Holy Sepulchre Church - Jerusalem

 

 Jerusalem

I have been asked for more stories about how we receive signs from the universe. Here is another story about a trip to Israel.  

 

Easter was approaching and I'd been feeling a bit restless. I met an Israeli neighbour at the local shops and she was telling me how much she missed her home. Later that day, I saw an elderly Jesuit priest whom I'd often spoken to but hadn't seen for a while. I asked him if he'd made it to Israel yet as he'd often mentioned his desire to go there. He said, "Sadly no". As I was talking to him I felt some inner excitement. When I got home I was thinking about the feeling of excitement and how interesting it would be to spend Easter in Jerusalem. This was a whole new idea for me as I'd never considered Israel as a place to visit. I mentioned the idea to a friend and she said there wouldn't be any flight seats left, especially as this year Passover and Easter coincided. My daughter thought it was a great idea and said she'd love to come. I still hadn't decided anything but I rang the airline to check anyway. They said they were booked out except for two seats on a flight on Good Friday to Eilat in southern Israel. It got in at midnight! The vacant seats seemed like a sign to me, so I booked the two seats. I rang my daughter in London and said 'We're booked for tomorrow night - we need to pack'. Nothing like trust, eh! Now the thought became stronger and I knew I needed to be in Jerusalem for Easter Sunday. Not a clue why, of course!

We flew to Eilat and landed at midnight and started walking with our backpacks. We had had no idea where anything was. We stopped a passer-by and asked about accommodation. He said he thought everywhere was booked out as people fly from all over the world for this weekend. He suggested we try the 24 hour youth hostel further down the road. I trust the universal process, so we headed for the hostel. Upon arriving we were told the dormitories were full but they had did have one room left with two single beds. How perfect was that! By the way, this youth hostel was no hardship, it was opposite the beach and had a swimming pool on the roof. An amazing place.  

The next morning I asked at the hostel about getting a bus the following day to go to Jerusalem for Easter Sunday. I was told there were none running on Easter Saturday. I checked on rental cars but there were none left. So while my daughter went to the beach, I headed for the bus station to find out for myself about the buses. When I got there, I was told that actually the bus company had suddenly decided to run an extra bus that afternoon because a religious tour group had been delayed and they needed to get to Jerusalem for Sunday. Me, too! I bought our tickets.

    Jerusalem

Checking out of the hostel, I passed on the information that there was a bus to Jerusalem if anyone else enquired. I asked if they knew of any accommodation available in Jerusalem. They did and they rang and booked us into an Orthodox Jewish priest's teaching college within walking distance of the Old City. I felt a definite buzz at the idea of the Old City. He said it dated back to the 4th Millennium BC and it was one of the oldest cities in the world. I looked at the postcards for sale in the hostel as I often find this is a great source of inspiration as to where I am meant to be. I saw a picture of the Holy Sepulchre church in the Old City and zing!  That was it. That was where I was meant to be.

I still didn't know why.    

                            Holy Sepulchre Church

At the time I didn't know anything about the church and I didn't need to. I try to operate on a need to know basis and not to clutter myself with unnecessary information. But for those who are interested in its history of it, I later found out the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is said to have been built in around 325. It has been altered many times since but apparently its appearance today is the same as in 1885. It's seen by most Christians as being the Hill of Calvary where the New Testament says Jesus was crucified. The Sepulchre is supposed to be where he was buried. It's been an important pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century, being the supposed site of the death and resurrection of Christ. Today it's also the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church and is shared with many religious groups and has done so for centuries.

After I checked out, I went to the beach to join my daughter and we swam with the bottle nosed dolphins in a cordoned area of the beach. I passed them their ascension codes which I do whenever I swim with dolphins. The weather was very hot, close to 40 degrees but the dry heat made it surprisingly OK. We enjoyed the beach, had some delicious Falafels - great country for vegetarians - and ambled up to catch the bus. To date, we found this country efficient, clean and well run. For example, one person too many arrived for the bus to Jerusalem. Guess what, they had another bus there within minutes, just for the one person. How many places in the world would that happen, I wondered. The buses are clean and modern. The trip up was great, lovely views and very interesting.  

In Eilat, a man at the youth hostel gave us the name of some accommodation just near the wall in Jerusalem. It was the training college for the priests. He rang them and we were booked in. Our accommodation was lovely, clean, quiet and in the perfect position for us. The priests told me the Holy Sepulchre church's main service would be held at 8am the next morning. That was perfect.   

