Today we traveled back across the Kidron Valley to Gethsemane. We first walked over to a large underground cave where a group was celebrating Mass in Polish. We joined them in the back of the cave and just listened. This was the place where the disciples waited while Jesus went off on his own to pray in the garden.
We left the cave and walked over to the Church of All Nations, also know as the Basilica of Agony. This basilica was built with a somber interior, since this is the place where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. The altar is built upon the very rock where Jesus prayed, and the pilgrims were able to venerate it. We celebrated Mass here with Bishop Malesic who gave a wonderful homily on suffering.
After Mass our group was able to pray in a small gated area of the garden next to the Church of All Nations. We were told that the root of these olive trees had been there since the time of Jesus. Father Michael led us in one decade of the rosary…the first sorrowful mystery: The Agony in the Garden. Then everyone found their own little quite place to pray and we stayed there for the rest of the hour.
We had lunch at a local restaurant with your choice of a gyro or falafel, and then we drove back across the Kidron Valley to the Western Wall. Located in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, was part of the retaining wall of the Jewish temple built by Solomon, and expanded by King Harod 25 years before the birth of Jesus. The wall is separated by a high fence into Men's and Women's sides. Our group split up and waited to pray on the wall. A man and a woman from our group each carried the diocese prayer intention sachets and placed the on the wall while they prayed.
We left the Western Wall and journed on to Mt. Zion. Currently, Mt. Zion is located outside the old city wall, but in the time of Jesus, it was inside the wall. Our first stop here was the Church of Dormition (Sleeping). It was here at this site that the Blessed Virgin Mary ended her earthly existence and was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. It is interesting to note that Our Lady of the Assumption is the partroness of the Diocese of Greensburg, and her feast day is Aug. 15. Normally when a cathedral is dedicated, it is on the feast day. When our Blessed Sacrament Cathedral was dedicated, they chose Oct. 7, the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary, instead, and today is Oct. 7! This beautiful church has many beautiful mosaics including the very large on depicting Mary and the infant Jesus holding a book which reads "I am the light of the world." We sang "Salve Regina" here and then walked over to the Upper Room.
Three important events occurred in this room. The first event was the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, where Jesus shared the bread and wine, and announced that he was going to be betrayed by one of them and be put to death. The second event occurred after he rose from the dead and appeared in the room and showed Thomas his hands and side. And the third event when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples like tongues of fire and they were able to speak in tongues. We read the gospel passage about The Last Supper, and Mahir showed us the two Christian symbols in the room: a lamb right above the main chandelier, and a pelican piercing her breast to feed her young.
We returned to our hotel to relax for a few hours, and then journeyed to Bethlehem for dinner. We enjoyed the delicious lamb and chicken, and were entertained by a young Palestinian dance group. For the final dance, the invited all of us to join them and taught us a lot of their dance moves!
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