Day 6: Monday

The pilgrims’ final day was spent in the old city of Jerusalem. We began by entering the city through the Damascus Gate and making our way along narrow streets lined with shops to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We quickly got in line to wait our turn to enter the Tomb of Christ from which the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. It was a deeply spiritual event for everyone. We then visited the site of Golgotha, located within the same church. We venerated the distinct places which mark where the Lord was stripped of his clothes, nailed to the cross, and the place of his suffering and death on the cross. We were then privileged to celebrate Mass at a chapel near the Tomb of Christ. Following Mass, we again walked through the old city, which now was packed with tourists and the residents of Jerusalem, and made our way to the Pool of Bethesda. We read from the Gospel where Jesus healed a lame man here who had waited 38 to be healed (John 5: 1-18). Nearby is the Church of Saint Anne and the birthplace of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The church was built by the Crusaders is one of only a few churches of that time which have survived. The pilgrims stood at the steps of the altar and sang “Hail, Holy Queen” and “Salve Regina” in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. From here we walked most of the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross) and prayed the Stations of the Cross. Much as it would have been on Good Friday, the streets were crowded, noisy and chaotic. Following lunch, we made our way to the Church of the Dormition, where Our Lady was assumed into heaven. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations. (Yet another reason to return someday.) We next visited the nearby site of the Last Supper (Cenaculum, in Latin) which also was the site of Pentecost. Finally, we made our way to the “Western Wall” (also known as the “Wailing Wall”). Our guide clarified that the wall is not a wall of the (Second) Temple, but rather a retaining wall that was the foundation of the Temple. Regardless, it remains the most sacred site for the Jewish people today. We were able to approach the wall – men (with a head covering) on one side and women on the other – to pray and, as is customary, insert within the cracks of the wall a paper with our special intentions. The evening ended with a delicious dinner at a local restaurant. We all expressed our sincere gratitude to Aehab our guide and Wahib our driver, both of whom did a wonderful job. This was the last event of the pilgrimage. While most of the pilgrims will be returning home on Tuesday, a group will be going on to Jordan. We all had a wonderful time walking this journey of faith and in fellowship with one another.