Fri April 1
Yesterday I had a very nice a/noon in the city, & a relaxing night in the Intercontinental. Saw a gr8 movie, Mao’s Last Dancer. Seemed to be an Aussie movie by Bruce Beresford, about a young Chinese dancer who spends 3 months with the Houston ballet, & then defects. Finishes up marrying an Aussie dancer & moving to Australia. Lovely acting & dance scenes – I esp enjoyed it because of my recent trip to China. Now off to the airport for my 12 noon flight to Adelaide. A w/e of old friends, family & footy awaits 🙂
Adelaide has turned on wonderful warm weather for me, & I have enjoyed wandering around the city where I went to school & worked. I have a room at the Intercontinental with a wonderful view of the river Torrens & Adel Oval. Saty I caught the bus to Footy Park – but it was not a happy day! Port Adel lost both games & played badly in the main game. Still, it was nice to sit with old friends from 40 years ago, & also to catch up with friends from my teenage days in the PAFC Cheer squad 🙂
Off to Mass at Christ Church, Nth Adel – the last remaining traditional parish in Adel, tho not Anglocatholic. They are celebrating Mothering Sunday, a grand Adel tradition. Afterwards I have a family lunch with my last surviving uncle, Rich, & my cousins, Noelene, Maxine & Vicky. Then I caught up with 2 old friends.
Another lovely Adelaide day & a pleasant flight back to Melb.
Have had 3 pleasant days in Melb, with lovely weather. Tues I visited a Good Shepherd sister who is an old friend, then met with my agent about my St Kiklda apartment. It was flooded in Feb & needs $10,000 spent on it. In the evening Val & I had dinner with him & his staff. On Wed I met with the Regional Bishop & Archbishop. Both welcomed me back to Melb, & were interested to hear about my time in the US. In the a/noon I walked along part of the old outer circle railway reserve & also the Kew railway line. These were built in the 1890’s, when Melb was covered with a gr8 railway network. Sadly, they did not last, but now are quiet walking trails. In the evening I had dinner with my old neighbours, Ria & Jim. Thursday I am spending at the beach. Fri I go back to the city apartment for a w/e of footy 🙂
Fri night footy was excellent, with the unfurling of Collingwood’s 2010 premieship flag & a gr8 victory in front of 88,000 people. Saty I caught up with my old secretary, Meigs. Sunday Mass was again disppointing….one may to make me miss All SS! Drinks tonight with a St Mark’s friend & tomorrow I fly back to the US, then onto Jerusalem for Holy Week & Easter.
I have arrived in Jerusalem! I flew to London on Wed, stayed in a Heathrow hotel Thurs night & was up at 4 am Fri for my 6.30 am flight. The flights were good (always good when I use miles!) & arrived at 3.15 pm. Caught a shared taxi to Jerusalem – & was amazed at the build-up of modern housing that stretches for miles. Not so amazing is the wall the Israelis have built to separate Palestine from Israel.
I arrived at St George’s Guest House in the grounds of the Anglican cathedral at 5.30 pm. It is very quaint, but my room is nice. After I unpacked I went into the cathedral to say EP, then headed for the Church of Holy Sepulchre. There was quite a crowd waiting to get into the actual sepulchre, so I explored this amazing basilica. It was both overwhelming & exciting. It is amazing to realise that you are standing on the very site of Our Lord’s crucifixion & resurrection. It is also emotional for me….in 1975 I came here on pilgrimage as a young Aussie exploring the possibility that God was calling me to be a priest. I still remember many of the places & things. Now 36 years later, I come as a priest of 31 years, to give thanks & to fulfill the dream that one day I would celebrate the Easter Triduum here. As the sun set I explored the christian 1/4ter, enjoying the atmosphere & history – then headed back for a good sleep!
