It is hard to believe that it is already our last day on our pilgrimage. Everything has gone well as well as fast. Yesterday we visited Dormition (the falling asleep/death of Mary) Abbey a community of German Benedictine monks with a beautiful church. In the crypt is a beautiful statue representing Mary aftershe died/fell asleep and then was assumed into heaven. Then we went to a chapel built by the Crusaders more than 800 years ago on the site of the Upper Room where the Last Supper took place and where the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and 120 disciples. Earlier in the day we visited a church that stood on the site where Mary was born. The acoustics in that church were incredible so we sang a few songs together to hear what they were like. It has been such a blessing to be able to pray in so many of the holy sites that we have visited.
The major event yesterday was walking the Via Dolorosa and visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus died on the cross and where he was buried. We walked the way that Jesus walked from the place where Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to death all the way to Golgotha. I was surprised to see how close together the site where he died and where he was buried is. The last five stations of the Via Dolorosa are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher so we prayed these stations in a courtyard outside the church as we were carrying a cross with us and there was not room to walk inside the church with so many other pilgrims there.
Each of us was able to spend a few moments praying in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at each site and touching the place where he died and where he was buried. We also saw the stone where they laid the body of Jesus for preparing for his burial before they placed him in the tomb. We actually were able to walk into the tomb where his body was laid. We celebrated Mass in a Roman Catholic chapel in the church.
There are 6 different Christian denominations that oversee this site: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian and Syriac. They get along most days but there are obviously a lot of turf wars that occur among them.
It has been amazing to see so many pilgrims from so many different countries and different Christian backgrounds (earlier on our pilgrimage we saw a pilgrimage with 6 buses headed by Former Governor Mike Huckabee) walking this journey. We have seen some beautiful churches and wonderful Christian art.
This afternoon we will see the village of John the Baptist and then go to Emmaus for our final Mass before we have our farewell dinner and go to the airport in Tel Aviv for our flight home. This pilgrimage has been even more than we had expected, and we are filled with so many memories that will stay with us forever. This pilgrimage has been a great preparation for our Parish Mission that begins this weekend. Once again, prayers for all of you and ask that you pray for our safe return home.