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Pilgrims Walking the Dark Streets of Jerusalem

By Chris Weldon
For those who have been to the Holy Land, what is the place that comes to mind most when you mind wonders back? How about the Jerusalem streets when it is dark and eerie?

Walking down the Old City’s narrow, cobblestone “streets” was one thing; doing it at 4:00a.m. was a whole other thing! To be honest, I was waiting for a scene from a blockbuster thriller to unfold right in front of me, one where a dark van with no windows comes racing up, skids to a stop and four hooded men jump out to grab us. (Irrational fear can lead to some very creative and unrealistic scenarios for me.) Nonetheless, I was glad we were a group of 12 that bravely ventured out that morning headed for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

One of the Holy Land’s most visited Christian sites, the Holy Sepulcher was a definite highlight of our Tekton pilgrimage. Our guide, Fr. David, OSF, told us it would be wise to get there early so as to avoid the thousands of pilgrims that daily crowd the sacred Church. We were scheduled to arrive there as a group later that day but we eager, early-rising pilgrims wanted to be there a little after it was unlocked- at 4:00am. The night before, we left our friends drinking wine under the Jerusalem stars a little early. We were scheduled for a full day of visiting the holy sites with our Franciscan guide. Making sure we were well-rested for our adventure the next morning was key. And let me tell you, walking the empty streets of Jerusalem at four in the morning is an adventure!

No small feat – they were able to maneuver their way in the dark which is hard enough to do in the day time. They ran into two religious sisters who looked like locals with black veils and habits. They made it easier to find the tomb – Christ’s empty tomb that had been the destination of Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene some 2000 years ago.

What a humbling experience! To actually walk where St. Francis had journey. I could hardly contain myself from the anticipation I was feeling. I was also in awe of what a great job the Franciscans had done to preserve these Christian sites just so I and many others could come and experience the faith and hope and love that these holy sites brought forth in us all especially the empty tomb of Christ.

As the aroma of the Holy Sepulcher warmly drew us in, a silence different from the one that filled the streets overcame us. It was the sacred silence of an empty tomb; Jesus’ empty tomb.

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