Day Six & Gethsemane

I took an early morning walk outside the city walls before breakfast. Well, ten minutes till 7:00 AM isn’t that early really. But the usual crowds had not yet emerged for the day. I came out the Jaffa Gate and spent time in prayer walking the wide spaces above the streets and shops. The sun was rising through the turrets on the city wall. It was going to be a nice warm day.

After breakfast we still had time before heading out for the day, so I took a stroll inside the city. I didn’t know where I was going, not having consulted a map before I headed out. And we only had an hour. I couldn’t afford to get lost. So I ventured out then retraced my steps back the way I came. Maybe I’ll be more adventurous tomorrow.

The Gloria Hotel where we are staying is just inside the Jaffa Gate in the Christian Quarter on the west side of the old city. I followed the road into the Armenian Quarter and at one point was heading downhill I knew not where I was. So I turned around. And on the way back I caught sight of a beautiful church. I’ll find out more about it tomorrow.

Our bus took us around the north end of the city past the New Gate, the Damascus Gate, and Herod’s Gate into the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives. Saturday when we first arrived in the city we stopped to view it from the Mount of Olives looking down into the Kidron Valley. Now we were just a bit lower down the hillside where the Garden of Gethsemane was located.

Our first stop was the Basilica of the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane means olive press. So wherever there are olive groves, there’s probably also an olive press, so a gethsemane. After wandering around on our own for a half hour we celebrated Mass at the rock Jesus supposedly prayed on in the garden. Holy Week had now begun for us.

A thought from Mass. We see a very human Jesus in his anguish in the garden. He was fearful unto death about the suffering he was to endure. And he embraced the Father’s will because it was what he came to accomplish from the beginning. So great was his love for us sinners, he became obedient to cleanse us from our disobedience.

After Mass we headed back around the north end of the city to the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame close to the New Gate for lunch. We toured the building and discovered the beautiful Our Lady of Peace Chapel on the second floor, and a rooftop view of the city.

And just before we took a stroll through the New Gate into the city, we found an exhibit of the Holy Shroud. In keeping with the theme of the Passion of the Lord, we had more food for thought as the day progressed.

We stopped at the Greek Catholic Patriarchate (Melkite) Annunciation Cathedral where Maher gave us an introduction to Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, and chanted something from the Melkite liturgy. We got a taste of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but with much construction going on and large crowds of visitors, we would return the next day to venerate the holy sites on the grounds. From here we walked the rest of the way to the hotel before calling it a day.

Tomorrow we visit the Western Wall and return to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It would be a much lighter day with free time to visit other places. I hope to see the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in the afternoon.

Rolo B Castillo © 2023


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