Posted: January 28th, 2007, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Today we headed out on a 2 day field trip to the desert. We couldn’t get government clearance to go to Egypt and Mt. Sinai, so we’re going to experience the wandering in the desert in the Negev of Israel. We’re going to head all the way down to the southern most tip of Israel to the town of Eilat, located right on the Red Sea. Our first stop was a visit to the ancient city of Beer Sheva. This is was the southern extent of the promised land and it was here that Abraham swore his famous oath (Beer Sheva means the “Well of the Oath”. It was neat to think of what happened here and I took a picture of the famous well, but in the end it looked pretty much like all the other ruins we’ve seen.
The Well of the Oath at Beer Sheva
From Beer Sheva we moved on to a site that didn’t really have any biblical connection but was nonetheless very pretty. In the middle of the desert there is a spring called En Avedat. It actually becomes a little river and we got to hike along it for a while. Eventually we came to a waterfall and the source of the water. The bleak desert cliffs towering on both sides of the canon made for some very beautiful scenery.
The Desert Oasis at En Avdat
After a needed lunch break we visited the ruins of the city of Avdat. This is located high on a hill overlooking the valley. An ancient people known as the Naboteans built this city. They created a famous spice trail through the desert by strategically hiding water cisterns at set intervals. No one else knew where to find the water, so they controlled the trade route. Eventually some Byzantine monks built a church on top and it was there that we had Mass.
The Hilltop City of Avdat
We were now well into the middle of the desert. Our next stop was our hotel for the night. This turned out to be the nicest place we’ve stayed. We had a pool for the first time, so most people took the opportunity to do some swimming. After a wonderful dinner I curled up with a book next to the real wood-burning fireplace in the lobby. It was actually set up so that the fireplace was in the middle of a seating area with cushions all around. It was a wonderful place to stay, even if only for a night.
See More Pictures
Posted: January 28th, 2007, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Tonight I decided to make a vigil at the Holy Sepulcher. The church closes at 7:00, but you can arrange with the Franciscans to be locked in for the night and make a vigil. Things are normally so busy at the Holy Sepulcher that I was really looking forward to the opportunity to be alone and have quiet. At 7:00 there were 4 of us that wanted to stay. The door actually gets locked from the outside, so you really are locked in. Somewhat ironically/sadly, a Muslim family is entrusted with the keys because the Catholics, Orthodox, Armenians, Copts, and Syrians don’t trust each other to have the keys.
Calvary, You Can See the Rock in the Glass
It turns out that on Saturday night, the overnight vigil ends by midnight because that is when they start celebrating Sunday Mass. I still had some wonderful prayer time. I spent a couple hours on Calvary praying there and then a couple more in the empty tomb. As I was praying in the tomb I noticed something that I hadn’t seen before. Most everything in there is written in Greek which means that I have to go get a dictionary and translate it later. However, as I was kneeling down praying I saw some Latin written on the base of a picture. It said, “Surrexit Non Est Hic Ecce Locus Ubi Posuerunt Eum”… “He has risen. He is not here. Behold the place where they laid him.” I was reminded once again of the powerful witness of the empty tomb. “He is not here!” I prayed for all my family and friends who have died and prayed that one day I will be able to join the saints in heaven. I also prayed that I will be a good witness to the resurrection as a priest, especially through the witness of a celibate life devoted wholly to God. There is a definite power in this place. As I prayed there one scripture passage kept coming to my mind. “I seek to know Jesus Christ and the power flowing from his resurrection”. May we all come to know Jesus and this power.
The Empty Tomb
He Has Risen. He Is Not Here. See the Place Where They Laid Him.
See More Pictures
Posted: January 27th, 2007, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
I took the morning today to return to Mt. Zion for some quiet prayer on my own. I stopped first at the parish church for the Latin Rite Catholics in the Old City. It’s got a big tower, so you see it from everywhere. It is actually a very big church that reminded me a lot of the churches in Rome. Next, it was on to Mt. Zion. I prayed Morning Prayer from the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday in the Church of the Dormition. It was kind of neat to pray psalm 122 which talks mentions “and now are feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem”. One priest that came to talk to us the other day said that coming to Jerusalem is such a rare opportunity for people he meets in other parts of the Middle East that people will kiss his hands, not because he’s a priest, but because he’s been to Jerusalem. They have a special word for it like the Muslims do for people who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. This is truly a great blessing to be here.
