Yesterday, the pilgrims were "snowed in" and remained in and/or around their hotel. Some visited a neighboring hotel and restaurant, "The American Colony" for a nice lunch and camaraderie, while others braved the snow and slush and did a little shopping; yet, all were thankful for the change of plans that accompanied the unusual snow fall in Jerusalem as they were treated to an excellent talk by JoAnn Magnuson -the U.S. Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem (the memorial to the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust from 1933-1945) and fellow tour leader.
Luckily, they had an early night and time to gather their things, because their last day in the Holy Land was packed! They began their morning making their way to the Old City to walk the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows). Carrying a wooden cross, they traced the last steps of Jesus, meditating and identifying with His suffering as they stopped at the 14 Stations of the Cross.
The last five Stations of the Cross brought the pilgrims to the Church of the Holy Sepluchre, and the fourteenth Station to the Holy Sepluchre itself, the tomb where Christ was buried and rose from the dead.
The Church of the Holy Sepluchre contains numerous chapels and shrines that commemorate Christ's Crucifixion and burial. Upon entering, the pilgrims were greeted with a beautiful mosaic depicting the death and burial of Christ as they viewed the Stone of Unction, the slab of stone which commemorates where Christ's body was anointed and wrapped after His death. Then it was up a small winding set of stairs to Golgotha where the pilgrims touched the rock venerated as the site of the Crucifixion. Then, the pilgrims went to the most Sacred site of all, Christ's tomb... the Holy Sepluchre. The wonderful morning ended with the celebration of Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepluchre.
From there, it was back to the hotel to gather their belongings...
...and as dusk was upon them, it was on to Emmaus where they got out their Bibles and read along as Jeff taught on Luke 24:13-35, pointing out that while on that road to Emmaus the two disciples were first taught the Scriptures and that it was when Jesus was at table with them and broke bread that their eyes were opened and they recognized that He was the Risen Christ. Jeff explained that this is the structure of the Mass: the Mass is divided into two major parts, the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. It is the Eucharist that opens our eyes.
Next, the pilgrims went to the Valley of Elah, the site of David's glorious victory over Goliath and then on to Jappa (Jaffa), the ancient port city where the pilgrims learned about Peter's vision that all foods are clean, the start of the Gentile Mission. It is also from Jappa that Jonah departed prior to being swallowed by a whale.
Then after a light dinner the pilgrims headed to the airport in Tel Aviv, a little tired, a little anxious to wash the clothes that have called a suitcase home for the past 13 days and greatly appreciative for the memories of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land that will be etched in their hearts forever.