We rose early, we headed to the Old city. I knew we didn't have much time to find this church before 8am. I just surrendered. I moved fast, ducked across one of the old city bridges, thru gates, stone walls, doorways, down alleys, moving with certainty. My daughter said 'Mum how can you do that, you seem to know where you're going'. I said 'It hasn't changed a bit. The only thing that's different is the type of goods being sold by the roadside traders on the entry bridge.'  That is true. The old city has the same old stone walls as they were in the olden days. I think those who lived there way back would find their way around OK now. We got to the church with minutes to spare. Many different religious groups hold their services there and because of the openness of the space inside you can hear quite a few at the same time. We stopped at the first holy service that felt right and stayed to the end.      

Then something lovely happened and I felt this was the key to my being there. At the end of the service, candles were handed around. Holding our lighted candles, the priest and all the people from that congregation who wished to join in, began walking to the next religious group's service. We joined with that church group and their priest and all holding our candles, we moved on to the next group. This went on all around the church as people from each religious group and their priests joined us. I can't explain the grace, power and love and incredibly special feeling there was in that group as we grew in number, accepting people of different beliefs with unconditional love. I didn't know exactly what was happening. I assume codes were passed and it was something to do with bringing in 'as above so below'. I am happy to just be in the moment and do what feels right without complying with ego and the needs of the mind. I have found that if we, as spirit, need to know the whys, then we will know.

After that lovely service we were drawn to see other things. The Wailing Wall as interesting. We went to the Dome of the Rock - one of the holiest places to Islam where it's said Muhammad went up to the heavens and to the El-Aqsa Mosque, the earliest dated mosque in Israel.   

  Wailing Wall 

   Dome of the Rock

We got a taxi up to the Mount of Olives to see the footprint in stone where it is said Jesus ascended. We were surprised it wasn't being promoted to tourists as you would expect in a western country. In fact, as I recall, there wasn't even a plaque to say what it was.     

  Mount of Olives

We walked around the very lively city at night. At an open air disco, we were fascinated to see all the women (and men) with rifles across their backs while they danced. Both sexes are conscripted into the army for 2 years at the age of 18 and must have their guns with them at all times. An incredibly disciplined group, we never once saw anyone use any firearms or threaten anyone. It didn't take long before you just forgot about it. They were friendly and helpful and this applied to the people as a whole.  

We did other things like go to the Sea of Galilee where the biblical baptisms took place. We floated in the Dead sea, which was brilliant. It would be great for non swimmers as the water is so saturated with salt that you easily float in it, even with your arms and legs up in the air. It was very hot. We observed a large group of ladies who could only paddle as their religion didn't allow them to wear a swimming costume. We bought packets of Dead Sea mud, said to be rejuvenating. Well, why not?  

Isn't it wonderful going to places you have heard about all your life. I remember feeling like that in New York, finally seeing places I'd seen in movies such as 42nd street, 5th Ave, Tiffany's and Macy's.  

As a last venture before we flew out of Eilat, we got a bus to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem . For those into history, The Church of the Nativity is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure is built over the cave that is said to have been the birthplace of Christ and is considered sacred by followers of Islam and Christianity. The first church over the cave was begun by Saint Helena and completed in 333. That structure burnt down in 529 and was rebuilt in its present form in 565 by Emperor Justinian.  

My initial delight with Bethlehem was discovering the total lack of tourist promotion. The people  considered it was considered sacred and not to be exploited. There were no advertising signs, no hundred of stalls selling things. Bethlehem belonged to Israel then, so this could have changed since it has been transferred to the Palestinian people. However, I would think not, as I recall it took me ages to find the Ascension footprints on the Palestinian Mount of Olives. I imagine most other countries would have greatly promoted this special spot. There was just one small stand outside the church, selling wooden angels made from Olive trees.  

My daughter and I went into a building that was said to be the grounds of the stable Jesus was born in. Inside the building, we made our way down some old stone steps to a small stone room marking the spot Jesus was born. There is a star in the ground and location of the crib in marked. We were chatting as we started down the steps, but suddenly fell silent as we experienced the amazing energy. To us it felt very special and we were compelled to be silent in this sacred, loving and powerful space. was the energy of the place that silenced us. It was incredible. We donít know if that is the true birthplace of Christ. Maybe it is, maybe it isnít. Maybe it was just an old shed! BUT whether it is his birthplace or not, millions of people over a very long period of time have agreed that it is the birthplace. And so they offer this place great reverence and love. In other words they add their power and energy to the creation of that idea. The point I want to make is regardless of whether that is his birthplace or not is not so important. What really matters is what we, as creators, choose to believe, support and add our energy to.

 

  Said to be the birth place of Jesus

So, another adventure drew to a close. We headed back to the UK knowing we'd achieved what we set out to do. Whatever exactly that was!!  

Sandy Stevenson