What a day! We began the day in the old city entering through St. Stephen’s gate, near where Stephen was martyred. We went to St. Anne’s church near the pools of Bethesda where Jesus healed the paralytic. Weaving through the old city, we made our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There we had about two hours to roam this massive collection of monumental architecture, art, and faithful graffiti. We descended down the stairs to the Chapel of St. Helena and then further down to the Chapel of St. Vartan. There, where few tourists get to go, we saw stones and walls of Hadrian’s temple (160 AD) and parts of the original Basilica that Helena, mother of Constantine built (360-390 AD). On one of the Hadrianic walls is a drawing of a ship with the inscription in Latin DOMINE IVIMUS (Lord, we went), possibly referring to Psalms 122:1. It was left by a pilgrim to the sight in 330 AD while the church of Constantine was being built. We are grateful to Mike, our guide, because he pulled MANY strings to get us into the chapel. Two Armenian ladies went with us and I overheard them say to Mike, “Do you realize that this is a chance of a lifetime.”
We then left the second and fourth centuries to head up the stairs to the main church. Afterwards we headed to the Western (Wailing) Wall and to discover other secrets in the excavated parts in the area around the Temple Mount. We stood on steps where Jesus walked and we walked a street that Jesus walked on as he himself entered the Temple. What privileges.
I love coming to the Holy Land. Yes, we will be planning a return trip in a few years, if you are asking. But most importantly, we don’t need to walk where Jesus walked to have contact and sense of Him. He can live within our hearts. While in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, I saw Orthodox pilgrims touching and kissing stones. At the Western Wall I saw persons offering prayers and kissing the wall. In Hartwell, we don’t need to kiss walls. We need to just ask Christ in our heart and He is there! I sensed Jesus here, but I also sense Jesus in the sanctuary and in the worship center. I have even sensed Jesus in the gym and by the fountain. Wherever we are, we can feel and touch and hear Jesus. We just need to be quiet, humble, and repentant. Wow! What is a holy place for you?