Sunday, August 26, 2012

At Mary's tomb--lots of praying going on

Today, on the calendar of the Armenian Orthodox, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is celebrated.
We came here, to visit the Church of the Tomb of Mary in Gethsemane a few days ago; and then,
judging by the entrance, the old Crusader church looked deserted.

But once inside, we were surprised by the smell of incense and the sound of chanting and singing, all over the place!
We waited as the Armenians began the liturgy near the side chapels and then followed them down the 47 stairs to the underground part of the church.

The Armenians continued prayers in front of the sepulcher of Mary.
On the other side of the tomb another liturgy was in progress, but I could not pass through to see who; probably the Syrian Orthodox or the Greek Orthodox, maybe Ethiopians.
The Copts were praying at their own altar, and I can show you those photos in the days to come.
My visiting American Protestant friends did not know what to make of all this, but I enjoyed it very much.
UPDATE: I have added information in the Comments in answer to readers' questions.
(A post for Our World Tuesday.)


Birdman said...

I am still charmed by the smell on incense too. It rockets me back in time. I quite love its power.

VP said...

It gets complicated at times...

Fran said...

One of my favorite places in all Jerusalem! Thank you, I am transported back by your words!

Suzanne said...

Ah, I can smell the aroma and hear the chanting now.

Spiderdama said...

It was the same thing when I visit. I remember the smell and all the hanging lights. Bit mysterious, but so many different ways to worship and praying.

Wish you a blessed week Dina:-)

Kay said...

You know what, Dina. I'm thinking you must know more about Christianity than many Christians.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this adventure and traveling through time very much !

Petrea Burchard said...

Spiderdama used the word "mystery," and that's a good one. I wonder how it is known that the body of Mary is in this tomb. Must do some reading. Wonderful post, Dina.

Dina said...

Petrea, it is the "tradition" that Mary was buried here.
In any case, her body is not in the tomb.
According to the Catholic Catechism, Mary, "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."
This is what the Feast of Assumption is about. This doctrine became a dogma only in 1950, when Pope Pius XII declared it as such.
But as you say, it's better just to see all this as mystery.

Cloudia said...

Ah the simple Protestant! To whom a Catholic is "different" and a Coptic must seem from another world! LOL

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

Hels said...

The entrance to Mary's tomb looks as if it should have been much taller. Perhaps the ground level has risen, over hundreds and hundreds of years.

Dina said...

Helen, my WiseGuide book says this about your question:

"The Byzantines first turned this sepulchral cave into a church in the 5th century, and later built a sumptuous basilica over it. The basilica did not appeal to the Persians who, when they conquered Jerusalem, destroyed it. Around 1130 the Crusaders reclaimed the site and fortified it. Of course, such a fortress was exactly what caused Saladin to level it again.
But because Mary was considered the mother of Jesus, whom Islam deemed a prophet, the Moslems refrained from damaging the burial cave and spared the Crusader entrance gate above ground, which survives to this day."

Robin said...

How fascinating, and it makes a wonderful photo opp too :).

Petrea Burchard said...

Thank you, Dina! The history of the structure itself is fascinating. And to think Jerusalem is filled with history and structures like this.

Rob Mandy said...

Dina, check our blog tomorrow, we've sent you an invite... Layla tov!

Gary said...

Really fascinating post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Fun60 said...

Really interesting set of photos and commentary.

Genie said...

Dina...What a thrill to see your pictures of the procession and visitation to the sepulcher of Mary. I did not know that Pope Pius XII made the Feast of the Assumption dogma. I love the smell of incense. It brings back memories of many happy y ears in a girl's boarding school run by Dominican nuns. I have smelled it stunning odor many times in my life. Thank you again for a wonderful post. I have learned so much from reading your blog. genie