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Photo: Melanie Williams

Mural of the Agony in the Garden in the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane.

A Holy Land Pilgrimage: Pt. 7 — "Thy Will Be Done"

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The remains of the cave where Jesus taught his disciples the Our Father.

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Light coming through the archways at the Church of the Pater Noster.

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The english Our Father mural.

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The Palm Sunday road that Jesus took into Jerusalem.

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Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem and the Kidron Valley from the Mount of Olives.

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The Church of Dominus Flevit.

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The entrance to the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

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The Upper Room in Jerusalem.

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The Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane.

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Inside the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane.

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The Garden of Gethsemane. The roots of these olive trees dates back to the time of Jesus.

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Mural of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.

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Mass upon the rock on which Jesus prayed during His agony in the garden.

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A Holy Hour with our Lord where He agonized in the garden.

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The Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu.

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Mural depicting Jesus in the cistern overnight.

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The stairs which Jesus walked on to go down to the Garden of Gethsemane and brought back to the house of Caiaphas.

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Bronze statue of St. Peter's triple denial of Jesus.

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Chains that would have held prisoners by their wrists.

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The empty cistern in which Jesus was held overnight from Holy Thursday to Good Friday.

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The opening to the cistern through which Jesus was let down through and brought back up.

By Melanie Williams (Mar 20, 2018)
From Oct. 26 - Nov. 5, 2017, staff writer Melanie Williams went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Having walked where Jesus walked, prayed where He prayed, and experienced the current Middle Eastern cultural and political climate, she would like to share some of her pilgrimage and journey with you. Today, in the seventh part of an nine-part weekly series journey with her through the events and places of the last week of Jesus' earthly life before His Passion and Death.

As we prepare for Holy Week to begin next Sunday, I would like to share with you the sites of the last week of our Lord in Jerusalem, so that you might enter into Holy Week this year with a new perspective, having seen where He walked, prayed, wept, and entered into His suffering and death for us.

Let us begin at the Church of the Pater Noster. While in the area of Jerusalem, Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. Above the cave grotto where Jesus taught His disciples the Lord's Prayer now stands a church with the Our Father inscribed on mosaics in over 140 different languages. Truly, this is a display of how the Gospel is reaching all the corners of the earth. I took various photos, but I did not realize until returning home and looking through them that the sunlight hit one of the mosaics in a very interesting way. It reminded me of the Annunciation, with the Holy Spirit descending upon Our Lady when she spoke words very similar to those we say in the Our Father, "Thy Will be done." (Please see the photo on the side.)

As we all know, Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday. Today, the Palm Sunday Road is paved and travelled by pilgrims every day. We made this journey into Jerusalem via the Palm Sunday Road. It passes right by the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane and then heads through the Kidron Valley into Jerusalem.

As Jesus approached the city and the people cried "Hosanna!" He stopped and wept over the city. Saint Luke wrote:
As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If this day you only knew what makes for peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation." (Lk 19:41-44)

Today, this spot is memorialized by the Church of Dominus Flevit, and this Scripture passage is etched into the wall within the church, which is built in the shape of a tear.

Fast forward a few days, to Holy Thursday. Jesus came to the Upper Room with His apostles. This room is the location of some of the most important events in Christian history: the washing of the disciples' feet (see Jn 13:1-20), the Last Supper and Institution of the Eucharist (see Jn 14-17), appearances of Jesus to the disciples after His Resurrection (see Jn 20:19-23), and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Our Lady and the disciples on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 1-2).

By the fifth century this location was called, "Zion, Mother of All Churches." It was destroyed by the Persians in 614 and again in 965. Rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th century, it came to ruins when they were defeated. The Franciscans were given custody of the location in the 14th century, but it was conquered by the Muslims and turned into a mosque in the 16th century. In 1948, the Israeli government took control of the location and made it a memorial to the tomb of David, even though he is not buried there. One of our holiest sites on earth is now just a room with a sign that says "Enter." Part of the Mosque remain in the room, and a synagogue is just below it. The Franciscans have tried to buy it to convert it back into a church, but they cannot afford the millions of dollars the government would be asking for. It's basically out of the question, as the word on the street goes.

Even still, while our tour guide was explaining the history and significance of this sacred site, and people hustled and bustled around, I sat down on a ledge and closed my eyes. "I am in the very spot where Jesus gave His Body and Blood to His disciples," I thought to myself. "Here St. John rested on His breast ... Here Jesus appeared after His Resurrection, and St. Thomas put his hand in Jesus' side ... Here the disciples waited with Our Lady and the Holy Spirit came down upon them in tongues of fire ... Here the Church was born." I almost broke down into tears being at one of the most important places of our faith and the salvation of the world! It was such an incredible experience, even in the midst of so much noise and unrecognized sanctity.