St. Savior Parish Church in the Old City
After praying in Dormition Abbey I went on a bit of an adventure. I wanted to find the tomb of Oskar Schindler (of “Schindler’s List” fame) whose tree I saw on the Avenue of the Righteous the other day at Yad VaShem. I had a dot on the map that pointed to a cemetery, but that was all I knew. I finally found the Christian cemetery on Mt. Zion, but there were many graves there. If you haven’t seen the movie, the summary is that Schindler is a factory owner who is able to save 1200 Jews by creating jobs for them in his factory and hiding people to protect them from the Nazis, all at great personal risk. If you remember at the end of the movie, all the surviving “Schindler Jews” as they are called process by his grave in the cemetery and place a rock on it. That’s really all I had to go on as far as locating his grave in the cemetery and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie. So, I was looking for a grave that I thought would maybe have some rocks piled on top. There were multiple levels to the cemetery which is located right on the edge of Mt. Zion. I finally saw a tomb with some stuff piled on top and it turned out to be his. I prayed there that all Christians might stand up to defend the dignity of every human person and thanked Oskar Schindler for his witness.
Tomb of Oskar Schindler
From the cemetery, Peter in Gallicantu was not far, so I decided to go back there and take some time. I mentioned previously that the church is built on top of the place where Jesus was imprisoned on the night of his arrest. You can actually go down into the ruins, so I decided to that. You can see in the walls the hooks that were used to hold the chains of the prisoners. The most moving part is the “Sacred Pit” where Jesus spent his last night on earth. In the crypt church there is actually a hole in the floor that allows one to look down into the pit. It was a powerful place to pray.
The “Sacred Pit” Where Jesus was Imprisoned
Back in the upper church of Peter in Gallicantu there was better light today so I could see the mosaics. I was again moved by the association of this church with repentance, specifically that of St. Peter. On that theme, I found the two mosaics on either side of the main altar to be interesting choices. The featured saint on the left is St. Dysmas, the “Good Thief” crucified with Jesus. On the right is St. Mary Magdalene “The Penitent”. When I was in the gift shop, I saw that they had priest stoles for sale and remembered that our leader had mentioned this to us. I decided that it would be nice to have a purple stole from this place for hearing confessions. It will remind me how powerful conversion can be. There is a mosaic in the upper church that shows Peter denying Jesus and right connected with it is Peter seated on his throne as Pope in all the beauty of Papal vestments. God’s forgiveness is truly amazing.
The Upper Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu
See More Pictures
Including Special Footage of Hell
Posted: January 26th, 2007, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Today was just a normal class day. I enjoyed getting caught up on some reading and updating my journal. Of course I also spent a good deal of time updating my blog. I’m glad people are enjoying it.
Posted: January 25th, 2007, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Today we went to a special “Ecumenical Center” called Tantur. There are ministers and lay people from all different religions and denominations that live and work here to promote understanding between the various groups. We came to listen to presentations on Jewish/Christian relations and one on the different Christian groups present here. As a fitting end to the day, we went to the Cenacle for a special ecumenical gathering. This is the week of prayer for Christian unity and there have been events at various churches throughout the week. The one tonight was at the Cenacle. It was packed and we had some very nice prayer and singing. I pray that the prayer of Jesus may be realized, “That all may be one.”
Gathering in the Upper Room for Christian Unity
Posted: January 24th, 2007, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Church of the Dormition of Mary
After class in the morning we had the afternoon free to go explore Mt. Zion. This area is just outside the present day walls (At the time of Jesus it was inside the city) to the south. This is a traditionally Christian area going all the way back to the early Church. The first site that I went to visit was the Church of the Dormition of Mary. The word “dormition” means “falling asleep”. This word is used because we don’t really know how Mary’s life ended. We know that she was taken to heaven, body and soul, but the Church has deliberately avoided saying whether she died or not. We don’t know, and theologians can debate about it. There is a very nice statue of Mary asleep in the crypt of the church and it makes for a good place to pray.
The “Upper Room”
My next stop was at the Cenacle, the “Upper Room” of the Last Supper. In some cases we don’t really know for sure if a place is really the exact location for a particular event. However, with the case of the Cenacle, we can say with certainty that the present room is not the room. Whatever the original looked like, it was destroyed by the Romans and what we have today was built by the Crusaders. Still, the location may be the same spot. No matter its origins, this is the place that Christians have come for centuries to commemorate the events of the Last Supper, the Resurrection appearances, Pentecost, and others. Immediately below the Cenacle is what is supposedly the tomb of King David. It was interesting, but definitely not the tomb of David.
