Tag Archives: Ecce Homo Arch Convent

Easter 2013

9 Apr
Flowers at the Garden Tomb

Flowers at the Garden Tomb

Easter Eve Mass

We joined English-speaking internationals from all over on Easter eve.  It was a reflective, meditative service that Phillip and I both enjoyed thoroughly.  The congregation of sisters and convent guests began on the terrace with a candle-lit vigil; then there was singing as we processed down to the sanctuary.  There was a homily, singing, readings, communion, renewal of baptism, and prayer.  A two-hour service, but great preparation for Easter.  (Side note:  we opted not to do the terrace sun-rise service since it’d probably be another couple of hours long.  Sunrise and sitting still for hours is a recipe for sleep!)

The Convent

This is the third time that Phillip and I have stayed here (at the Ecce Homo Arch Convent/Pilgrim House which is run by the Sisters of Zion, a French group of nuns).  I LOVE the atmosphere.  Since we have almost a full week to spend here this time, our pace has been slower than either of the other times.  It truly feels like a retreat/rest form life in Amman.  I’m glad that Phillip decided on staying longer this time.  The accommodations are simple, but comfortable and beautiful.  Stone floors and walls, a common coffee room with wi-fi (of course!) that extends out to the terrace.  And of course, the million-dollar view!

Unique blossom at the Garden Tomb.

Unique blossom at the Garden Tomb.

The weather has been *perfect,* and I have enjoyed wearing [insert gasp] short sleeves with the skin above my elbows showing sometimes!  So this is day 5 of 7, and we’ve been here long enough to start to recognize people.  Many of the sisters we remembered from before.  Some of the guests whom we meet in passing are the 24 Biblical Program participants that will stay at the convent a total of 4 weeks for Passover/Easter study and travel.  If I have an extra $5,000 (x2 for Phillip, of course) lying around when I’m a little “riper of age,” I’d love to come spend a month retreat here and go through the study with Christians from around the world.  So cool!

The Garden Tomb.  This site and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are the two most visited by Christian Pilgrims.  While the Garden Tomb is outside the city walls and is the least likely of the two to be the actual site, it is my favorite because the atmosphere is very peaceful and full of natural beauty.

The Garden Tomb. This site and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are the two most visited by Christian Pilgrims. While the Garden Tomb is outside the city walls and is the least likely of the two to be the actual site, it is my favorite because the atmosphere is very peaceful and full of natural beauty.

Resurrection Day + Rednecks

A “redneck” for my intents and purposes shall be defined as:

someone who is so absorbed in his or her own world-view /experience/agenda that s/he will do and say idiotic things despite what negative consequences there may be for themselves or others who may be totally unrelated to the redneck’s world.

You might be a politically-charged-Jewish-redneck if you decide to cut in a 100 yard line of mostly foreign Christians in order to go up on the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, walk into the Alaqsa Mosque, start praying, and saying things like, “This is our land!”

You will ruin the opportunity to visit the mount for thousands of Christians and other non-Muslim visitors for the rest of the day.  My advice?  Maybe you should stop provoking the Muslims to throw rocks at you and go home and wash your beard which is much too long for 2013.  Keep it long if you feel that you must, but do trim it, and start worrying about your hygiene more than you worry about taking over the mount from the Muslim world.  And put on some shoes!  Nasty germs seeping through the soles of your feet as you walk around barefoot out here.  Gross.

4 ½ hours.  That’s the amount of time that Phillip waited in line to go through Israeli security to enter the Muslim-operated platform/hill of the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount.  (It has so many different names because each of the groups who has stuck its flag in the dirt on top has given it a different one.)  I waited half of that time with Phillip Easter morning, but decided to come back to the convent eventually.

The rolled away stone at the Garden Tomb.  (Jesus was not there, by the way. :)

The rolled away stone at the Garden Tomb. (Jesus was not there, by the way. :)

Monday, April 1 was (an almost!) redneck-free morning.  After the previous day’s fruitless line waiting, Phillip was determined to get in line at least before the throngs arrived.  We got up to a 6:40 alarm, quickly ate some cereal and were down at the entry ramp by 7:25am with just a handful of others.  They opened the entrance at 7:30 (I thought we were going to have to wait until 8:30!)!!  I was glad to have a cool morning to walk around the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary platform with Phillip.  It’s his favorite place in the world, I think.  We saw a boys’ school on the far north end that neither of us knew was there.  We passed by at the time they were doing their morning recitation of a Qur’an Sura.  It reminded me of saying the Pledge of Allegiance as a student in school.

