Posts Tagged ‘nunnery’

pilgrimage day 9.5 – destination, Jerusalem

January 21, 2009

…After a welcome rest at the Maronite nunnery we had an unusual stop at the Notre Dame hostel, a hotel specifically for pilgrims, which V had mentioned several times. Despite V’s every effort she could not get us a booking there and it was the first time one of her groups was staying only at secular hotels. But we were still going to visit, and were met by a very grand, dignified priest and led into the hostel’s own chapel featuring a very pink Mary statue.  As we entered the chapel, Fr. Chico whispers to me that we were now among the most conservative of priests. In the chapel the dignified priest welcomed us and said how sad it made him that there was no space for one of V’s groups in his hostel. After a short talk we left, climbing the stairs out Fr. Chico whispered to me again that the order of priests here are called the Legionnaires  but a he calls them the Millionaires because they are very rich and feel it is their calling to convert the wealthy. I ask him is he is impressed with them and he said “No, we are not impressed with them” . I ask Fr. Chico about his order; he is from the Cambionnaires which started in Portugal and are dedicated to practicing in Africa and other war-torn and poverty-stricken places. Fr. Chico has no parish but lives in a remote, rural part of Mpumalanga. Next we hauled uphill to a Shroud of Turin museum where we were met by a very lively Irish priest who took us through the museum briefly and told us about some of the shroud’s oddnesses and some of the very convincing evidence from physics, pollen analysis and photography, which suggest that the shroud and its image are not simple cloth and imprint. One of the weirdest things about the shroud is that when photographed you get a negative image and a you get a positive image when you look at the photograph’s negative. There was even a 3D reconstruction of the figure depicted in the shroud using some fancy CG technique, and it really looked like what we think of when we picture Jesus.

Shroud of Turin weirdness

Shroud of Turin weirdness

We loaded onto a bus and were driven somewhere but weren’t told where … oh look we’re at the foot of the Mount of Olives and oh we are taking part in another procession – a Palm Sunday procession. At this point H and Aunty B decided to stay in the bus, they were struggling with bad knees and swollen ankles and it was a good choice. Cynthia would not be held back though, but she really struggled on the walk up. Mae, Tia and I almost lost the group because Mae went back to the bus to fetch her jersey. We had a moment of panic (during which there were some harsh words from me *blush*) as we watched the bus drive away and had no idea where our group was. But, holy-thank-goodness we found the group at an teeny grey dome-shaped building. It was the Dome of the Ascension, which is actually mosque, but is built over the spot where people think Jesus ascended into Heaven. After this we went to Pater Noster (eh? isn’t that a town on South Africa’s coast? No actually it is also the “Our Father…” prayer) the traditional spot where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. There is a church there among very pretty gardens complete with rose bushes. All around the gardens and the church are tiled plaques with the Our Father in all different languages – even found Zulu and Afrikaans!

in the Dome of the Acsension

in the Dome of the Acsension

Our Father in Sotho, Portuguese, Zulu, Creole, Siswati, Afrikaans

Our Father in Sotho, Portuguese, Zulu, Creole, Siswati, Afrikaans

Then we walked up a steep hill where Clive and I took turns kind of pushing Cynthia up the hill. We walked a steep road up to a look out point where we could see Jerusalem and look down the Mount of Olives over the vast cemetaries. The Mount of Olives is hot cemetary property since it’s believed that those buried there will be the first taken up to Heaven. Plots there are very expensive and there are a number of famous people buried there.

Mount of Olives cemetaries

Mount of Olives cemeteries

cemetary ritual

cemetary ritual

Next we properly began the Palm Sunday procession walking a sharp downhill to Dominus Flevit (translated: Jesus wept), a church built over the spot where Jesus wept anticipating his Father’s will. The church was built to resemble a tear drop and on the altar there is a mosaic of a chicken sheltering chicks in its wings (symbolic of Jesus wanting to shelter Jerusalem). And behind the altar was a big window overlooking Jerusalem.

