We spent the morning walking along the Via Dolorosa (yes, I know it's far from accurate, but isn't this all symbolic anyway?) to visit the stations of the cross. The first 9 stations are in the city, and the last 5 are in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was another day when it felt wonderful to walk along the streets of Jerusalem with such a large number of Christians from all over the world.
Many groups were carrying crosses. Others were led by priests. We didn't spend much time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre this day, but the various sects all have rituals they perform in the Church this day.
April 13, 2006--And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him... John 19:17-18
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Mark 15:34
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, gave up the ghost. Luke 23: 46-47
When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. Matthew 27:57-60
Arab Christians call this day Mournful Friday or Sad Friday instead of the more common Good Friday that we hear in the West. I prefer Mournful or Holy Friday. This day commemorates the crucifixion of the Lord, and his being laid in the tomb.
I remember the Church of the Holy Sepulchre today. There are many Protestant and LDS Christians who don't like this site (partly because they have no claim on the site like the Roman Catholics and many Eastern Orthodox sects), but I love the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They call it the Church of the Resurrection in Arabic. Again, I don't care if this church is the actual site of the crucifixion, but there is a lot of historical evidence and a long tradition that makes this site the most likely site in the area.
The history of the building is absolutely fascinating, but I just love to be in the building itself and see the remnants of the faith of so many Christians over almost 2,000 years. One of my favorite places in the church are the stairs leading down to St. Helena's Chapel where countless Christian pilgrims have carved crosses into the stone over many centuries. I love to see this visible symbol of the devotion of those faithful people.
The first time I was in Jerusalem, the dome over the traditional tomb of Christ was being repaired (and had been under construction for decades). The rotunda surrounding the tomb was rather dark. But when I went back a year later, the dome had been completed. The rotunda was filled with light. It's now one of my favorite places in the church.
There are many hymns that are appropriate today. "There Is a Green Hill Far Away" is one of our family's favorites now (the boys like it since it is short), but I'll always remember singing "There Is A Green Hill Near at Hand" instead. We also like "Upon the Cross of Calvary." But it is "O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown" that I remember singing at the Garden Tomb to commemorate this day.
O Savior, thou who wearest
A crown of piercing thorn,
The pain thou meekly bearest,
Weigh'd down by grief and scorn.
The soldiers mock and flail thee;
For drink they give thee gall;
Upon the cross they nail thee
To die, O King of all.
No creature is so lowly,
No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy,
And thru thy love is saved.
Tho craven friends betray thee,
They feel thy love's embrace;
The very foes who slay thee
Have access to thy grace.
Thy sacrifice transcended
The mortal law's demand;
Thy mercy is extended
To ev'ry time and land.
No more can Satan harm us.
Tho long the fight may be,
Nor fear of death alarm us;
We live, O Lord, thru thee.
What praises can we offer
To think thee, Lord most high?
In our place thou didst suffer;
In our place thou didst die,
By heaven's plan appointed,
To ransom us, our King.
O Jesus, the anointed,
To thee our love we bring.