Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Holy Land Tour: Ascension Day in Jerusalem

Looking through my notes and photos, I can see that posting about our fifth day in Israel may take a week! Our first full day in Jerusalem was the highlight of the trip. We arrived early in the morning at the top of the Mount of Olives and then made our way down the very steep hill, across a busy city street into the old city of Jerusalem, followed the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and then traveled to the Garden Tomb before calling it a day.

The group gathered for early morning prayer on the top of the hill overlooking the ancient city of Jerusalem. If you look carefully, you will see the bright gold of the Dome of the Rock glistening in the sunlight.

It turned out that this day was Ascension Day, the fortieth day after the resurrection of Christ which traditionally marks his ascension into heaven. There were special worship services going on in all the churches we visited on our path during the day. People from all over the world came to worship. Here is the scene in the courtyard of the Church of the Ascension which is at the tippy-top of the Mount of Olives.

The western and eastern branches of Christianity use different calendars to set Easter, so most years they do not celebrate on the same day. However this year, in a rare confluence of the calendars, Easter was the same day throughout the Christian churches of the world and so, therefore, was Ascension Day. We found Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, Russian and Armenian Orthodox clerics taking turns conducting worship services in churches on the Mount of Olives and in old Jerusalem. This unusual display of unity of the church made an indelible impression on our group of Protestants.

Our next stop, a bit down the hillside, was the Paternoster Church which was built to honor the Lord's Prayer.

Inside the walls of this church the Lord's Prayer is displayed in every language I ever heard of--and some I could not identify-- on beautiful tiled displays. This is the English version. Sorry about the flash showing here!

The path from the Paternoster Church down to the Garden of Gethsemane is steep and tricky because the stones are worn and slick. The Church of All Nations sits next to the Garden. That will be tomorrow's post.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

Though I haven't commented on all of your posts on your trip, I've read and thoroughly enjoyed them all. It's been fun hearing about your trip & reliving the one I took 11 years ago. How cool that you were on the Mt. of Olives on Ascension Day!