Day four: the birth and death of Jesus

Today we went to the sites of both the birth and death of Jesus; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Bethlehem

Another early morning as we walked through the waking streets of Jerusalem. A freshness filled the air, the kind of special freshness unique to an autumn morning. We set off for our day while the city still slept; stirring only slightly to begin the day. Winding through the cobbled streets in anticipation of the day ahead; we knew it was going to be special.

First port of call was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; a fantastic cathedral built on the site of the crucifixion. This place was radiant; overwhelmingly so. It held a truly special presence which brought me to tears for the first time this trip. It was hard to catch your breath and take it all in and not even so much for the beauty of the church but for what it stood on. It’s said this church is built across the site where Jesus was crucified on a hill, his body laid out and later buried. The walls held a divine energy which touched everyone who passed through them. A steep stairs represented the hill upon which we climbed and there was a special room with a statue of our Lord on the cross. Here I stopped to pray and really appreciate the sentiments. The lower floor was home to a beautiful shrine representing where his body was laid to rest and a tomb symbolising where he was buried. Everyone in the group found something really special here and wonderfully so.

Next we did the stations of the cross but backwards; from the site of the crucifixion down to where Jesus first held his cross. This is now a busy marketplace so it’s really difficult to break your mind from the hustle and bustle of cheap tack and tourist souvenirs. Although,the noise made it easy to imagine the crowds of people shouting, baying for his blood. The constant fear of threat lies over the city; easily recognised within the armed police.

We rushed through the stations which was disappointing for some. However, there wasn’t much to see but rows and rows of fake gold covered plastic and t-shirt stalls. This led us to a another church built on a site that’s said to be the birthplace of Mary. It didn’t hold much significance but was nice to see and gave us some time to rest and soak up the warm sun.

This became the general feeling throughout the day; lots of nice symbolic places to see but which held little meaning. The upper room which is said to be the site of the Last Supper but is now a 12th century church, another called St Peter’s Church and then on to Bethlehem.

The idea of going to Bethlehem brought great excitement. It’s the first place you learn about from a young age; the baby in the manger. Our first stop was to a beautiful and very special valley called the Garden of Shepherds. This is where the star of Bethlehem shone to guide the Shepherds; it was a truly special place. The vast emptiness held a real spatiality; meaning more than any built up church. It was whole as is and offered a wonderful place to breathe and reflect. Here was where my soul would grow.

It was here I wrote a special prayer for my friends and family. The day before this I had posted on Facebook that I was going to Bethlehem and would anyone like me to say a prayer for them. I felt silly and self-conscious posting it but overwhelmingly, a large amount of people asked me to include them in my prayers. It was really surprising but a really wonderful thing to be able to do. After all, even those with only a fleeting belief or none at all have all heard of Our Lord being born in Bethlehem and per chance would love to receive some of that blessing.

I wrote their names on a piece of paper. Standing overlooking the valley where the star of Bethlehem shone, I recited their names along with the prayer so that of they should ever need guidance a star would shine over them. Climbing down the edge of the rocks, I folded up the paper with the names and I placed it in a hole between the rocks facing out over the  valley for the star to forever shine on them. From there a light will forever shine on me and on my heart.

From here we went to a church built on the only place they found a little cave in Bethlehem. A cave believed to be the manger in where Mary gave birth to Jesus. This church was the place I disliked the most. Crowds flocked here and the locals cashed in. It was loud, crass, pushy and so far removed from holy solitude. The church above the cave was full of tacky gold crosses and holy paintings; it screamed at me. It was all rush and push as we were forced down underneath to this little cave also covered in gold and rushed back up again. This cave was supposed to be the birthplace but it held no special feeling for me. There was nothing sacred. It was the kind of place Jesus would have gotten angry about; scamming money off tourists like a den of thieves.

There is no spirituality in hustle and bustle. Find peace and channel your faith from inside. Appreciate your faith and the faith of others as it’s a really special thing to have.

Lessons from today

Even the smallest act of kindness can mean so much to people.

Be mindful of others.

Take more in less.

Faith is not a place, it’s a feeling.

Just be.

There is no spirituality in hustle and bustle. Find peace and channel your faith from inside. Appreciate your faith and the faith of others as it’s a really special thing to have.



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