Friday, September 7, 2007

Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 7

by Steve Ray on September 7, 2007

To see the whole pilgrimage with all the videos click here
Visit > The Pilgrimages > Virtual Pilgrimages > September 2007 Holy Land & Egypt Pilgrimage

We started later than usual today to let the pilgrims have a bit more sleep and because we have a light day. We took the bus again to Herod’s Gate and walked to the beginning of the Via Dolorosa but this time we stepped into the Convent of the Sisters of Zion. There convent and church is set over top of what used to be the Roman Antonia Fortress, the Praetorium where Herod and Pilate stayed when in Jerusalem.

It was very appropriate that it was Friday morning as we went below and say the original floor upon which Jesus walked and where he was tried by Pilate, mocked by the soldiers, whipped, and fitted with the crown of thorns. We saw the soldiers “board games” carved into the limestone floor. You can read about this “pavement” in John 19:13. The whole story can be read in John 18-19.

After Mass in the Church of the Sisters of Zion, in the place where Jesus was tried, we left for St. Ann’s Church just down the street five minutes. Here is the birthplace of Mary. The sign above the cave (grotto) reads “The Nativity of Mary.” Everyone touched their Rosaries to the place where Mary was born and up top I gave a talk on the Immaculate Conception. Fr. Steve Burr sang for us and was it every NICE since this church was built with excellent acoustics.

Behind the Church of St. Ann are the ruins of the Pools of Bethesda where Jesus healed a crippled man who had been laying there for 38 years. I read the passage and explained how the Fathers had understood this passage. You can read the story in John 5.

We left the Muslim Quarter of the Old City through St. Stephen’s Gate and boarded the bus which dropped us off at the Dung Gate so we could enter the Jewish Quarter. Everyone worked their way through security and the metal detectors as we approached the Western Wall, or all called the Wailing Wall. Everyone took their time praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

We finished up exactly at noon. Many people went into the Old City of Jerusalem to eat lunch and others stayed at the Notre Dame.

Everyone had an opportunity to go shopping again from 2::00-3:30. Then our wonderful escort Dee took those who wanted to go to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to again pray at the place that Jesus was crucified and inside the tomb where he was buried. They all got a tour of the Church.

Then we had an optional tour of the fabulous Shroud of Turin display in the Notre Dame Center before jumping on the bus to drive 20 minutes into Bethlehem for our Farewell Dinner hosted by Raji Khoury of Shepherds Tours. We have lots of wine, mezza (Arabic salads), and then roasted lamb and flavored rice, topped off with Turkish coffee and baklava.

Dancing . . . well, I’ll let the videos explain that!


How Do We Know the Biblical Sites are Authentic?

by Steve Ray on September 7, 2007

Today we are visiting Bethlehem so it is a good time to discuss the authenticity of the Holy Sites.

People always ask me: how do we know these are the real sites where Jesus and Mary lived and walked? It is a fair question, especially if people have paid a lot of money to visit these holy sites.

BethStar sm.jpgThe earliest Christians realized the importance of these sites and immediately marked them as sites to be remembered and venerated. Small memorials were built, or places to pray and pilgrims came from around the world to remember these spots and to worship God and to pray.

(Picture:  The place Jesus was born, located in the grotto under the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.)

In 135 ad Emperor Hadrian—in an attempt to wipe out Christianity and to obliterate the memory of the holy sites—tore down all the Christian shrines and built pagan temples in their place. Ironically, when he set out to destroy the holy sites, he actually marked them for future generations. . . .

For the rest of the article with lots of pictures, click here.

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Fearless Christians in China

by Steve Ray on September 7, 2007

Great article from Chuck Colson's Breakpoint associated with Prison Fellowship Ministries. Click here and pray for China.