuesday February 19

Mount of Olives – This mountain, also known as Mount Olivet, is on the east side of Jerusalem and is part of a mountain ridge of three peaks which runs 2.2 miles.  It is directly across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount and the Eastern Gate through which Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  The peak to its north is Mount Scopus (2,710 feet), while the peak to its south is the Mount of Corruption (2,451 feet).  The highest point on the Mount of Olives is 2,684 feet.  On the south-eastern slope of the Mount of Olives lies the ancient village of Bethany, the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  The eastern side of the ridge is the beginning of the Judean Desert.  From Biblical times until the present, Jews have been buried on the Mount of Olives.  Some say there are over 150,000 graves here and we saw many of them as we made our way down toward the valley.

Day 8 - Prima Kings to Ben Yehuda Street

Chapel of the Ascension – This small mosque like chapel at the top of the Mount of Olives is the site where it is believed that Jesus ascended into heaven.  On the floor in this small chapel is a rock believed to be the point from which Jesus ascended.  Many see a footprint in the rock.  I did not see a footprint, but I took a few pictures and kneeled down and touched the rock.  We had a reading and a song in the open air courtyard area outside the chapel but within the walls of the facility.  The courtyard is about 40 feet across with the chapel approximately in the center.  There was not room for all 51 one of us to be in the chapel at the same time.  Our guide told us that the chapel was originally uncovered when it was built in the 4th century thanks to Saint Helena but that at one time the Muslims controlled it and covered it over making it a mosque.  The chapel was recovered in the Crusades.

Church of the Pater Noster – On the Mount of Olives, this site is remembered as the place where Jesus taught his apostles how to pray.  The Our Father is displayed in beautiful ceramic plaques in 140 languages all around the courtyard and sanctuary.  We were unable to go inside the church itself which was completed in 1874.  Earlier churches on this site were constructed in the 4th and 12th centuries.  We were able to go into the cave under the church, where it is believed Jesus would have taught His disciples.  The cave very much resembled a typical Jewish tomb at the time of Jesus.

Mount of Olives Overlook – From this vantage point one can see all of the old city of Jerusalem with the Eastern Gate and the Temple Mount front and center across the Kidron Valley.  The Eastern Gate is where Jesus triumphantly entered the city on Palm Sunday.  It has now been completely closed off (walled in) by the Muslims, as if a little concrete could keep out the Almighty!  It was a cold but beautiful view on a clear day.  The Kidron Valley below is full of graves as are the hill sides down and back up to the city walls.

Palm Sunday Walk – We walked down the Mount of Olives tracing the steps of Jesus on the beginning of the journey which led to His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  We stopped briefly in a Jewish cemetery for a reading and a song.  From here we had another view of the “old city” and Temple Mount.  We continued our journey down the slope on a paved but narrow road with a low wall on either side to the Church of Dominus Flevit (“the Lord wept”).  This church, which was built in the mid 1950”s and is shaped like a tear drop, marks the spot where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44).  We could not go into the church.  We did read the associated scripture reading and sing a song.  We had yet another great view of the eastern side of Jerusalem, much closer than before, but still with the Temple Mount and Eastern Gate front and center in our view.  This view made it easy to understand why Jesus would pause here and contemplate the city as He did.  From here, we continued our walk down to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Garden of Gethsemane – This garden filled with olive trees was also filled with many people on this cloudy day.  Some of the olive trees date back to the time of Jesus.  These trees felt his tears as He prayed that the “cup might be taken from Him.”  The olive trees are protected inside a grated fence with a paved walkway all around.  This walkway was literally filled with people.  We made our way through the crowd and around the garden to a small chapel on the side of the large Church of All Nations.  We celebrated Mass in this small very cave like chapel called the Grotto Chapel of the Garden of Gethsemane.  This is where the apostles fell asleep while Jesus was praying.  After Mass, we again made our way around the garden and walked a short way down the street to our next site.

Orthodox Tomb of Mary – This Orthodox Church is dedicated to the final earthly resting place of Mary.  It was very dark with many lamps hanging from above and many steps down on a nice slow gradient.  At the bottom and to the right was a tomb with a very low entrance.  The orthodox believe Mary died and was laid to rest here before she was assumed into heaven.  The Catholic Church is silent on whether Mary actually died and was then assumed or directly assumed into heaven.  We were there just long enough to walk down the steps, spend a few seconds in the tomb and walk back up the steps.  We then walked back to and around the Garden of Gethsemane again to enter the large church there.

