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EC Holy Land Trip: Installment 4

4:30. Why are we waking up at 4:30 am? To keep our scheduled time to say Mass at the Holy Sepulcher.  In the tomb of Christ we celebrated Easter Mass where Christ rose from the dead.  After Mass we had 15 minutes to walk around the Sepulcher and go to confession if we wanted to. We touched the rock of the tomb, touched where Christ was crucified, and he touched us.  How did it affect us? Read for yourself.

Words . . . There isn’t a word good enough to describe.

-Joe
I was Awestruck.

-Elliot
Powerful is truly the only word I can think of to describe it.

-Danny
Unforgettable.

-Lucas
One of the most moving experiences ever!

-Claire
In the tomb it really hit me, I realized how lucky I am to be on this trip. It was incredible.

-Hannah
It was the first time I really heard every word during Mass. And I didn’t doubt that Jesus is the Eucharist.

-Sophia
It was fun to think that Jesus, Peter, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of Jesus were all where we had Mass.

-Sal
This experience was moving and very spiritual. It was so quiet and peaceful, and to think that we were in the exact spot that Christ died and was buried. This is an experience I will never forget.

-Madeline
Standing in the tomb was not just amazing, but a touch overwhelming in a good way. The presence of Christ is always in our Mass, but today was above and beyond.

-Bridget
The tomb is an amazing blessing and opportunity. It was very special to say Mass as a group. I am very grateful for this experience.

-Jim
It was so overwhelming and I couldn’t believe I was really there.

-Ashley
It was a life experience and very powerful.

-Adam
It was surreal to go to confession where Christ conquered sin.

-Monica T.
It was amazing to be in the tomb and at Calvary by ourselves. It is a very moving experience that I will never forget.

-Monica L-P
I couldn’t believe we got to go to mass where Jesus rose from the dead. It was a moving and unbelievable experience.

-Haley
After a little recovery time we walked to the sight of Christ’s second temptation called Robinson’s arch. A really tall corner of a building which had been buried for centuries. We contemplated Christ’s ability to fight off temptation and what we can learn from that encounter.

Next we visited the Dome of the Rock on the top of the Temple Mount. We learned about the history of it, how up until 2000 any pilgrim could walk inside, but then some political strife led to the closing of the top of the mountain eventually giving way in 2005. We could look at the buildings, but we could not actually go in them. Our tour guide told us about all the history of the Temple Mount and we got some amazing pictures before heading out.

After this we saw the Golden gate where legend has it that Christ will enter on judgement day. Later we would see the front of the gate, which is completely stoned off.  An impressive sight, and an impressive story.

Continuing on our journey, we visited where Christ would have been tortured by the Romans and presented to those who wanted to see him crucified.  The great Ecce Homo. It is maintained beautifully by the Sisters of Zion. Father read a passage from the Gospel and we reflected on the Passion of Christ.  We walked on the road where Christ would have carried the Cross.  Truly walking in the footsteps of Christ.

From there we went to the pool of Bethesda and heard the Gospel reading of the man who wanted to make it into the pool but was too crippled to get there quickly enough. We reflected on the times we know what we are called to do, but often have obstacles too large to overcome. It is then that we must turn to Christ. We got some great pictures, including one I have attached of the guys, and made our way onward.


The day continued with the church of St. Ann, Mary’s mother. Jill again graced us with some lovely singing — our tour guide called it angelic — and the choir members sang Dei Verbum (I think that is the name). We took a good half hour to pray and then went to St. Stephen’s gate.  A nice entrance into Jerusalem.

After that, we made our way to the Garden of Gethsemane where we saw the place Christ prayed before his Passion. We collected some olive branches from the from the trees that grew there and spent some time at the church there called by three names: Gethsemane, the Church of All Nations, and the Church of the Agony.  Students had a great opportunity to touch the rock where Christ sweat blood and after some serious contemplation, we headed out.

The western wall was our next stop. The guys on the left, women on the right. All the guys had to wear a kippa, or yarmulke, and carefully pray at the wall.  It was a moving experience for everyone to pray with our older brothers of the faith.

Next came our lunch back at the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem and our trip to the Dead Sea.  We enjoyed all the pita, even without hummus, and figured out our journey for the rest of the day.  When we got to the Dead Sea, we first had the opportunity to see where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and watched a documentary on their history.

From there we went to the Dead Sea itself and the students enjoyed the opportunity to float on the extremely salty sea. Several students found the experience to be both extremely gross and extremely fulfilling at the same time.  Several students practiced their bargaining skills with a scarf seller at the Dead Sea while others . . . well I guess this is hard to explain so first look at all my pictures

(Ask Mr. Mileski when he returns after break…)

Ok, so that one with Elliot sticking his feet into a fish tank. Odd right? Well, apparently the fish will eat off all the dead skin on the bottom of your feet, leaving them extremely smooth. I really wish that I was making that up. I really do. Truth can be stranger than fiction.

From there we drove through Jericho, saw a sycamore tree like the one Zacchaeus was sitting in when Christ called to him. We also saw the Mount of temptations where Christ spent 40 days and 40 nights.

We finally got back to the hotel around 7:00 pm and had dinner and went to bed.  Luckily we get to sleep in until 6:30 tomorrow morning. Woo!

Yours In Christ,
Matthew Mileski

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