12 April 2016
holy thursday and good friday in jerusalem
it was special and marvelous to be in jerusalem during holy week, the days leading up to easter. we planned our activities to in essence walk in the footsteps of the saviour during the last few days of his ministry. we spent holy thursday in the upper room (traditional location of the last supper) and the garden of gethsemane, and good friday walking the via dolorosa (traditional path that jesus walked with the cross) and visiting two different believed locations of christ’s crucifixion and burial.
i’ve realized in my visits to these sites that the experience of visiting them is truly profound for all people (of every christian denomination as well as for non-christians alike), but also deeply personal and unique for each individual. ian and i decided that, for us, being where jesus was when he performed the greatest miracles and acts of love to fulfill god’s plan is certainly faith-promoting, but not faith-determining. it is a physical experience that helps to inform our understanding of eternal truths – but true faith comes by spiritual experiences that are entirely unrelated to physical location. it is enriching and exciting to visit these places. but where christ’s atonement happened matters not at all – what matters (a lot!) is that it did happen.
we liked the way this concept was articulated in the leaflet we were given when visiting the garden tomb. it says: while we can debate the place where this happened, for us there is no dispute that "jesus christ was declared with power to be the son of god by his resurrection from the dead."
click through to see some pictures from our holy thursday and good friday in jerusalem!
^^ crowds in the upper room, a medieval chamber believed to be built over the place where christ gathered his disciples for the last supper. i loved seeing so many different types of christians coming together here at a service led by the franciscans. we didn’t stay long but did get to join the crowd in some singing of hymns and took some time to reflect for ourselves on jesus’s actions and teachings at his final mortal meal with his apostles. ^^
^^ the upper room is right next to a church called dormition abbey, built to commemorate the place where the virgin mary died. it’s a beautiful and peaceful spot. ^^
^^ interior of dormition abbey. ^^
^^ walking past some temple mount ruins on our way to the garden of gethsemane at the foot of the mount of olives.^^
^^ the mount of olives is covered in large part with massive jewish cemeteries. it’s quite astounding! ^^
^^ approaching the church of all nations at gethsemane. ^^
^^ outside the church there is a beautiful, manicured, fenced grove of olive trees, commemorating the garden where christ prayed to the father (and, we believe, actually took upon him all of the sins and burdens and experiences of all of humanity) before his crucifixion. ^^
^^ the interior of the church of all nations is stunning! ^^
^^ across the road from the church, there are more olive groves at the foot of the hill. we wandered until we found a nice place to overlook the trees towards the old city and temple mount. we were glad to find a spot that felt less manicured, more wild, more authentic to the kind of place christ would have prayed on that night two thousand years ago. ^^
^^ we sat on stones with this view and read scriptural accounts and testimonies of christ’s atonement, and prayed together as the day started to turn to night. it was really, really, really special. ^^
^^ we also walked up the hill to dominus flevit, a little church commemorating the spot where christ wept over jerusalem with magnificent, sweeping views. ^^
^^ after we got some dinner back inside the old city, we returned to gethsemane to check out the service (that turned into a candlelit procession) happening there for holy thursday. the place was packed with good christians from all over the world. we sat outside and watched some of the service, which was projected on a big screen. we were going to join in the procession, but it got really late and we were exhausted! so we headed home, with full hearts thinking of the saviour. ^^
^^ one of my favourite things about our time in jersualem was walking through the streets of the old city at night. as a student living in jerusalem nine years ago, i had a pretty strict curfew, so i never saw these beloved streets empty and dark. i think they’re pretty magical that way – devoid of people and business, but still so so full of history and character. ^^
^^ the next morning we walked down similar alleys, back alive and colourful and bustling for the day. ^^
we walked through the old city to the:
…a windy road considered to be the path that christ took while carrying his cross. ^^
^^ the street was so packed waiting for the procession. ^^ it was exciting but we weren’t sure when things were going to start or how long they would last, so we headed to the pool of bethesda, one of my favourite religious sites in jerusalem, the entrance to which is right along the via dolorosa!
there is a beautiful record in the bible of christ healing at the pool of bethesda. it’s one of my most beloved scripture stories for several reasons. the place now is just ruins, but i think it’s so beautiful and peaceful!
^^ i adore the red poppies that pop up all over the holy land in the springtime (can you spot a few in the garden of gethsemane pics above?). ^^
^^ back on the via dolorsa, we stepped in to see the church of the flagellation, ^^
^^ and the church of the condemnation. ^^
^^ we learned that the palestinian school grounds along the beginning of the via dolorosa are believed by many to be built over the ruins of caiaphas’s palace, where christ was tried and sentenced. a kind man showed us around and pointed out this window with incredible views over the temple mount and dome of the rock. ^^
^^ at one point, where the via dolorosa bends a new direction through the old city, there are stones on the ground that have been identified as dating back to the first century. so here’s a photo of our feet as literally as possible walking in the footsteps of jesus! ^^
^^ we ended up missing the franciscan procession down the via dolorosa, but saw several other groups carrying crosses and stopping at each of the “stations of the cross” along the way towards the church of the holy sepulcher (which we are standing in front of in the picture on the right!) ^^
^^ the tomb of christ in the church of the holy sepulcher. this place is so wild. i was trying to describe it to ian before we went, and it’s pretty difficult to explain. it’s certainly not your standard church! it’s a cavernous maze of relics, layers and layers of history built on top of each other. there’s spots inside considered to be golgotha (the place of crucifixion – on the left above) and the tomb of joseph of arimathea (where christ as buried – on the right above). ^^
^^ crosses carved by pilgrims throughout the ages can be found on many of the winding walls of the church. ^^
^^ that rock is considered to be the spot where jesus’s body was laid after he was taken down from the cross. it is constantly touched, kissed and deeply revered by thousands and thousands and thousands of pilgrims. ^^
^^ we took a little break for lunch between our visits to the church of the holy sepulcher and the garden tomb. we had some variation of this food for pretty much every meal in jerusalem. and i am noooooot complaining. so, so, so yummy. ^^
^^ the garden tomb is another possible location (an alternative to the church of the holy sepulcher) of christ’s death and resurrection. again, it doesn’t actually matter where these events happened, but the garden tomb is pretty special to us as mormons because several of our latter-day prophets have expressed the sentiment that they feel this is the correct location of christ’s rising from the dead – the greatest miracle of all time! ^^
^^ golgotha (which means “place of the skull” – this isn’t a great angle, but the crevices in the hillside do look like the sunken eyes, etc of a skull) – the place of crucifixion. ^^
^^ family photo in front of the tomb. such an incredibly special place. ^^
^^ we met some new friends at the tomb. they were visiting from fiji and they sat and sang the most beautiful and heart-felt hymn that filled up the space with the spirit of god. we absolutely loved it. ^^
we returned to the garden tomb on easter morning – a post about that coming soon! – and we decided it was one of the top three singular experiences of our entire lives. we really, truly believe that christ felt all of our sins and sorrows in gethsemane and gave his life willingly at golgotha. and then, one bright sunday morning, he actually rose from the dead. indeed, he is risen! he lives!
yes, it was very special and absolutely marvelous to be in jersualem on holy thursday and good friday.