Church of All Nations – This large church is built over the rock that is believed to be the place where Jesus prayed on Holy Thursday.  This church is shaded, kind of dim and gloomy, to reflect the sorrow in the heart of Jesus on the night He was betrayed and deserted.  We read scripture and sang before going inside.  As we entered, Mass was in progress but we were able to see two side altars and between the people worshipping at Mass we could see the main altar and the big rock in front of it where Jesus prayed.  The current church was completed in 1924 on top of earlier churches from the 4th century and the 12th century.  Remains of these earlier churches were discovered and excavated during the construction of the current church which took over 5 years.

Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu – After leaving the Garden of Gethsemane we returned to the bus and drove across the Kidron Valley which lies between the Mount of Olives and the city walls of east Jerusalem to the house of Caiaphas who was the high priest at the time of Jesus’ Passion.  This is the site of Peter’s three-time denial of Jesus.  The word Gallicantu is a Latin word meaning “cock’s crow”.  A golden rooster sits prominently on the sanctuary roof to honor the events which took place here.

The church is located on the eastern slope of Mount Zion just outside the walls of the “old City” of Jerusalem.  The first church here was finished in 457 AD, destroyed in 1010 and rebuilt by Crusaders in 1102 and given its present name.  The church fell into ruin again before being rebuilt in 1931.

When Jesus was removed from the Garden of Gethsemane, He was brought across the Kidron Valley to the home of the high priest, Caiaphas.  It was there He was questioned by the Sanhedrin, and imprisoned over night before being brought to Pilate.  There is a dry cistern in the basement of this church where it is believed that Jesus would have been incarcerated overnight.  He would have been lowered and hung from straps until dawn.  Outside, Peter, who had followed Jesus, is sitting by the fire when he is questioned by one of the servants who claims that she knows Peter was one of Jesus’ followers.  He denies Jesus three times before the cock crows twice.

We were unable to enter the church itself, but we were able to go into the caves underneath the church believed to be part of the palace of Caiaphas.  All 51 of us crowded into a small cave, a dry cistern believed to be where Jesus was probably kept overnight.  This was a moving moment for me as Bill Gent talked about how they would have lowered the bound Jesus through the small opening at the top and left Him hanging alone and bound in a harness in the darkness of the early morning hours of the night.  Yet, because of His prayers in the garden and His connection with Our Father, He was never really alone.  We sang the song “Lord I Need You” by Matt Maher (which I love) and I teared up a bit.  Just imagine Jesus’s heart crying those words out to His Father in those hours.  Abandoned and alone.  Agony.  His prayers sustained Him.

The Upper Room – This holy site was preserved by the Crusaders.  It is the room where Jesus met with His apostles on Holy Thursday and instituted the Holy Eucharist, and Holy Orders (priesthood).  It is where He appeared to the apostles after His Resurrection when they were hiding in fear and said, “Do not be afraid”.  This is also where the Holy Spirit descended on them at Pentecost.  The building is only 1,000 years old but is built on the site of the original Upper Room.  Three different religions occupy this three story structure.  One floor above the Upper Room is a mosque and the bottom floor is the traditional tomb of King David which is an active Orthodox Jewish synagogue.

King David’s Tomb – Men and women had to separate to visit this sacred Orthodox Jewish site.  We passed through a room with men in full orthodox Jewish dress silently praying and reading scripture.

Dormition Abbey – This is the Roman Catholic site in memory of the Assumption of Mary.  Dormition is Latin for “falling asleep”.  This church is a very short walk from the Upper Room so it is also on the eastern slope of Mount Zion just outside the walls of the “old city” of Jerusalem.  We were able to tour this circular church with several side altars.  Under a large dome, was a model of a “sleeping Mary” with kneelers and a railing where people could pray.  Sharon and I knelt together and said a brief prayer together quietly.  A church was originally built here in the very early 5th century (before 415) and was destroyed in 614.  Its foundations were recovered in 1899 during an investigation of the site.  Construction on the current church was begun in 1900 and completed in only 10 years in 1910.


Ben Yahuda Street – After arriving at our hotel, but before dinner, some of us walked several blocks to this outdoor, pedestrian only shopping area.  There were all kinds of small shops, some larger stores and some places to eat with tables outside in the “street”.  There were signs in Hebrew and signs in English.  It was growing dark, cold and damp, but we wandered around for a while.  There were quite a few people moving about including one group of a dozen or so youth dancing to, of all things, American pop music.  After taking in the scene for over an hour, we returned to the hotel for dinner.

February 19, 2020 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,

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