A PILGRIMAGE DAY IN JERUSALEM’S OLD CITY
So Much to See, So Many Layers of History, So Much for the Mind to Absorb
Post cards of Jerusalem almost always highlight the walled Old City, under many layers of history, but rebuilt in its present form by the Turks in 1542. The walls themselves are 2½ miles in circumference, an average of 40 feet high, with 34 towers and 8 gates. The Old City is residence to over 50,000 people today.
We started by entering the Lions’ Gate and immediately went to the St. Anne’s Church (see welcoming priest in the picture here, along with our pilgrimage facilitator, Betty Ann). St. Anne’s is located above the grotto believed to be the birthplace of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Since part of the church’s fame is its amazing acoustics, we formed a circle up front to sing a cappella “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and “Amazing Grace.” It was spectacular!
Then we started to walk the Via Dolorosa or the “Way of Suffering,” the nine stations of the cross associated with Jesus’ walk to Calvary. We visited Antonia Fortress, the site of Pilate’s Praetorium where the crown of thorns was placed on Jesus’ head, and we ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified.
After lunch in the Jewish Quarters (also Muslim, Christian, and Armenian quarters), we made our way to the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall. Our group got split and I went off with the men to pray. Sages have said that when anyone prays at the 62 foot wall, “it is as if one has prayed before the throne of glory because the gate of heaven is situated there and it is open to hear prayer.”
It was a powerful moment for me personally where I got to place written prayers in a crevice of the wall, one being on behalf of a mother who has felt that God has not heard her pleas for her daughter.
With the detailed historical and archeological information our guide was providing at each site, along with this being Day Nine of our journey, our minds and bodies were on shut-down by the end of the day. It was a “good tired” though, and we remembered the words of our Lord who says, “Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).