Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your son our Lord. Amen. (From the First Station)We went into the old city first thing in the morning today to pray the Stations of the Cross. But it's Orthodox Good Friday; so we were hardly the only ones with that idea. An incredible number of Coptic Christians (from Egypt) seem to be here in particular. As we walked, the city "woke up" - shopkeepers, soldiers, trash collectors (really!) and other pilgrims. Life itself was all around us. It reminds me of that great prayer by George McLeod, posted on this blog on western Good Friday.
To tell the truth, I've never been a huge fan liturgically of "The Stations of the Cross." But it most definitely works in the streets of Jerusalem! (In fact, over the past few years I've discovered that when I do pray the Stations I would rather do it through the city streets of Worcester than in a church building.)
From there we walked to Dominus Flevit, the Church dedicated to the memory that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem.
And from there to the Garden of Gethsemane:
And then to one of my favorite churches, the Church of St. Peter in Galicantu ("crowing rooster.") I find it interesting to dedicate a church to Peter's greatest failure; there is something oddly reassuring to me about that! And also, it's the church is run by the Assumptionists - the same French order that is connected to Assumption College, a few minutes from my house in Worcester. It's built over the ruins of Caiphas' palace, and therefore the likely site where Jesus was held in prison and flogged before his crucifixion.
So much to take in. But a very powerful day for all of us. Later this afternoon, we are headed to St. Gerassimos, one of the oldest monasteries in the Palestinian desert, founded in 455. And then tomorrow it's Emmaus. Basically, however, we are coming to the end of this amazing time away, a rich experience for which I've been incredibly grateful.
One of the five pillars of Islam is the hajj - a pilgrimage to Mecca for all who can afford to do so. I think that in the spirit of "holy envy" I'd like to encourage all Christians who are able to do so to make this pilgrimage - to see these places - to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. I'm especially grateful to have shared this experience with old friends and new ones.