Dominus Flevit

Dominus Flevit

sheltering wings

sheltering wings

After walking around the gardens surrounding the church for a while (and me falling on my butt while walking down the wheelchair ramp) we carried on downhill to the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives. We saw veeeeery old, chunky olive trees and the Church of all Nations, which we were told has 12 domes, one for each nation that funded its building. But looking it up it seems like more than 12: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Italy, France, Spain, UK, Belguim, Canada, Germany, USA and Australia, each country funding different parts of the church. The church is built on the site of a 12th century Crusader chapel which was later a Byzantine basilica which was detroyed by an earthquake. Now it is an amazing Franciscan church, vast and full of mosaics of complex garden scenes and in tones of deep blue, golds and browns. At this stage there was some confusion, and people didn’t know if they should be in the church or wait outside. Frank disappeared and could be glimpsed once or twice pacing up and down talking in a very concerned way on his phone. After the waiting around, a bit of whinging and some how-the-church-should-operate debate, Frank reappeared and we were led to another part of the garden where a Franciscan monk greeted us. We got to do one of the best things of the whole day – we sat for an hour of silence to pray and meditate on peace for Israel and the world. This was very special thinking about Jesus being in the garden and feeling like one of his disciples trying to focus on prayer and tune out distraction and tireness like they were trying to on the night Jesus was arrested. It was also the perfect rest and calm down after a long day.

Church of All Nations

Church of All Nations

devotion

devotion

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

We thought after this long day we would go rest, but instead of going for dinner and resting at our hotel we went for a special farewell dinner at a different hotel. The farewell was out last day with Frank and Jono who we had all grown fond of (although their fondness for us was debatable). The farewell dinner was a bit strange though since neither Frank nor Jono attended so it seemed a bit…er pointless in terms of bidding them farewell. Another notable feature of the dinner was that Tia got a big birthday cake due to a misunderstanding wherein V believed it was a her birthday when, in fact, it was only her birthday 3 days time. Eventually we were taken back to our hotel, people were tired and ratty but the Portuguese contingency was very dedicated – we still got together for a makeshift Portuguese Mass in honour of Tia in one of their hotel rooms complete with hotel table wine and rolls for the Eucharist. And then it was time to pack in preparation for going to Jordan and then Cairo – we did not get enough sleep …

Tally for the day: 8 chuches, 2 sacred sites, 3 mosques, 1 set of ruins, 2 processions, 2 gardens, 1 nunnery, 1 museum, 1 dinner out  (whoa!)

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pilgrimage day 9.0 – destination, Jerusalem

January 15, 2009

It’s a well known adage that life is not about the destination, but the journey. This pilgrimage was about Jesus’ journey, but the destination, where Jesus fulfilled his mission, had equal gravity. Even though we had been in Jerusalem a few days already, day 9 we ‘arrived’, everything after this day felt like a winding down of the pilgrimage. Day 9 was also, fittingly, the harshest single day of the whole trip, but, somehow, I felt full of energy and verve. The day was so ridiculously long that I’m splitting it into two posts (which is saying something becuase the posts so far have been way-too-long-for-blog). Anyways, we woke at 5am and left for a 6am Mass at the Holy Sepulcher. We got our Mass in early at the overbooked Christian epicentre, during its Catholic time-slice. We walked a windy, complicated path through the Old City during a grey pre-dawn to get there. The streets were weirdly quiet compared to their regular buzz and clutter. Once we got inside the empty, echoey church we gathered at it’s focus: the enclosure built around Jesus’ tomb. After a while we entered through a narrow entry to a teeny room, the size of a large elevator, for a Mass which contemplated Jesus’ resurrection from the very spot where we were standing. At the end of Mass, one at a time, we walk-crawled through a low arch into an even teenier room at the middle of the enclosure where there was only a large altar built over the rocks of the tomb. Here we knelt and reached into a hole to touch those scared rocks. By the time we emerged from the enclosure, there were already more pilgrims starting to gather.

early morning at the Holy Sepulchre

early morning at the Holy Sepulchre

a glimpse into the sepulchre

a glimpse into the sepulchre

After a quick breakfast nip back to the hotel, we drove off to the Western Wall (a.k.a. Wailing Wall or Kotel), that site of contentiousness between the Jewish and Muslim. The wall’s history is obviously interesting and the fact that Jews are able to pray there freely is a big deal as it is the only part of the Temple that remains. At the commission in which the Jewish sought free worship at the wall, the following argument was made which I think sums up the wall’s meaning and the Jews desperation to hold onto it:

“Being judged before you today stands a nation that has been deprived of everything that is dear and sacred to it from its emergence in its own land – the graves of its patriarchs, the graves of its great kings, the graves of its holy prophets and, above all, the site of its glorious Temple. Everything has been taken from it and of all the witnesses to its sanctity, only one vestige remains – one side of a tiny portion of a wall, which, on one side, borders the place of its former Temple. In front of this bare stone wall, that nation stands under the open sky, in the heat of summer and in the rains of winter, and pours out its heart to its God in heaven.”