Holy Week seems to have begun today! I woke up at 5 am & was at the Holy Sepulchre by 7 am. I had hoped to attend Mass there….but there was an endless stream of Masses & crowds of pilgrims. Walked to the Wailing Wall, then along the city walls to Gethsemane, then up to the Mt of Olives. All these places so familiar – how wonderful to live here. I got to Bethpage in plenty of time for the 9 am Mass. It was a wonderful walk with views of Bethany. The shrine is in the care of the Franciscans – like so many of the holy sites – & there were 50 of them present for the special Mass for the day. The church was packed with 100 people, & the Mass included Lauds & was sung beautifully by the Franciscans. After Mass I was invited for lunch – a pity I am fasting during the day 🙁
I walked back to the Holy Sepulchre, & then home. After a rest I went back to the Holy Sepulchre for the entrance of the Latin Patriarch at 2.30 pm. This was accompanied by much ceremony & singing. As soon as that was over there was the entrance of the Greek Patriarch, followed by the the Copts, Syrians & Armenians. The Syrians had the best decorations, & the Armenians the loudest singing! Each procession had 4 Palestinian guards with staves that they stomped on the ground to clear the way. The best costumes went to the ones guarding the Latins – real Ottoman outfits. They also seemed to enjoy their job more than the others. The thing that struck me was how young all the accompanying priests & religious were in each group. At Bethpage I struck up conversations with several young Franciscans, incl 2 Slovaks who were born after I visited the Holy Land in 1975!
At 3.50 pm (whilst the Armenians were still singing!) the Franciscan Solemn Procession began. This is a nightly procession to the various sites in the Basilica, accompanied by wonderful singing. It has to compete with the other churches devotions – & the crowds of people. But there was something human about them all competing against each other to praise God – as the Muslims & Jews also do in this city where they all have to co-exist.
The Service included circling around the actual sepulchre 3 times, & went for 1.5 hours……..but that will be short by comparison with the rest of the week! Afterwards I found a priest who spoke English & made my confession – a prefect way to start Holy Week. Then I went for a walk along the roofs of the city, with amazing views of the Dome of the Rock & the Holy Sepulchre. It seemed to be a short-cut for Jews, who were still in their Sabbath clothes. I found an Armenian restaurant & had dinner in their courtyard…..a lovely end to a lovely day.
The day began with the 7 am Blessing of palms, procession & Mass in the Holy Sepulchre. The holy city was almost deserted at that time of day. During the procession the priests & franciscans waved their palms enthusiastically – the whole ceremony took 90 mins before the Mass actually started! At 10.30 am I attended Mass in St George’s cathedral. Afterwards, by an amazing coincidence, I met the priest who was at Haifa when I visited in 1975. I remember him well – he gave me a bed in the students hostel & invited me to lunch with his wife & mother after Sunday Mass. He could not remember me, & I reminded him of our conversation about the “Palestinian problem”….a conversation which had a lasting effect on me. His wife was the cathedral organist & I introduced myself to her, mentioning my visit all those years ago. It was as if my life had come full circle!
At 1 pm I went to Bethpage for the Palm Sunday procession into the holy city at 2.30 pm. This had a fun atmosphere as christians from all over the country & the world gathered. So many enthusiastic young people, some with guitars, along with many nuns, seminarians & priests. The procession was headed by 2 Palestinian guards with staves & over 100 Arab catholic scouts, all in full uniform. It took 2 hours to get to the city wall, but no one seemed to mind. After arriving at St Anne’s Basilica a carnival atmosphere prevailed – I went on to the Holy Sepulchre for the nightly Franciscan procession. It was a small crowd compared to last night, which reminded me of when I was here in 1975. I also experienced the Armenian procession, with the loud singing provided by 20 young men & teenagers. On the way back I encountered a procession of the scouts again, accompanied by several scout bands. There was some clever baton twirling, incl a ten year-old! I had dinner in a lovely restaurant opposite St George’s, with balcony views of East Jerusalem.
I was up early & attended 6.30 am Mass in the tiny chapel of the 5th Station – Simon of Cyrene carries the cross. 25 of us squeezed into it, & it was very moving. I then walked to the Holy Sepulchre, where an Arabic Mass was happening. After devotions at the sepulchre I went for a leisurely walk around the Muslim 1/4ter, finishing at the churches which commemorate the condemnation & scouring of Our Lord. I can not describe the emotions I feel. Back to St George’s for breakfast. Then to the Temple Mount, recalling that after his triumphal entry, Jesus went to the temple – overturning the tables of the money-changers & predicting its destruction. After that I went to St Anne’s Basilica, to pray in the crusader church on the site of both the pool of Bethesda & the birth-place of BVM. Even tho it was hot, I walked on a path outside the east wall to the city of David, finishing at the pool of Siloam. Back to St George’s for some respite from the sun!
