Today we walked the Via Dolorosa: The Stations of the Cross, through the streets of Jerusalem, stopping at the places where Jesus stopped. The pilgrims took turns carrying the large wooden crosses, that were rather heavy, and took 4 people to lift. Our large group of 100 split into two groups of 50 carrying 2 crosses each. As we walked to each station we sang "Jesus Remember Me" and thought about Jesus carrying his cross through these same streets. The city of Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt nine times. Therefore, the streets we walked weren't the exact pavement on which Jesus walked but, since the churches have been built and rebuilt by Christians since the time of the apostles, the stations are accurately placed where each event happened to Jesus. It was solemn and beautiful, but interrupted quite often by large tractors, cars, motorcycles and other groups of pilgrims passing by, forcing us up against the walls of the narrow streets.
Following the Via Dolorosa, we walked to the Franciscan Church of Saint Saviour. Here Bishop Malesic celebrated Mass with us and told us his story of being called to the priesthood.
After lunch we were invited to a special ceremony at the Latin Patriarch's Office with the Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem, Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo. Two Knights and two Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem received a special shell pin for making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. They included Bishop Malesic, Margaret DiVirgilio, and Tom and Alice Zaucha from the Diocese of Greensburg.
Following the ceremony, These Knights and Ladies, as well as Father Lechnar, Father Harth, Father Sikon, Michael and Janice Walker, and the Franciscan Friars at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, led our group of pilgrims in a Solemn Entry Procession into the Church and stopped in front of the empty tomb. Following the Franciscan prayer service at there, we were all able to enter the tomb in small groups of four. Words cannot describe the emotion you feel touching the place where Jesus rose from the dead.
Besides holding the tomb of Christ, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre also holds Calvary. Not very far from the tomb, we climbed a steep staircase to reach the spot where Jesus' cross went into the ground. You could kneel beneath the altar and place your hand into the hole that that held the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! On either side of the altar were large glass cases in which you could see where the two thieves were crucified alongside Jesus. In a room below the altar, there is a glass window where you can see the large stone under Calvary which was cracked in an earthquake following the death of Jesus. There is also a medieval legend that Adam, the first man, was buried under Calvary.
Near the entrance to the church, is the Stone of Annointing, marking the spot where Jesus' body was prepared for burial.
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