I am planning on interspersing blogs about our more academic visits with blogs about our wonderful sightseeing. The student visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre turned out to be more amazing than expected, as our students were asked to participate in the mass!
Student Lauren Maddente shared her reflections here:
On the second morning of our venture to Israel, a group of students chose to attend mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. We started the morning with a stop for Turkish coffee and pieces of a giant sesame seed bagel. The weather was beautiful but it was the Church itself that truly amazed me. This Church is significant to Catholics because it is located where Catholics believe that Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead. The Church is large, stone, and composed of sections for different Catholic sectors (e.g., Eastern Orthodox, Roman). First, our guide took us to different features inside the church such as the stone that Catholics believe Jesus was laid on after he was crucified, and the rock that was rolled in front of the cave that his body was placed in. We entered the cave in small groups and some of us were chased out by a seemingly angry priest; apparently we overstayed our welcome in the cave. We then looked at the different sections at the church, decorated according to their given traditions. For example, while the Eastern Orthodox section had many hanging, glass lamps, the Roman section had beautiful, darker designs and mosaics composed of small pieces of glass. [You can see the ornate decorations in the photo above]
After observing different parts of the church, our guide took us to the section of the church where we would be attending mass. It was interesting to see such a large number of priests which seemed to outnumber the worshipers. The entire mass was sung and the readings were in Latin, Arabic, and English. Our very own Libby and Jennifer presented the English reading! Also, a group of us were fortunate enough to be asked to bring up the gifts. The priest who asked us to bring up the gifts did not speak a word of English, but his patience was apparent as he smiled the whole time while relying on hand gestures to direct us. I lucked out and was given a small, metal tray with two glass bottles—one with oil and one with water—and needless to say I death-gripped it the whole time. The mass was a beautiful experience. The architecture was stunning. The sight of so many worshipers was moving. The opportunity was one of a lifetime.