The architectural feat of filling in that platform (which is 35 acres, or one sixth the size of the 0.35 square miles of the entire Old City) without the assistance of cranes, bulldozers and modern equipment is simply amazing.  You walk up there, and you are standing where the Old Testament sacrifices were made — an area that we (as Gentiles) would never have been allowed.  The area, now controlled by Muslims, is the third Holiest site in Islam.  Up until 13 years ago, they allowed anyone to pay a fee and enter the building which supports the Golden Dome of the Rock.  But thanks to Ariel Sharon (a former Prime Minister of Israel) and some of his buds, now only Muslims may enter.

The symmetrical building may be sitting over the place where the Holy of Holies once was… or just beside it.  For that reason and the fact that the exact place of the Holy of Holies is unknown, Orthodox Jews do not go up on the platform anymore.  The Chief Rabbi has forbidden it.  Thus, the importance of the Western Wall.  And thus, the craziness of the “rednecks” from yesterday is highlighted.

Even still, I noticed one Orthodox Jew with his kippa and hair noodles (which had been made a little flat by the humidity, I suppose) who was standing still, facing the Dome of the Rock as if he were praying or something.  A group of Muslim men who had gathered to read the Qur’an together were shouting at him to leave.

Bold.

And stupid.

After a few moments, he continued to walk around with two Israeli policemen and their machine guns in tow.  Some people are just asking for it.  At least we got up there before he or his friends caused any more troubles.

Easter Dinner

Lemon & berry sorbet with chocolate drizzle.  Easter dinner's dessert!

Lemon & berry sorbet with chocolate drizzle. Easter dinner’s dessert!

I was just thinking.  If I were going to plan an Easter meal, I’d choose lamb as the main course if I wanted to put a religious spin on the dining experience and rabbit if I wanted to go secular.  Think about it for a second.  Either of those would be a more appropriate choice than burgers or chicken wings, right?  Anyway, now back to my account of Easter 2013:

Phillip and I held back our appetites all afternoon on Easter Sunday in anticipation of a huge delicious meal at the convent – like the one they prepared at Christmas.  Imagine your dining experience over the span of 8 months.  Now, imagine that except for what you cook at home (and I cook a LOT at home), 99% of the food that is available when you eat out is:  (1) falafel, (2) shawarma, or (3) hummus.  Finally, imagine yourself wanting a break from that!  The thought of Western/European-style dining after months of Middle Eastern food!  Mashed potatoes, pot roast, braised chicken, steamed vegetables, dinner rolls with honey butter… Mmm!  Tonight!  Easter dinner!  Yay!!  I can’t wait to see what we’re having!

Mansaf.

We walked into the convent’s dining room, and they had prepared JORDAN’S NATIONAL DISH for the foreign Easter pilgrim guests – lamb atop turmeric rice with a hot yogurt sauce on the side.  Not exactly what we were hoping for, but great-tasting nonetheless.  I also enjoyed a Greek salad.  We never eat salad in Jordan – except when I make Tabouleh – but it’s not the same as a SALAD salad.  They served “Star of Bethlehem” wine, a dry red variety along with a lemon & berry sorbet with chocolate drizzle for dessert.  Phillip and I split a third helping of dessert, thanks to Phillip’s making friends with our Arabic-speaking Palestinian waiter.  It was all delicious and we were full — thank you, Ecce Homo Convent for a beautiful Easter week experience!

At the pools of Bethesda where a special  supply of water for the Jewish Temple was stored.  Also where Jesus healed a paralytic who'd been waiting at the pool for 38 years.

At the pools of Bethesda where a special supply of water for the Jewish Temple was stored. Also where Jesus healed a paralytic who’d been waiting at the pool for 38 years.

Bethesda Pool Ruins.

Bethesda Pool Ruins.

Bethesda Pools -- imagine this whole area (and others) filled with water!

Bethesda Pools — imagine this whole area (and others) filled with water!

We have since concluded our fabulous week in Jerusalem, returned to Amman, fought gastroenteritis with antibiotics one more time (and please, Lord, may it be the last while we’re in the Middle East), and returned to work.   Still catching up on our sleep, but we have 1,300+ photos along with hours of memories and stories to thumb through in the meantime.

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