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. ^^
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^^ 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. ^^
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^^ 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. ^^
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^^ the next morning we walked down similar alleys, back alive and colourful and bustling for the day. ^^
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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!
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^^ 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. ^^
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^^ 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! ^^
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^^ 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). ^^
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^^ 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. ^^
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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.


  1. I'm so thankful you're sharing your walk with us! I hope to some day visit the Holy Land.

    Your post peaks my curiosity about your faith more than usual so I'm asking a question/favor to learn more about it. I apologize if I offend you in any way...please realize I'm ignorant and only looking to gain knowledge. I've read about your beliefs but personal knowledge is always more meaningful!

    I assumed a pilgrimage tracing Joseph Smith's steps would be meaningful but I don't recall you mentioning him nearly as often as you mention Jesus. I'm just curious about the reverence your faith community feels for Smith. Is it similar to the reverence you quite obviously feel for Jesus? I've read some about it but I just can't seem to understand that piece of the LDS faith. I was hoping sometime you could help me figure it out through a blog post or something. For example, I know what my children were taught in Sunday School and confirmation classes about God, Jesus, and other doctrines of my church (I'm Lutheran). How were you taught that it all fits together? When I read about the your faith, I'm not getting the immense love for Jesus that you so clearly display. I'd love it if you could sometime share a little insight and help me understand.

    Blessings to you for a safe pregnancy and healthy baby! Kara

    1. hi kara! thanks for reading and for your comment! i'll answer briefly here (for you or anyone else reading along), but please do let me know if you'd like me to elaborate and we can communicate via email.

      to put it (relatively) simply, here is what we believe:

      god has always called prophets to speak for him on the earth, guide his people and teach about his plan (which is centered in jesus christ and his atonement, which makes it possible for us to return to god one day after our experiences in mortality). when people listen to the prophet, god blesses them and continues to reveal truths. when people reject the prophet, as they have many times over the course of history (according to the bible), god stops revealing truth for some time until the people are once again prepared to accept his messengers.

      all prophets before christ testified that he could come. when he did, he established a church and called apostles, giving them authority like unto the authority given to the prophets of old. and just like the prophets of old were rejected, so were christ's apostles after his death and resurrection. because people were not listening to god's authorized messengers, god stopped revealing truth to a prophet/apostles for a time. (certainly individuals were still receiving guidance and testimony from god and seeking to follow jesus christ, but the authority to act in god's name was absent from the earth.)

      in 1820, god called a new prophet (just as he had done many, many times throughout history). that prophet was a young boy in upstate new york named joseph smith. through the prophet joseph smith, god restored the same church that christ organized while he was on the earth, and brought back the authority that christ had given to his apostles. this is, we believe, the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints. the book of mormon helps to prove joseph's calling as a prophet to clarify doctrine that got mixed up when god's authority was not on the earth, and to provide a second witness of the divine and essential mission of the saviour jesus christ.

      soooo...jesus christ is the center of our faith, and joseph smith is a prophet just like moses or abraham. we revere joseph smith because he did a great work in restoring the church that christ established with the proper authority bestowed by god. but we do not, and would not dare to!, place him in regard any where near to the regard we have for jesus christ, the son of god and redeemer of all mankind.

      you say you've read a bit about our beliefs, but if you haven't checked out mormon.org i strongly encourage you to do so. there's lots of basic information there (that expands on what i've written above) that helps to create a clear picture of the basic tenets of mormonism. i hope this reply answers your question to some degree though! please do email me if you'd like to discuss more (or replies here are also welcome - i just don't want to take over the comment section with this discussion!).

    2. I've been wondering about this as well - thank you so much for the clarification.

      I know you don't want these questions to take over but could you answer one more for me? Do Mormons still believe in the Bible, or does the Book of Mormons "replace" it so to speak?

      I ask because the Bible says at Ezekiel 18:4 that the SOUL that is sinning will die. So the soul dies when the body dies.