The a/noon proved to be really interesting. 1stly I attended the liturgy at St James Armenian cathedral. This is a stunning church which is similar to an Anglican church (except for 200 hanging lamps!) & the Service was recognisable. There was even a gospel proclamation with incense & acolytes. Then I visited St Mark’s Syrian church. A volunteer guide gave me a wonderful explanation in delightful English – incl her own testimony to her christian faith. The church is the site of the house of St Mark’s mother & they believe it is the site of the Upper Room. It also has a miraculous icon of Our Lady said to be painted by St Luke. After that I leisurely walked around lanes & alleys until it was time for the nightly procession in the Holy Sepulchre. Dinner in a local arab restaurant completed a lovely day.
Another wonderful day. It began with 7.30 am Mass in the Chapel of the Flagellation (which I visited yesterday). This is opposite the 1st Station, & I was able to do a personal Stations of the Cross with intention for all the priests I know. The Mass was another of the special Franciscan Holy Week Masses, & included the singing of the St John Passion. It brought back memories of Good Friday at Fitzroy. After breakfast nearby I visited the 4th Station, where there is a Byzantine mosaic of 2 sandals – suggesting Mary as she meets her son. After breakfast I then set out for Jaffa Gate. Here begin 2 walks along the city walls – 1 northward, finishing at Dung gate, & 1 south-east, finishing at St Stephen’s gate. You have to get off at the end of either & walk back to Jaffa Gate! And it is no stroll…..narrow paths, steep stairs up & down & rugged flagstones. But the views into the old city are marvellous.
I went to Dung Gate 1st, & then walked over to Mt Zion. My 1st stop was St Peter Gallincantu – a modern church which commemorates Peter’s denial & Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas. It is a lovely church on 2 levels & beneath are excavations of a prison. Outside are the foundations of the High Priest’s house. But the most interesting thing is the roadway along the side – huge stone steps from the Kidron Valley to Mt Zion. Jesus would have trodden these steps from the last Supper to Gethsemane, then have come back when he was arrested.
Then I walked up to Dormition Abbey – a 100 year old Benedictine abbey which stands on the summit of Mt Zion. Here is commemorated the death of the Virgin Mary. There is the tradition that she was assumed at Ephesus. I have now been to both….& prefer Ephesus! Behind the Abbey is the Cenacle – the supposed Upper Room. It is the remains of a crusader church, & was turned into a mosque in 1524. It is just an empty space not easy to pray in, & is surrounded by Jewish institutions, with the Israeli flag flying high. I walked back to Jaffa Gate & began the 2nd walk along the walls – a mile long, with interesting views both sides of the wall. Then back to St George’s.
The day concluded with a special experience & blessing. I went to the Holy Sepulchre as usual…..& I was able to actually enter the Seplchre & do my devotions. I have not done this so far, because each day/night there have been crowds of pilgrims lined up. As only 4 can fit in at a time, it takes ages. But when I got there tonight there was a small line, so I joined in. 20 mins later I entered – & it was an amazing experience to be in the actual place where Our Lord rose from the dead. As I said my prayers & devotions it was overwhelming – but we were soon ushered out. After the Franciscan procession I found another interesting restaurant in the Greek part of the 1/4ter, which is now my favourite: wonderful atmosphere, staff, food & prices 🙂
Up again at 5.30 am – a wonderful time, with the sun rising, a clear sky & the city almost deserted. Today the special Holy Week Mass was at 8.30 am in the Basilica of the Agony in Gethsemane. This is an impressive church built in 1924, the 3rd on the site – one of several in the Holy Land by the architect, A Barluzzi. In front of the altar is a rock, said to be that on which Christ prayed in agony on Maundy Thurs night. The rock is surrounded by a metal wreath, representing the crown of thorns, & given by Australia. I got there early & wandered around the olive trees in the garden outside which predate Christ, then got a seat in the front row for the Mass. The Mass was wonderful, with beautiful singing & liturgy done correctly & well – something I have always aspired to do in my parishes. Our Holy Week & Triduum Services are all based on the liturgies here at Jerusalem, which go back to the 4th century, & it is a thrill to be experiencing them as & where they are celebrated. As with other Services, some of the chants were familiar – for the offertory the tune was what we sing for the Lenten Prose. The Passion of St Luke was sung, & when it came to the part where Christ’s sweat fell like drops of blood, the deacon turned & faced the rock, inserted the word, “here”, genuflected & kissed the rock. I saw several familiar faces among the Franciscans + 2 old ladies from Brazil, who seem to be next to me at every Service!
