It was our last day in Jerusalem and the tour was leaving from the hotel at 7am. Our tour was comprised of Christians and their ministers from several Protestant Christian denominations and I had joined as a friend of the tour director. A lifelong Roman Catholic, it was only natural to want to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, an important destination for Christian pilgrimage since the 4th century. It stood within the walled Old City of Jerusalem; it is at this site that Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christianity believe Jesus was buried (the sepulcher). Anglican and other Protestant Christians do not, and, therefore, it was not on the tour schedule.
I awoke early and called a taxi to take me from the hotel to the Old City for the early celebration of the mass, unprepared for, but spiritually uplifted by what I was to experience. The day before I had been to the Old City and walked within its thick and heavily aged stone walls, along the ancient passages, teaming with vendors’ shops, crowded with people. Our tour had followed the Via Dolorosa (Latin for the Way of Grief) past nine of the fourteen stone carvings, depicting the suffering of Jesus along this pathway that is held to be the Way of the Cross. The remaining five Stations of the Cross are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
As we entered the Old City there was not another soul to be seen or heard. We walked together, the sound of our footsteps echoing loudly along the empty corridors until we reached the side door of the Church. The driver waited there to take me back to the hotel. I could hear the beautiful strains of Gregorian chant as I entered and gazed at the spiritual beauty of the scene. I was the only non clergy person in attendance. The Latin mass that day was sung in Gregorian chant, as Franciscan Monks gathered in their robes and sandals to witness, once again, the Holy Sacrifice and several nuns knelt in prayer. I was inspired to write this lyrical account of my experience, and hope, if circumstance renders it possible, that other travelers may choose to repeat it.
Old City in Silence save the echo of feet
Mine and another’s across a dark street
The light of the predawn just touching the sky
Inside these stonewalls did he suffer? Did he lie?
The door of the church is heavy and dark
In the glow of the candles I can see the cruel marks
But all is serene there’s a peace from within
As solemn monks chant a Gregorian hymn
The folds of their brown robes flow down to the floor
Open sandals tell of their vow to be poor
But nothing could be richer than the love that I feel
From the heart of this church in Old Israel
Copyright 2002 Adrienne Bradshaw Farmer “The Book of Lyrics”