Friday, May 25, 2012

Ascension Day at Christendom's 2nd holiest site

As I started telling you yesterday, Thursday was Ascension Day for the Orthodox churches.
It was my first time to see the very old Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives and to experience four different liturgies going on at once, each in a different language.

Photo opportunities were so plentiful, I don't know where to start!
Maybe we start with pictures of the processions, so you can have a better look at the interesting faces and vestments.

From time to time the Greeks or Armenians or Syrians or Copts would leave their area of the courtyard and walk in procession into the chapel.
(You remember, they are allowed to pray here but once a year by the Muslim owners, and each group sets up an awning or kind of tent for their hours-long liturgy.)

You always knew when a group was exiting the chapel by the rhythmic tapping of the kawas' ceremonial staff.
Since Ottoman Turk times, they lead the way and clear the way for the Christian clergy.
The Arab kaswassim will get a separate post in the coming days.
They are sort of like the Holy Land version of the Vatican's Swiss Guard.

Here come the Greek Orthodox.

(Click on any photo, and then again on the photo that opens, to enlarge it. Enjoy the rich detail.)

This Armenian was leading the choir of the seminary students.
There seems to be almost no spoken word in the Orthodox liturgies, only singing/chanting.

These star-shaped things with little bells were also beautiful to hear.

The very old Syrian Orthodox church still uses Aramaic (mixed with some Arabic) for their prayers.

Indeed, if you closed your eyes to the lay people in modern dress yesterday and just focused on the look and sound of the clergy, you could imagine you were far back in the earliest Christian centuries in Jerusalem.


cloudia charters said...

But who's side is God on????

Friendly Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

> < } } (°>

Robert Geiss said...

Thank you for this adventure, and honour to have been part of it through your pictures.

Please have a good weekend ahead.

Sara said...

That was a stunning array, thank you Dina. The fabrics and embroideries are amazing, as well as the designs and headgear. And what unusual candlesticks with candles that cross over each other.

Haddock said...

Love these pictures.
But I don't think way back in those days the clergy wore such opulent dresses.

Scrappy Grams said...

love the reverence and pageantry of this! such beautiful designs on the priests' chasubles.

Petrea Burchard said...

Indeed, the costumes and pageantry make it seem very much of the old world. It's food for the imagination.

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

You live in a fascinating city: such sights, sounds and smells!

Reader Wil said...

You know more about the various churches than I. Though I love the fact that these churches worship together. When I was young I went to work in ecumenical workcamps during the holidays.. That was wonderful.
Tomorrow is Whitsuntide, which we celebrate in church with a festive service. Thanks for the wonderful photos of Ascencion Day.
My computer is out of order, which means that I can only post the scheduled entries. I am working now on my iPad. I have to buy a new video card. That won't be too difficult, I think.

Pat said...

Oh, Dina, these are wonderful pictures of all the different groups celebrating Ascension Day. It's very colorful and majestic.