From Mass I went to the nearby Cave of the Olive Press, said to be the place where Judas betrayed Jesus. Then it was up to the old city, & the Ecce Homo convent. Here are amazing excavations of the pavement that was in front of the citadel where Jesus was condemned by Pilate – referred to as Gabbatha in the gospels. In the chapel is the arch where Pilate is said to have presented Jesus to the crowd with the words, “Behold the man”. Quite a beautiful place for devotion.
I then walked the Stations to the Holy Sepulchre – but there was such a crowd that I did not stay. I enjoyed wandering around lanes & streets I had not discovered before, finishing up at St John Baptist church. This is hard to find – the entrance is a small door stuck between shops. Inside is a courtyard & Greek monastery. The church was founded in the 5th cent & is stunning inside. In 1099 it was used as a hospital for wounded christian knights, from which started the Hospitaller Knights of St John. An enthusiastic parishioner gave me a guided tour in wonderful English. I then headed to Jaffa Gate, where there were lots of Jews enjoying the Passover holiday. Amazing – I have been in Jerusalem 6 days, & didn’t realise Passover was today!
I returned to St George’s, then at 2 pm went back to the city by another way – the main Arab shopping street, which is behind St George’s. This led to the Muslim 1/4ter, & I passed the 14th cent house of a Mongolian lady. It is now half-hidden, but over the entrance you can see interesting Mameluke features. Then onto the Holy Sepulchre, still full of pilgrims. The Service of Tenebrae was presided over by the Latin patriarch at 4 pm. This was held in front of the Sepulchre & was quite crowded. As well as the usual 50 Franciscans there were 20 young seminarians & over 100 people. The liturgy was beautiful, with wonderful chanting & singing – all in Latin, of course. One tune seemed to be the familiar “Old 100th”! The Service took 90 mins, & then for dinner I found a nearby roof-top cafe with wonderful views of the Holy Sepulchre, Dome of the Rock & Mt of Olives. Back for an early night – because tomorrow is a full day.
This was a day not to be forgotten. The Liturgy in the Holy Sepulchre started at 8 am & went for over 3 hours, Meanwhile, out in the courtyard the Greeks were having their Service of the Foot-washing! It was very crowded outside, but a Franciscan ushered me thru the lines. The various churches are given times in the Holy Sepulchre for the Triduum according to an arrangement 150 years ago called the Status Quo. What this means is the Latins are bound to the pre-Vatican 2 times for the liturgies. So today was at 8 am, tomorrow is at 7 am & the Easter Vigil is Saty at 6 am (like the good old days!) No other Services are allowed – & the same when the Orthodox have their liturgies. Today’s liturgy was a combination of the Chrism Mass & the Mass of the Last Supper. The singing was aided by a parish choir, who even sang Mozart’s Ave Verum during HC. The ringing of the bells during the Gloria was exhilarating. There were 4 readings & psalms before the gospel, then the foot-washing, followed by the Patriarch’s homily….which was distributed in all languages before he started. Then came the Renewal of Vows by the priests & I joined in with the “volo” to renew my vows in this gr8 sanctuary. Then came a singular joy & privilege: one of the Franciscans asked me to be part of the offertory procession. There were 12 of us, mainly young people, & I smiled at the Pariarch when I presented one of the chalices with wine.
