Sunday, February 8, 2009

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Last week I finally had the opportunity to get back to the Old City and visit the Christian quarter. The highlight was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Sep-pull-ker). The church marks
the place where it is believed that Jesus was
crucified, cleaned, buried in a tomb, and rose from the dead.

I was amazed by the opulence of the place - it was the most ornate place I have perhaps ever been. The picture to the left is of the place where Jesus is said to have hung from the cross - (you have to climb stairs to get up the hill of Golgotha and to the height of where he was hung). Just look at the ornateness!! I know that to so many, this is a way of worship, but to me, it completely overwhelmed the space and - overwhelmed me.

It was so completely surreal to stand in the places from which all of Christianity is based - and look around at all of the different versions of Christians... it was actually incredibly overwhelming to me. I wasn't entirely sure what to think or how to feel about it. On almost every wall hundreds of thousands of crosses had been carved in over the last several hundred years. It was utterly amazing. The picture below of the people sprawled on the ground is of the rock where it is believed that Jesus was cleaned when he was taken off of the cross. Many people would kneel near it, and rub all sorts of things over it in order to make them holy. I saw a lady take literally everything out of her purse, including her cell phone, ipod, kleenex, a pair of earrings and a nail file, and rub them all over the rock.

Wow - huh? To go to the place where my religion originated - that's big, right? HUGE, right? And yet - it was more than anything to me a moment where I realized that our religion, our spirituality, our theology - is something that is interpretable a million different ways, across a million different cultures and 6 billion different individuals. Just looking at even the way that this space had been utilized over the years was mind blowing - there were catholic quarters of building, and orthodox, and coptic, and fransiscan and armenian.... monks from allllll sorts of backgrounds - women completely covered, women in little tiny skirts with bellies showing - truly, it is amazing to me the number of ways that Christianity (and any religion for that matter) has been interpreted.

I have now had the chance to stand in the holiest site for Christians, the holiest place for Jews, and the most sacred of places for Hindus - and ... I think I love religion less for all of it.

BUT I surely love people more and am continually amazed at humanity's continual search for divinity. And, at the very end of the day, still....there is no doubt that...



Jennifer said...

wow. how fascinating. what did you rub all over the rock?

Victor said...

Yes, it seems like a visual journey through that church. I'd like to check it out some day.

Erin said...

Hi! I’m the Community Manager of We’re building a website to highlight some of the most interesting places travelers around the world have discovered. We’ve read hundreds of blogs about Israel, and we think that yours is awesome! We’d love to highlight excerpts from blogs like yours (assuming it’s OK with you of course) and to discuss other ways of tapping into your expertise if you are interested. I’m at
Thanks! :)