      Also, Psalms 146:4 says that when you die, your spirit departs, you returns to the earth; In that very day your thoughts perish...

      These 2 scriptures in the Bible to me do not support the belief in an afterlife - that's why I wonder if the Book of Mormon is used instead of the Bible.

      Thanks for your time.

    3. hi lydia! we believe in and study the bible as well as the book of mormon. they work together as two witnesses of jesus christ. the book of mormon in no way replaces the bible, but compliments it.

      unfortunately, over many years without god's authority on the earth, parts of the bible were changed or lost. the scriptures you brought up are possible examples of such confusion within sacred text, and i am grateful to have the book of mormon as a clarifier of truth.

      again, lots of good information on this and other topics on mormon.org.

    4. Thanks, Charity. Could be. But it's the King James version of the Bible. I assumed that most Christian religions accept that as the sacred text.

      Also Psalms 37:29 says that the righteous will possess the earth and reside forever upon it. Not live on somewhere else. The meek shall inherit THE EARTH... The Lord's Prayer: your will be done ON EARTH....as it is in heaven....

      I still think that the Bible does not support the belief in an afterlife. If it did then why would the resurrection mentioned in John 5:29 be needed? A "day" when all those in the memorial tombs will come out? Where are we resurrected to if we are already in heaven?

    5. feel free to email me if you want to discuss further :) we do accept the bible as sacred text (and read the kjv), but acknowledge that the text is not totally perfect due to the changes and translations that happened when god's authority was not on the earth.

  2. If I had to describe the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, I'd use the Weasley's house the Burrow. Both buildings have gotten sveral attachmemts over the years.

  3. Hi Charity! I've been a quiet blog follower for a little bit now (I am Jane Boyer's cousin which is how I found you!) Anyway I spent a semester at the Jerusalem center in 2007 and I have LOVED these posts on the Holy Land so very much! After I read one I just seem to sit and reminisce for hours about my time there. This post was particularly moving- thank you for sharing your testimony and for the beautiful pictures that make me almost feel like I am there with you! What an incredible experience you are having! You are darling and I love your honesty and candor in sharing so much about your beliefs and spiritual experiences. Totally living vicariously through you right now!!! Thank you again for sharing these- your words have truly touched me!

    1. hi! thanks for the note!! you must have been at the jerusalem center right after me ... i was there january-april 2007. best place in the world, right?!

  4. One thing I always find so fascinating in my (brief) world travels is seeing people living their everyday lives around places I find exotic or special. I lived in the south of France and even going up to Paris every now and then I would see little kids heading to school and couldn't help but think how insane it is that they just like LIVE in Paris! They can see the Eiffel Tower everyday and its no big deal. When my family would visit me in Provence, I remember my mom being like, dude, you go to school in a building from the 11th century, that is NUTS.

    I bring this up because I cannot help but be tickled, and slightly bemused, at the image you caught at the Pool of Bethesda, that showed this stunning ancient ruins......and clothes on a line hanging in the back! Not only is the juxtaposition of the convergence of old and new so crazy, but I just find it so fascinating that people actually LIVE there. Those people see places and sites in their everyday lives that for us are so special, etc. Its just so fascinating!

    Anyways, thanks so much for sharing stories/images of this trip with your readers! The photos are lovely and its also so nice to hear your unique perspectives on the places you visited.

  5. Have loved reading about your adventures in Jerusalem. Everything seems so rich and wondrous and brings faith to life. Would love to visit :)

    LOVE your cheerful sandals!! Have been eyeing a pair for an upcoming european adventure. Do you find them comfortable for all day adventures?

  6. Ouch your sunburn looks painful in the picture on the hill to dominus flevit!! Beautiful pictures and so glad you got to experience such Holy places again with your boy and baby boy!

    1. haha i'm glad someone noticed that. i had such a killer sunburn line on my arm!

  7. Replies
    1. ah yes, i should have mentioned that the church is called dormition (from "to sleep") abbey because many believe mary did not die.

  8. so great to be there again through this post! Thanks char. Love you.

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