St. Peter in Gallicantu
The final stop for the day was Mass at the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. “Gallicantu” means “cockcrow” and is dedicated to Peter’s denial of Jesus on the night of his arrest. It is built on what are believed to be the ruins of the house of the high priest Caiaphas. Below the crypt is the jail where Jesus was held and outside are the 1st century steps that Jesus walked up from the Mt. of Olives. If you remember from the Bible, Peter was in the courtyard of the high priest while Jesus was being tried and it was there that he denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed.
1st Century Stairs to the House of Caiaphas
One of my favorite parts about this church is down in the crypt church. They have 3 icons of the life of St. Peter. The first one depicts Peter’s denial and says “I don’t know him.” The middle one in the sanctuary shows Peter weeping and says “And Peter went out and wept bitterly.” The final one on the right shows Peter with Jesus by the seashore after the resurrection saying, “You know all things; you know that I love you.” It’s a powerful display of the conversion of St. Peter. My thoughts went back to my time at the church in Galilee where Peter spoke those last words. What an amazing saint Peter is. How amazing God’s forgiveness is!
The Conversion of Peter
See More Pictures
Posted: January 23rd, 2007, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Church of the Visitation
Today was a field trip day. We began by proceeding in haste into the hill country of Judea to the town of Ein Karim. This is the town where Elizabeth and Zachariah lived and where Mary went to greet Elizabeth after the Annunciation. It is here that the second joyful mystery of the Rosary, the Visitation, took place. We were able to visit the Church of the Visitation as well as the Church marking the Birthplace of John the Baptist. The name “Shawn” is the Gaelic form of “John” and I claim John the Baptist as my primary patron saint. So, this was a very special place for me to visit. They have a marker over the place of his birth similar to the one marking the location of the Annunciation in Nazareth. We couldn’t stay long, but I prayed that St. John would continue to help me to be a good prophet and precursor of the Lord and that I may do a good job of preparing His way. “He must increase and I must decrease.”
Me at the Birthplace of John the Baptist
After leaving Ein Karim we went to visit the memorial called “Yad VaShem” dedicated to the Shoah (Holocaust). This was a very powerful and distressing place. I have visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. (which I now definitely think is the better of the two museums) and remember spending almost an entire day there. The hour and a half that we had at Yad VaShem was barely enough time to walk through the place, yet alone read much of anything. Being here helped remind me of how important it is to understand just how much the Shoah is still very much in the front of people’s minds. If you can begin to understand just how deeply wounded the Jews still are by the Shoah (and rightfully so), then it is easier to understand why the State of Israel falls into some of the unfortunate practices that we have observed. It doesn’t excuse or justify the oppression of the Palestinians, but it does help you understand their fears and motivations. Some of the highlights of this visit were the eternal flame in the “Hall of Remembrance” and the Children’s Memorial. In this memorial they have a dark room with a few candles and mirrors all over such that all you see are thousands of little flames in every direction to represent all the children killed in the Shoah. The quote above the door says “Every child is a candle of God” and the names of the children are read as you walk through. I also was moved to see the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles where the non-Jews who helped save people during the Shoah are memorialized by trees. I saw there the tree dedicated to Oskar Schindler, made famous in the movie “Schindler’s List”. Above all, Yad VaShem was a memorial of man’s inhumanity to man. We must pray that we will never again declare that some people are not people…and yet we do. Have we learned anything from the Shoah? That will be the true measure of our race and the real value of Yad VaShem.
The “Hall of Remembrance” at Yad VaShem
Our final stop today was in Bethany. This is the famous town that was home to Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. We visited the church dedicated to them and even got to enter the tomb of Lazarus. What a special opportunity. One of the sad things about Bethany today was evidenced by the fact that Bethany is right on top of the mount of Olives, just a mile away, but we had to go almost 10 miles out of our way to get there. This is because the Israelis have built their separation wall right through Bethany, cutting many families and friends in half. Bethany is the city from which Jesus began his Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem. Since the creation of the wall, the traditional Palm Sunday procession is now no longer possible and an alternate route has to be taken. I wish that I could have walked down the Mount of Olives from Bethany and followed the route of Jesus. I could just imagine him riding his donkey with all the people shouting. What a special day that would have been for our Lord. Perhaps this was one of his last moments of joy before the agony of the upcoming week began. As went in and then came out of the tomb of Lazarus, I was again reminded how real life after death is. Lazarus of course had to die again, but Jesus showed just how easy it is to raise someone from the dead. Jesus truly holds the keys to death and we have nothing to fear. The raising of Lazarus is one of my favorite stories in the Bible, and I was truly blessed to be able to visit this famous place.
“Shawn, Come Out!”
