Sunday, July 25, 2010

Free Day in Jerusalem-Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Domee of the Rock, and the YMCA Bell Tower

Our first day back in Jerusalem I got up super early to go to early mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was hard to get up so early, but the walk to the church alone was enough to make it worth it. Seeing the empty streets of the old city before any of the shops were open and filled with people gave the city a completely new feeling.

It was also really cool to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre early in the morning before it got crowded. This church is where many religions, primarily the Eastern Orthodox, Armenians, Roman Catholics, Coptics, Ethiopians, and Syrians, believe Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected.
Because so many people consider this place holy it is usually swarming with pilgrims and tourists. We had the place to ourselves though and were able to wander around and explore the entire church to our heart's content!

the courtyard
The stone where Christ's body was anointed. If you get close enough you can still smell the oils 
stairway to Golgatha

Calvary. You can reach down and touch a drop of Christ's blood that supposedly fell while he was up on the cross.

The Holy Sepulchre where Christ was buried. We were in the tomb with some Italian women who were crying, kissing, and worshipping the sepulchre. It was amazing to see how much faith they had and how devoted they were.

After exploring the church, we went to mass which was a very interesting experience. I did not understand a single word of the service (it was all in Latin) and I was often confused about why they were swinging around balls of incense or chanting back and forth, but it was great to see and experience how other people worship.

After mass we decided to stop by the Dome of the Rock. I have visited this site many times, but I am blown away at how amazing it is every single time I go. I honestly don't think any picture can do it justice. 

This particular visit to the dome was particularly great because we actually got to see inside! Only Muslims are allowed inside the mosque and many students in the past have tried to get in and failed miserably. So I had accepted that I would never get to see what was actually in there.
We were standing by one of the side doors, innocently taking our picture, when suddenly the doors opened! A woman was vacuuming inside and needed to open the door to get the edge of the carpet, so we got a great view of the dome's interior. The woman got mad at me when I tried to snap a picture, but besides that she really did not seem too worried about us being there, so we stood there and looked inside for three whole minutes! The entire thing was beautiful and super detailed and intricate. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! We were very pleased to inform the rest of the JC that we were the first to successfully see inside Jerusalem's most famous landmark :)

Our next adventure of the day was going to the YMCA to play the bells with Brother Whipple. Like I have said before, Brother Whipple is a musical genius and every Sunday he plays the bells for all of Jerusalem to hear. Here is a piece of random trivia for you-the YMCA bells are the only ones that you can still manually play in the entire Middle East!

After Brother Whipple played his masterpieces, he let those in the group who were musically talented play hymns on the actual bells!
(Mom-you were right! I should have kept on taking piano lessons-they would have come in handy)
Even though I did not play an actual song, I did get to help ring out the twelve strikes of noon!
And yes I felt super cool. All of Jerusalem knew what time it was because of me.

Pretending to play the bells

Brother Whipple being legit and actually playing the bells haha

My moment of glory!

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