The Mass continued on as usual. HC lasted ages – there were hundreds. After came the Eucharistic Procession. Preceded by 4 guards stomping their staves, the Franciscans & 15O priests led the Blessed Sacrament 3 times around the sepulchre, singing all those wonderful Aquinas hymns. We all held lighted candles, but it was impossible to follow in procession. At the end the Sacrament was placed in the Sepulchre itself. Then it was all over & we had to leave, as the Basilica was to be closed at 12 noon. Thinking of all the preparations & rehearsals that went into the liturgies in the parishes where I have been in, I could only wonder at the organisation of this liturgy.
At 3.15 pm there was a pilgrimage to the Cenacle. I found myself walking with a young Aussie who had only arrived that morning & who, like me, had printed from the internet the schedule of Services. Also a Swedish woman, who seems to spend her life doing pilgrimages! When we arrived at the Cenacle people were already singing Laudate Omnes Gentes. The Service was comparatively short – a mere 25 mins! St John’s a/c of the Last Supper was read in Latin, English & Arabic, followed by the singing of Ubi Caritas, during which the Custodian (Head Franciscan) washed the feet of 6 young men. St Mark’s a/c followed, then the singing of Eat This Bread, during which the custodian washed the feet of 6 boys. John 13:31-35 followed, then we were invited (in the 3 languages) to a greeting of peace. After intercessions in 6 languages we were all asked to say the Lord’s Prayer in our own language. It sounded like the speaking of tongues must have at Pentecost. All this emphasis on languages seemed very appropriate, as the Upper Room was also the place for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
I went back to St George’s, then had dinner at the nearby hotel that I went to on Sunday night. I had been fasting all day, so was looking forward to a good meal – which will have to last me all day tomorrow, being Good Friday. At 8.15 pm I went to the Basilica of the Agony for a Prayer Vigil. I thought this might be a quiet Vigil – but I was mistaken! When I got there the church was already packed with 500 people & it was standing room only. The Service began with a hymn with a haunting refrain, Gethsemane, Gethsemane. 3 sections followed focusing on the gospel accounts of this night – each with antiphon, psalm & 3 gospel readings in different languages. Intercessions (also in different languages) & a blessing concluded the Service. Then we sang Vexilla Regis to a haunting tune sung that morning, whilst the Custodian censed the rock of agony. Then there was a gr8 rush of people wanting to venerate the rock! I did not stay – but leaving the church was difficult. Then outside were about 1,000 people, mainly young, holding candles. But I had to get back for an early rise again.
I got to the Holy Sepulchre at 6.45 am, where a large crowd was waiting. At 7 am the Franciscans arrived & the doors were opened. The doors were then closed at 7.15 am. The liturgy was celebrated at the chapel on Calvary itself. I stood below, not able to see much – next to a group of seminarians from California! I knew what was happening as the liturgy was exactly the same as I have celebrated every Good Friday. A relic of the true cross was carried in by the Patriarch, & placed on the altar. The Passion was sung to the traditional chant we used at St Mark’s, so I was able to follow easily. When it came to “And He gave up his spirit” the deacon moved to the Greek altar over the rock of Calvary, knelt down & kissed the rock. When it came to the Veneration of the Cross the programme noted that this part was as they had done it in the 5th cent – how wonderful to be united back 16 centuries. When it came time for HC the Sacrament was brought with incense & candles from the Sepulchre, where it had been since the Maundy Thurs liturgy. Various priest brought HC down to us. At the end the Relic was taken in procession to the Franciscan chapel of the apparition, & everyone was able to venerate it there. After venerating I went to the Calvary chapels for quiet prayer & meditation – most people having left. At 10 am the doors were opened & the Franciscans led us all out, whilst the Greeks waited to come in for their liturgy.
At 11.30 am I set out for the Stations of the Cross. As I left dark clouds covered Jerusalem & for the next 3 hours hung around (just like on the 1st Good Friday!). This resulted in heavy downpours during the Stations. We began in the courtyard of an Islamic School on the site of the Antonia Fortress, which is usually closed. A large crowd had already gathered, & I got talking to a young mother from Gaza who lives in the city. Because of the Israeli restrictions she is not able to visit her family. At 12.15 pm the procession set out, led by the Franciscans, followed by the Arab scouts. As I looked at these boys & girls, I wondered what their future was as Israel makes it harder for Christians to live & work here. After the scouts came the local Palestinian parishioners followed by 20 of their men carrying a large cross. The rest of us followed. It was quite a procession, with armed Israeli soldiers at every intersection.