There are seperate queues for men and women to enter the site of the wall and very strict rules around maintaining its sanctity. There’s also a seperation at the wall such that there is a part for the tourists  and another for devout (I think Hasidic) Jews. Something else you notice is that, since the wall is so sacred, people do not turn their back on is, so as you leave you walk backwards facing the wall at all times.We got 5 minuts to walk around, and I didn’t walk all the way up and touch wall becuase I thought there wouldn’t be enough time. As we left I instantly regretted it, but Angie, who did touch the wall, did something which really moved me; she saw I was upset, picked up my hand and rubbed it against hers saying ‘Now we both touched the wall’.

rules of sanctity

rules of sanctity

the holiest place

the holiest place

Next we moved onto an even more contested site, the same space is, for Jews, the Temple Mount, where the Temple once stood and, for Muslims, it is where Mohammed ascended into heaven and where he will again appear at final judgement. It is the most holy place for Jews and the third most holy place for Muslims. One thing both agree on is that it is where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. The space is occupied by two important Islamic places of worship the  Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, (as in the rock on which Abraham prepared Isaac for sacrifice). We walked through a make-shift tunnel with heavily armed soldiers posted along it to get to the Temple Mount.

Temple Mount arch

Temple Mount arch

Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock

We left the Temple Mount and walked through the Muslim quarter to see two things: St. Anne’s which is considered the birthplace of Mary and the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus restored a blind man’s vision. Bizarrely and unexpectedly we were shuffled into a choir formation in St. Annes to sing a hymn becuase the acoustics there are really good. It was odd becuase there was an air of rush, we had to do this thing we didn’t know we were going to do *fast* bacuase there were other groups chomping at the bit for their choral moment. So, it seems, that’s what you do at St. Anne’s, you’re expected to sing; if you ever go, be prepared. At the pools there there was lots of talking by Frank (which I didn’t really process since I was still thinking about the Temple Mount) and a very quick looksee before we had to move onto to the Via Dolorosa.

one of many altars in St. Annes

one of many altars in St. Anne's

We got to do something very special and follow the Via Dolorosa, the way Jesus walked after his condemnation to his cruxifiction. We walked this path carrying a large wooden cross in turns and stopping at each station of the cross to read from the Bible and pray. The streets were narrow and filled with nonplussed shopkeepers who looked like they’ve seen thousands of Via Dolorosa processions. Ultimately we reached a little green door which turned out to be a wierd back entrance to the Holy Sepulchre, where we completed the last five stations and wandered around among the throngs of people. This time we also got to go to the altar above the rock of Calvary and touch that rock.

via dolorossa - the stations

via dolorossa - the stations

walking the via dolorosa

walking the via dolorosa

oddities through the back entrance of the Holy Sepulchre

oddities through the back entrance of the Holy Sepulchre

After that people got to rest for a while in the plaza outside the church before walking a good while through the shop-filled lanes to get to a Maronite nunnery where Frank had organised a lunch for us. The nuns there knew him well since he had grown up near the nunnery and spent lots of time there as a boy getting up to mischief such as hiding from his parents in their bell tower. We were led up a long flight of stairs which has very hard on the older folk. We ended up on a rooftop where we got an awesome view of rooftops used as backyards, statellites, domes, churches. Frank dissected the view, pointing out the different religious quarters and landmarks. Lunch was simple, homey and delicious and our table was filled with rollicking good table mates like Tia, Mae, Luisa, Fr. Chico, Caroline and Veronica.

lots of folk needed helping hands during all the walking

lots of folk needed helping hands during all the walking

rooftop backyard

rooftop backyard

look at this ladys apron

look at this lady's apron

Next, what we did after chilling at the Maronite nunnery…