We are at the Jaffa Gate, Old City, Jerusalem, a 0.9 square kilometer walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem. The present wall was built by Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538. The Old City has four quarters: Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian. It contains major sacred sites: the Muslim Dome of the Rock (gold dome in image above), the Jewish Western Wall (not visible in the image but a wall on the far side of the Dome of the Rock), and the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre (circled in image above).
We pass through the Jaffa Gate, entering the Old City.
We talk with a Muslim guy in a souvenir shop. He explains the layout within the Church of the Sepulchre. The church commemorates the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, anointment after death, and grave/resurrection.
He points out that Orthodox Christian icons (above) are generally more colorful than Catholic icons (below).n
Construction of the Church of the Sepulchre began in 326 CE with guidance from Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena. Based on available evidence, she located the place where Jesus was crucified and his tomb.
The cave grave had been intentionally covered over by a temple dedicated to Venus. The temple was demolished and two churches built to commemorate the crucifixion and grave sites. The original churches were completely destroyed in 1009 but rebuilt in 1048 and repaired many times over the years.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as it exists today, is regarded as the most sacred pilgrimage site in all of Christiandom.
We enter the Church of the Sepulchre and see the Stone of Anointing, where Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus’ body, and anointed it, after taking the body down from the cross.
Some people touch the Stone of Anointing and kiss their hands. Others kiss the stone directly.
We watch the Stone of Anointing from above, on our way to the site of the crucifixion.
The place where Jesus died on the cross is marked by an altar. It is the 14th station of the cross within the Catholic system marking the stages Jesus followed during his crucifixion. People kneel under the altar and pray while touching a rock which held the cross.
People stand in line, waiting their turn to pray under the altar.
This altar is an extremely sacred place.
The Tomb of Jesus, on the left after entering the church, is below a special structure with inner and outer rooms.
The outer room contains a rock in a glass case, thought to be a piece of the stone rolled into place to close the tomb of Jesus.
The inner room can hold only a few people and a priest reminds people to move along, to make way for others.
We look at the structure marking the tomb of Jesus.
Some people believe that the Church of the Holy Sepulche does not mark the actual tomb and place of crucifixion of Jesus. An alternate site, the Garden Tomb, originated with the discovery, in the mid-nineteenth century, of an ancient tomb, cistern, wine press, and possible crucifixion place near a garden. This site is known for its tranquility, unlike the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Many conflicts have emerged among the Orthodox, Catholic, and Armenian Christian priests sharing church administration duties. Fist fights among these groups break out periodically and people have even had to go to the hospital. The image above shows Israeli soldiers breaking up a 2008 fight. In order to reduce conflicts, the keys to the church have been given to Muslim administrators.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 77):
“As it acts in the world, the Tao
is like the bending of the bow.
The top is bent downward;
The bottom is bent up.
It adjusts excess and efficiency
so that there is perfect balance.
It takes from what is too much,
and gives to what isn’t emough.
Those who try to control,
who use force to protect their power,
go against the direction of the Tao.
They take from those who don’t have enough
and give to those who have too much.
The Master can keep giving
because there is no end of her wealth.
She acts without expectation,
Succeeds without taking credit,
and doesn’t think that she is better
than anyone else.
We look at the tapestry at the place where Jesus died on the cross.
Jesus did not preach in a cathedral. He did not create monuments to his name. He was a healer of both minds and bodies.
You can understand spiritual healing by emptying yourself through meditation. The secret is emptiness.