An hour later we arrived at the Holy Sepulchre – but I did not attempt to go in – the crush of people was too much. Instead, I joined Russian pilgrims in St Alexander’s church nearby. In 1859 the Russian Church bought a piece of land next to the Holy Sepulchre & began excavations. As well as parts of the original basilica they found the remains of the city wall & street, an archway & the pavement Jesus would have walked along. This is preserved in a lower church. I lined up to do my veneration, & then climbed thru a narrow gap in the wall. This is part of the pilgrimage, & it was as if I had walked in the steps on Christ.
I went back to St G’s to escape the crowds, then returned to the Holy Sepulchre for Tenebrae at 4 pm.The crowds were unbelievable, with much pushing & shoving. However I got a good position & was able to join in the singing. There was a kindly fellowship amongst all of us who came to pray, even tho we did not know each other. A highlight was striking up a conversation with one of the Ottoman guards. All week I have noticed him in action, clearing a way for the Franciscans, stopping people from interrupting the worship & ensuring the pavement is clear for the liturgical comings & goings. I congratulated him on his job, & he replied in accented English, “I am the keeper of the patio” 🙂
There is another Service at 8 pm, but I will have an early night – for I must be at New Gate at 5.30 am tomorrow in order to attend the Easter Vigil in the Sepulchre (because of security).
Getting to the Easter Vigil was quite an adventure. I was at New Gate at 5.30 am, & were police & barricades were already forming at every corner. Pilgrims for the Vigil were ushered thru the back entrance of the Franciscan monastery & we waited in line with several hundred others. At 5.50 am we were allowed out thru the main door in groups of 30. All this is designed to avoid pushing & to ensure only worshippers get in the Basilica. We went down St Francis St, then were turned back, & went up instead. Then we were sent down again, & under the watchful eye of Israeli police, made our way to the Basilica. Once in I found myself next to 2 young American students, & also one of the young men in the Maundy Thurs procession with me. In front of the Sepulchre a beautiful altar with silver frontal had been set up. At 6.30 am the stamping of the guards’ staves announced the arrival of the Franciscans, the Patriarch & his attendants. They went to the sacristy & re-appeared in lovely gold vestments, along with 60 concelebrants.
The liturgy was exactly the same as I have participated in for 40 years, except for some local variations – like the celebrant saying “in this place” in his opening address. Also early Saty seemed odd – with daylight, & lights lit! The big difference was that the Paschal candle was lit from a light in the Sepulchre, rather than the fire – entirely appropriate, of course. As I held my candle I looked at the Holy Sepulchre & could feel the wonder of celebrating Our Lord’s resurrection in the shadow of his tomb! The Gloria was wonderful, with the organist coming in magnificently & the basilica bells ringing. After the renewal of baptismal vows the Patriarch made a valiant attempt to wander thru the crowd, sprinkling us with the water. HC was distributed all around the Basilica, as we sang “O Sons & Daughters of the King” (in Latin, of course) with its wonderful chorus of Alleluia! We were dismissed with the familiar Easter dismissal, followed by the Regina Coeli. Then in a nice English touch, the organist played Handel’s Hallelluia Chorus! Spontaneous applause ended 3 hours of wonderful liturgy.
Leaving the Basilica was easy….you could get out, but not in! Already orthodox pilgrims were waiting to get into the old city for the afternoon ceremony of the Holy Fire. I wanted to go, but it was impossible to get near! At 3.30 pm the crowds & barricades had gone – altho the Basilica was crazy & police were keeping an eye on things. There was an incredible variety of peoples there – the Eritreans were most impressive, dressed up in their Sunday best. The Coptics were having their liturgy at the Sepulchre, with beautiful banners & robes. At the end the police had to clear a way thru all the orthodox pilgrims waiting to get into the sepulchre itself – holy chaos! I ventured into the Orthodox cathedral, where a joyous liturgy was going on. I stayed & enjoyed it, then went for a walk around the basilica. Suprisingly, I found a quiet corner, where I sat reflecting for some time. At 5 pm I went into the Chapel of the Apparation for quiet prayer. At 6 pm Vespers was to be sung in front of the sepulchre by the Franciscans. I thought I would stand for that – but one of the guards pointed to the front row of the seats. I could not believe my luck – I had a full view of everything! I was right next to the cantors & was able to join in the singing well. During the Magnificat the celebrant went into the sepulchre & censed it, then came out & censed the Paschal Candle & the cross. It is just as well that I am retired, as I would probably want to introduce all these liturgies & ceremonies into my parish!
