Monday, July 11, 2011

Holy Land Tour: Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Ascension Day services were being held inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre when we went inside. The church is divided into several areas with different Christian traditions being in charge of different areas. We entered the Greek Orthodox area where an elaborate mass was being celebrated compete with elaborate vestments, liturgy and lots of incense.

The light streaming through the dome and the beautiful music coming from the pipe organ created an awe-inspiring scene.

This is a photo of the Stone of Unction which is supposed to be the stone on which Jesus' body lay after his death while the women anointed it and wrapped it for burial. Our guide said that the original stone had been destroyed in a fire and this was a fairly recent replacement. That did not dampen the ardor of the pilgrims gathered around it, some of whom were on their knees, weeping and kissing the stone.

Moving up the stairs, which I assume covered the hill of Golgotha, we came to the site of the crucifixion itself. This sacred area was so adorned with religious bling that I couldn't relate to it at all. 

I had the same reaction in the area designated as the place of Jesus' tomb and His resurrection. Although I appreciate the piety and devotion that motivated those who covered it up with gold and jewels, I'm just too much of a Calvinist to relate to it.

"How Beautiful Are the Feet" was the song I kept hearing that day as we walked the Via Dolorosa. Maybe that was because the path was so uneven that my eyes were fixed on the ground where I saw the feet of our group, other groups from all over the world, and the merchants and residents of Jerusalem mingling together and following the road Jesus went up to Calvary.


Kimberly said...

I had much the same feeling in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Teri said...

yep. though I did feel that the cloud of witnesses was palpable in there--so many people have prayed there over the centuries, it felt saturated somehow.

That stone of unction is DEFINITELY new--like in the last 5 years new. When I was last there it was a regular rock, worn and a little icky. watching people touch/kiss it was actually a little gross. That pretty marble looks much more sanitary, and much less convincing...

Quotidian Grace said...


The marble was really icky, too, from tears and saliva. The photo doesn't really show that, though.

Teri said...

eeew. maybe they clean it each night? (a girl can dream!)

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Reformed Catholic said...

Growing up in a R.C. Italian family, I can understand the need to touch and caress 'something' to affirm your beliefs.

Its handed down from grandparents to parents to you. The priest does no wrong, and you pray for intercession and touch the feet of the statue.

I have learned better since, but I can relate to what you saw at the church.