It has been too amazing a week, and things are too crazy and there is too little time to make a very full account of the week. But I will try. It started with a full day of packing. I spent all of Sunday packing suitcases, and got 12 of our 16 packed, leaving us with 4 suitcases and 16 carry-ons to pack. We are getting there.
Things started in earnest the next day. It was the beginning of our Last Week Walk. We tried to trace the steps of the Savior during that last week. The feelings we felt were too powerful for me to easily describe, so I mostly won’t. Our first stop was Bethany. This is more difficult than it used to be because it is on the other side of the separation wall. In Bethany we recounted Lazarus’ death, how that contributed to Christ’s death, and how that was where he was staying during the last week of his life. We visited Lazarus’ tomb and the church.
Students coming into the Crusader shrine over Lazarus' tomb
Going down into the tomb
In the tomb (or the Byzantine shrine built over the tomb)
Depiction of Mary and Martha with Jesus at the church in Bethany
The Church of St. Lazarus
The gardens at the church of St. Lazarus
Then we went to Bethphage, the place where the triumphal entry was supposed to have begun. We of course talked about that and about how it fit into his last week. Good stuff.
Kaleb and Alexia singing in the church at Bethphage
The view of the crest of the Mt. of Olives from Bethphage, which is just on the other side of the crest from Jerusalem
Then we went to Pater Noster, which is along the path that Jesus would have taken. This church celebrates the Savior praying again with his disciples on the Mt. of Olives, but also is where a Constantinian basilica was built over a cave that was supposed to be the place the Savior taught his disciples many things, such as the Olivet discourse in Matthew 24 about the second coming. We spoke of these things here.
The Our Father in Romanian at Pater Noster
Pater Noster Church
Teaching the students in the cave at Pater Noster
The view of the temple mount as you walk from Pater Noster to Dominus Flevit
On our way down the Mt. of Olives we stopped at Dominus Flevit, a church that was built to commemorate Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Then we had our lunch in the Orson Hyde Garden.
The family looking out over the temple mount at Dominus Flevit
The kids rode a white donkey near Dominus Flevit
Then we went across the Kidron Valley and up to the Upper Room, where we spent a lot of time reading through parts of the things Jesus taught his disciples there as contained in John 13-17. We talked about the significance of washing feet, and of the Sacrament being inaugurated there. Then we read many passages that demonstrate what I think is the theme of that whole, long sermon. It seems to me that the Savior teaches his Apostles that he will be leaving them so that he can go to be with the Father. But he is not leaving them alone, he is leaving them with the Spirit. The Spirit will help them have communion with him. They must be one with him. If they commune with the Spirit it will bring them to Him, and He will bring them to the Father. He invites them to be one with him as he is with the Father, which is possible because the Father sent him and he sent the Spirit.
After that we went to Dormition Abbey and talked about Mary’s role in everything. Then we called it a day.
Mary's cenotaph at the Dormition Abbey
Julianne taking care of the kids outside of the Dormition Abbey. She so often can't fully participate because the children need her attention during some of the most reverent and significant moments. Bless her heart, she is a great mom!
We had our last ride on the "Magic Mule Bus"
The field trip for the next day will have to be told in pictures, I just can’t get to it right now. In brief, we went to Gethsemane, where we spoke of the Savior’s suffering and shared our thoughts and testimonies about that.
Entrance to the church at Gethsemane
Kaleb at the rock inside the church at Gethsemane
Jacob and BJ at the rock in the church
Students taking some time to think, read, write, and pray in Gethsemane
Then we went to St. Peter of Galicantu where we spoke of the trial before the Sanhedrin and Peter’s denial.
Tashara at the steps the Savior probably walked up as he left Gethsemane in captivity and came to his trials
Tashara at the statue that commemorates Peter's denial during Christ's trials
A place where the Savior may have been bound
Then we went to the Church of the Falgellation and Condemnation to speak of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. We spent two lunch hours in the church of St. Anne. Father Lavoie, who runs the place, loves to have the Mormons in to sing. So we ate our lunch, then we sang for about 40 minutes in the amazing crusader chapel, and then we went to the pools of Bethesda and talked about the miracle there.
Singing in St. Anne's Chapel
Teaching at the Pool of Bethesda
Then we left that wonderful experience and stopped by a few stations of the cross as we walked to the Garden Tomb. We ended our whole experience by having a brief testimony meeting there. I tried to explain how everything else we did the entire semester had meaning only because of what happened there. I also bore as plain and strong a testimony as I know how of the reality and power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These things are more real than anything I know. It was a wonderful ending. Our kids, who were with us through all two long days of this, were great troopers. I am proud of how they behaved, and glad they are able to learn so much about Jesus Christ.
My class at the Garden Tomb
Back to the JC after the field trip
That is all I can do for now, I will have to do more later.