A lovely sunny day. I arrived at the Holy Sepulchre at 9 am. No barricades or big crowds. The Armenians were just finishing their liturgy….soon their carpets were being taken away & replaced by the catholic carpets, pews, paschal candle & altar! I found myself next to some Americans again. At 10 am the Latin Patriarch arrived & at 10.30 am the Mass began. Another glorious Mass. At the end there was a procession 3 times around the Sepulchre, with the paschal candle & gospel book. We sang 4 Latin hymns (one to the tune, Seek Ye First!) each one followed by a gospel reading & collect, concluding with the Te Deum. A small procession then formed & went into the Sepulchre to cense it whilst we sang the Magnificat. At 1 pm it was all over, & I wished a happy Easter to the 4 Franciscans I had got to know.
In the a/noon I walked to Bethany. Unfortunately I got lost & couldn’t find the church dedicated to the raising of Lazarus. I was back at the Holy Sepulchre for the 5pm nightly procession. It was still crazy, but not too crowded. The procession was a wonderful climax to the day, & it was nice to see familiar faces – like the Swedish pilgrim, an older Italian man & the ladies from Brazil. Also chatted with other interesting people. Dinner followed at the hotel near St George’s….the staff welcomed me back, & the manager revealed that he had run a fish & chip shop in Melb 🙂
Today I went on the annual pilgrimage to Emmaus. There are 4 sites that might be the location of the biblical town….this was to El Qubeibah, where there is a Franciscan church & monastery, with excavations of the supposed house of Cleopas & the road to Emmaus. My bus was part of a convoy that left at 8.45 am. The big shock for me was having to pass thru the Israeli wall & a checkpoint. It was like a modern version of the Berlin Wall. It cut right thru Palestinian farms & villages, then we went thru a tunnel under a no-man’s land. Eventually we arrived at the church. There is also a pilgrims hostel & boys college that are no longer able to be used because of the Wall. Mass was at 10 am, during which baskets of bread rolls were blessed. After Mass we all lined up for our blessed roll 🙂
A picnic lunch in the grounds followed for the 500 others….I went for a walk thru the village. I encountered children who were eager to wave, laugh & say “hello”. I reciprocated eagerly & enjoyed it. Maybe I am the only Aussie they have ever seen? Returning to the church I explored the excavations & talked to some of the Franciscans. Then at 2.30 pm there was Solemn Vespers & Benediction – heavenly, with wonderful music from both the Franciscans & a youth choir. Immediately after we set off, being delayed by road-works & the check-point again. We were back at the old city by 4.15 pm, & I went to the Holy Sepulchre for the 5 pm nightly procession. A more relaxing day…..apart from the Wall 🙁
Today is back to normal, as pilgrims leave Jerusalem. I know that, because at 3 am my phone went…..the organiser of the Italian group staying at St G’s was phoning Sonia. Wrong number, of course. I then lay awake listening to Sonia in the next room pack up & drag her 2 bags downstairs!! At 7 am I went off to the Holy Sepulchre – the streets were quiet apart from school-children going off to school. I thought the daily Solemn Mass was at 7.30 am – but, no, it was at 8 am. However, as often happens, I had a wonderful treat. One of the Franciscans arrived to say Mass in the Sepulchre itself. So I joined 20 others who were allowed in. He said Mass in the tomb itself, with 3 assistants, whilst the rest of us joyfully crowded into the outer Chapel of the Angel. To attend Mass actually in the Sepulchre, & on Easter Tuesday, is surely a highlight of my pilgrimage 🙂
After breakfast I walked to the Mt Olives to visit 2 Russian Orthodox churches. 1stly, the Church of St Mary Magdalene, with wonderful gold domes that stand above Gethsemane. This is part of a convent just above the Basilica of the Agony, in a peaceful garden setting. The church is beautiful. Just after I arrived a Service began out the front. The Russian nuns chanted beautifully & the young priest flung holy water all over us with an enthusiasm not unlike mine at the Easter Vigil! Then I climbed up the mount to the Church of the Ascension. This also is within a convent & has a huge tower that stands out on the horizon. The view from there was spectacular. As I walked down I engaged a Greek priest in conversation, then found a quiet unmarked garden in which there are memorials to Pope Paul VI & George Appleton, sometime Anglican bishop of Jerusalem.
