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Friday, April 19, 2013

Easter in Jerusalem

My first morning in Jerusalem was Easter Sunday.  I saw a notice on the door of the kitchen at the Lutheran World Federation Guesthouse advertising an Easter Sunrise Service at 5:30 a.m. on the Mount of Olives, just a few minute's walk from the Guesthouse, so I decided to go.  I got up early and walked toward the spot described on the notice, but on my way  I met a group of worshippers coming out of the church next-door carrying lanterns and walking in silence through the darkness.  It was just so beautiful,  I couldn't help but join in the procession, not knowing where I was headed. They circled around the mount to the backside of the Augusta Victoria campus and entered another church, while I continued on to find a path lined with luminaries leading to the location of the Sunrise Service which had just begun.  The service was led by husband and wife pastors from America, and in some ways seemed so familiar, as we repeated the refrains "He is Risen/He is Risen Indeed" and sang the Easter hymns.  But as the sun began to rise, it became more and more evident that I was not at my home church in Roseville, California, where I have enjoyed greeting Easter morning the past 20 years, but in a hilltop olive grove overlooking Jerusalem.  Awe-some!
Sunrise Service on the Mount of Olives

Seeing the sun come up while we worshipped.
This is the group I celebrated Easter dawn with, but you can see a little
further on there is another group.  Little groups were all over the Mount of Olives
worshipping in different styles and languages.

Me on the Mount of Olives Easter Morning

Another view from the Mount of Olives

After service, I made my way down the mount to the Old City of Jerusalem, which is within the city walls and entered by one of several gates.  My goal for the day was to walk to along the Via Dolorosa.  I stopped at each station of the cross, including the Rock of Calvary where Jesus was crucified and the tomb in which he was buried, being contained within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Damascus Gate

Easter parade through the Old City of Jerusalem

The fifth station of the cross, where Jesus leaned against this wall
and Simon of Cyrene was enlisted to help him carry the cross.
At the Ninth Station of the Cross where
Jesus fell for the 3rd time.  

Stone of Golgotha, site of the Crucifixion and
12th Station of the Cross.  I was able to kneel under this altar
and reach down into the hole in which the cross of
Jesus was placed.  

At the stone where Jesus' body was anointed for burial
The Holy Sepulchre, the tomb of Jesus, 14th Station of the Cross
Take note. it's empty!  So special to be here on Easter!

I attended a Greek Orthodox Service in the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Western Wall where many Jewish people pray
as they are not allowed any closer to the Temple
Mound where you can see the Dome of the Rock
in the background.

Exploring the Old City of Jerusalem and actually standing in these holy sites was really rather surreal. This was definitely an Easter I will always remember!

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