From here, Jesus walked through the Kidron Valley with James, Peter, and John to the Garden of Gethsemene. He told His friends, "Pray that you may not undergo the test" (Lk 22:40), and He went a stone's throw away to pray.

"Father," He said, "if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done" (Lk 22:42). He wept, He sweat blood, He surrendered, He accepted His death for the salvation of us all.

We were able to celebrate Mass at the rock where Jesus had His agony in the Garden. I chose to sing "Were You There." As Jesus' Body was distributed to my fellow pilgrims, I sang: "Were you there when He prayed 'Thy will be done?'" It shook me to my core. At this very spot where we received His Body and Blood, He sweat His Blood and spoke those words: Thy will be done. Here He was betrayed and handed over.

That night, to spiritually join in our Lord's agony, we had a Holy Hour before our Lord in the Eucharist, upon the altar built on that rock where He wept. I prayed that I might console Him in that moment. I thought that perhaps outside of time, Jesus in that moment in His agony might have known that, 1,985 years later, I would be at that very spot, longing to comfort Him and pray with Him. I prayed that I, too, may have the grace to always say to the Father, "Thy will be done."

After Jesus was arrested, He was led back through the Kidron Valley to the house of the High Priest Caiaphas. Today, built upon the ruins of the house of Caiaphas and the cistern in which Jesus was kept in overnight on Holy Thursday to Good Friday, is the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. "Galli-cantu" means "cock crows," commemorating where Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed three times, as Jesus had predicted (see Mt 26:34).

Next to the church are steps that have been excavated that date back to the time of Jesus. This would have been the route He took from the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane, before being brought back in chains to Caiaphas' house. Nearby is a bronze statue depicting Peter's triple denial.

The Church has four levels. The upper level is a church covered in multicolored mosaics. The middle level is another church with icons above the altars depicting St Peter's denial, his repentance and his reconciliation with Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee after the Resurrection. The guard room is the second level from the bottom, where the ruins of Caiaphas' house are. There are chains still attached to the walls; chains like these most likely held Jesus. The lowest level is the prisoner's cell - a cistern. This is where Jesus was kept overnight. In His time there was only one opening to the cistern - a hole on the top from which He would have been let down by chains around His wrists. The outside of the upper Church level has a mosaic depicting this moment.

We entered into the cistern and read Psalm 88 aloud.

LORD, the God of my salvation, I call out by day;
at night I cry aloud in your presence.

Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.

For my soul is filled with troubles;
my life draws near to Sheol.

I am reckoned with those who go down to the pit;
I am like a warrior without strength.

My couch is among the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave.

You remember them no more;
they are cut off from your influence.

You plunge me into the bottom of the pit,
into the darkness of the abyss.

Your wrath lies heavy upon me;
all your waves crash over me.

Because of you my acquaintances shun me;
you make me loathsome to them;
Caged in, I cannot escape;

my eyes grow dim from trouble.
All day I call on you, LORD;
I stretch out my hands to you.

Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the shades arise and praise you?

Is your mercy proclaimed in the grave,
your faithfulness among those who have perished?

Are your marvels declared in the darkness,
your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry out to you, LORD;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.

Why do you reject my soul, LORD,
and hide your face from me?

I have been mortally afflicted since youth;
I have borne your terrors and I am made numb.

Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.

All day they surge round like a flood;
from every side they encircle me.

Because of you friend and neighbor shun me;
my only friend is darkness.

Jesus was left here until they dragged Him out in the morning and brought Him to Pontius Pilate, to Herod, and eventually to His death.

Walking in our Lord's footsteps through His last week on earth changed how I think of what our Lord has done for us. I had meditated on His Passion before, prayed the Stations of the Cross hundreds of times in my life, and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary possibly thousands of times, but being where these events actually took place changed me deeply. I knew, more than ever before, that He was real, is real, and walked this earth; that He breathed, He wept, He loved, and He suffered. I, too, breathe, weep, love, and suffer. You do as well. But Jesus has gone before us and experienced suffering so that we don't have to be alone. He is always here with us, and together with Him we will make it through every cross and trial that we encounter.

As I learned on the Via Dolorosa, which I will share with you next week, I learned on this pilgrimage what the purpose of suffering is in my life: to conform me to my Bridegroom. For as Jesus told St. Faustina, the bride must resemble the Bridegroom, and so enter into eternal life (see Diary, 268). Please join me next week to enter into His Passion with me and please know of my prayers for you as we enter into the holiest of weeks next week.

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