Me Rising from the Tomb of Lazarus
See More Pictures
Posted: January 22nd, 2007, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Holy Sepulcher Domes from the Tower of David
Today was a normal class day in the morning but we had the afternoon free. I took advantage of the free time to visit what is known as the Tower of David Museum also called The Citadel. This is an old fortress built into the city walls that was originally built by Herod the Great. However, this museum is not just a tour of ruins. Within the ruins of The Citadel they have created a museum of the history of Jerusalem. They have different rooms for each period in the history of the city. For me, the best part about this was seeing the large 3D scale models of how the city looked at various times. This city has been destroyed and rebuilt so many times that it’s hard to picture it. I took a ton of pictures of the models so I can use them in future presentations to people. One of my favorite things was a model of how the Holy Sepulcher church looked when Constantine built it. It was more than twice as big as the present day church (which is still quite large). The Crusaders only rebuilt part of it after it was destroyed. As I looked at all the different artifacts and models of the various rooms, all the ruins we are seeing started to make a little more sense. I could actually see what the Byzantine church looked like before the Crusader church was built on top before the modern church was built. There was also a nice view of the city from the top of the tallest tower. I spent the whole afternoon at the museum and I think I may try to go back later since the place closed before I finished my tour. You can check it out online at http://www.towerofdavid.org.il
The Original City of David
2nd Temple Period Jerusalem
Constantine’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher
19th Century Jerusalem
See More Pictures
Posted: January 21st, 2007, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Armenian Catholic Patriarchate Church
Notice the Nativity Scene on the Right; Friday was Christmas
You might say today was an Armenian day for me. We were scheduled to go as a group to the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate church for Divine Liturgy this morning. This is in keeping with what seems to be the idea of attending an Eastern Rite liturgy each Sunday. However, the great rainstorm had not really subsided by this morning, so the trip to the Armenian church was made optional. I decided to take the option and go. After all, I had my rain suit and was not going to let a little water get in my way (I’m an Eagle Scout, so this as it should be). Well, it turns out that I was the only one so adventurous in our group. In fact, I turned out to be more adventurous than the entire Armenian congregation. When I arrived just in time for the start of liturgy I was greeted by what turned out to be the organist and an empty church. At 9:00 sharp he started playing and chanting and out came the priest and a Franciscan to be his altar server. Eventually a couple other people showed up, but it was still a very intimate affair. This liturgy was of course the Armenian Rite and not the Byzantine liturgy of St. John Chrysostom I’ve gotten used to at the Greek churches. Still, I could follow along and participate mentally anyway. I still don’t get tired of the chanting. I talked to the organist and priest after Mass and found out the priest is 92 years old and the organist has played there every Sunday for the last 46 years. I figure that the Armenian Catholic population here is probably pretty small, but hopefully there are more of them at liturgy on a normal Sunday. I figure that it was raining today and it was Christmas on Friday, so maybe they felt like they had done their duty.
Armenian Orthodox Cathedral
This evening I carried on the Armenian theme of the day by going to the Armenian Orthodox Cathedral for Vespers. This was an optional activity for us and only four of us went, but it was worth it. All the priests plus what would appear to be seminarians and some older school children came out in wonderful vestments and procession and chanted evening prayer. There was a lot of incensing and candles. I’m not familiar enough with the vestments to know, but I believe the head cleric there must have been the bishop. It was a nice end to the afternoon. Unfortunately, one thing that hasn’t really ended is the rain. It’s not raining as hard, but it’s still wet and windy. A good number of people are going out tonight to watch the Bears game at 10:00. I’m not sure if I have that much adventurousness left in me. Once again returning to Rudolph, in the words of Yukon Cornelius, “’Tis a night not fit for man nor beast.” Maybe I’ll just wait for the Superbowl.
Posted: January 20th, 2007, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink
Today is Shabbat so all the Jewish stores were closed and the city was very quiet. It’s nice to see that people here still take a day off from everything to honor God. I kind of took a day off today too. I did a little homework, but spent most of the day just relaxing and, of course, updating my blog with all the wonderful things you’ve no doubt read below. I had some good prayer time in the Holy Sepulcher this morning and measured my column for our architecture class. I also did some icon shopping since the Christian stores were open. After the sun sets on Shabbat the stores all open up, so I went out to dinner with some friends. As the talking snowman says in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, “And then…IT HIT!” Not a snowstorm in this case, but huge rainstorm. I guess there were some pretty strong storms recently in Europe and this must be what moved through here tonight. It was literally raining sideways and every which way. The wind was really blowing and we had thunder and lightning and really quite a show. Fortunately, I had my rain jacket and pants because an umbrella was absolutely useless. I was very happy to get home to my nice warm bed tonight. Hopefully things will be better tomorrow.