In the a/noon I had another treat. Fr Bill Broughton is an Episcopal priest from San Diego, who has worked in Jerusalem for decades. I met him thru Admiral David Richardson at a lunch in Coronado 2 years ago. To my surprise, we met at St G’s over coffee on Easter morning. Today he took me to a/noon tea at the American Colony Hotel – a very old & famous hotel (that is way over my budget!). We had a very enjoyable a/noon. He didn’t know I had retired, & was most interested in what I was doing. But I found him more interesting. At 82 he has had a wonderful life, incl service in the US navy in Vietnam. It is a small world!
In the morning I caught the bus to Ain Karem. This is the village of the Visitation – where Mary went to visit Elizabeth. The bible describes it as “the hill country of Judea”. Alas, the suburbs of modern Jerusalem are encroaching over the lovely hills, & a huge Jewish hospital is being built overlooking the village. What was once a quiet Palestinian village now contains coffee shops, art studios & restaurants. The 2 main churches are St John Baptist, commemorating his birth-place, & the large church of the Visitation. Both are on 5th cent foundations. The Visitation Church has a wonderful wall of the Magnificat in 45 languages. There are wonderful paintings & mosaics in the church, & in the lower part, a cave where John Baptist was supposed to have been hidden during the Slaughter of the Innocents. After my devotions I walked thru the village & then along a ridge which gave a gr8 view of the valley below – as yet untouched by suburbia, tho I did see Israeli flags flying triumphantly on some house-tops.
I caught the bus back & then wandered around parts of the city I had yet to explore – incl the Russian Compound. I went to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre for the 5 pm procession (for the last time). Amongst the crowd was a group of 20 college-age girls from the US. They are on a 12 month mission programme & had just arrived. It was a delight to talk with them, & to share their joy. When I got back to St G’s there was an Episcopal parish group from Texas having drinks. I introduced myself & they immediately invited me to join them for drinks! They were most interested in my having just retired as Rector of All SS, & lots of questions followed. Some had been to Australia, or served in Vietnam, & they loved Aussies! I subsequently joined them for dinner – it was wonderful to spend my last night in Jerusalem with Americans 🙂
I went to the Holy Sepulchre for 7.30 am Solemn Mass – sadness in leaving, but what joy I have experienced in that place. A nun played the organ this morning, & she was brilliant. I said goodbye to the Brazilian ladies & a nun whom I have seen each day. This has been a wonderful 2 weeks in Jerusalem. So many amazing spiritual experiences. I will be reflecting on this for years….Holy Week will never be the same!
My flight to London, via Munich, was at 3.30 pm. Because of security, I had to leave St G’s by shared taxi at 10.45 am. It actually wasn’t that bad – 30 mins thru security. I arrived in London at 9 pm, & in my hotel at 10 pm. I am staying at the Crowne Plaza St James – 5 mins walk from Westminster Abbey & 3 mins from Buckingham Palace! After checking into my room I went for a walk-about amongst the crowds….lots of fun & excitement.
I had a good sleep & at 9.30 am walked to the Abbey & Palace again. Gr8 atmosphere. For the rest of the morning I watched the wedding on TV. At 1.15 pm I joined the thousands at Buckingham Palace – & saw the royal kiss! At 4 pm, when the crowds had gone, I checked out of the hotel & went to St Mary’s, Bourne St, for the rest of the w/e.