The Church of Pater Noster is the place where Jesus taught his disciples the Our Father. The Church is located on the top of Mount Olives and is open from 8am-noon, 2-5pm (Sunday closed). It is part of a Carmelite monastery built in 1872 and is also known as the Sanctuary of the Eleona or the Church of the Disciples. The Byzantine ruins of this Church dates back to the 4th century and stands right next to the new Church.

When the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great declared Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, his mother, Helena, came to Jerusalem in search of sites that were associated with Jesus during his life. Helena was convinced that from here, Jesus ascended to heaven, and thus ordered the construction of the first Byzantine church at this site.

Hence was built one of the first three Churches by Constantine, the others being the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Today the land on which both churches and the entire monastery stand, formally belongs to France. It was an Italian woman, Aurelia Bossie, who on her second marriage wed a member of the French Royalty and became the Princess de la Tour d’Auvergne. It was Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne, a French Jew who had converted to Christianity, who convinced her to purchase the property in 1868.  

Later in that same century, a pilgrim to the Holy Land named Egeria ( perhaps a nun) who is widely regarded to be the author of a detailed account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land ( 380 AD) referred to this church as the Church of the Eleona, which means the ‘Mount of Olives’ in Greek. Egeria based her reference on the Second Acts of John, where the existence of a cave on the Mount of Olives associated with the teaching of Jesus, in general, is mentioned. There is no specific documentation to state that the Lord ’s Prayer was taught at this spot.

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Kidron Valley

Mount Scopus in the North East of Jerusalem overlooks the Kidron Valley. The Kidron Valley begins at Mount Scopus and stretches all the way down south and then turns east, 21 miles and spills at the Dead Sea. From Mount Scopus one sees the Old City of Jerusalem and the Golden Dome on which Abraham bound his son Isaac in fulfillment of God’s command to sacrifice his only son on the rock.  It was here that King Solomon’s temple (960 BC) which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC and the second temple built by the exiles and destroyed by the Romans once stood.

The Kidron valley was a kind of an Eastern border between Jerusalem and the wilderness. Jewish law does not permit the burial of the dead within the city but only outside. It is for this reason the Mount of Olives was the necropolis or the city of the dead.

In the Book of Samuel we read that the young shepherd from the city of David (the original city of David was Bethlehem) had to deal with many challenges after he becomes king, one of them being the rebellion of his son, Absalom.  When Absalom came back from Hebron, he wanted to seize the kingdom from his father David. David was merciful and even though he could have killed his son, he chooses to flee (2 Samuel 15) through the Kidron valley into the wilderness. The people of Israel advised David to take the arc of the covenant with him but he chose to keep it in the city because he believe that the arc of the covenant is not his but God’s.

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The way UP is DOWN – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary time – year C – Luke 14, 1, 7-14

Most people want the front of the bus, the back of the Church and the centre of attraction and that’s an interesting way of looking at today’s Gospel except that the Gospel has much more for us to cud on.

As usual Jesus is at a dinner and as one commentator put it so well, Jesus ate his way through the Gospels! And so here he is, at the home of a Pharisee perhaps a prominent one too. Interesting I have reason to suspect the Pharisees motive for inviting Jesus.

The Pharisees, by and large, were no friends of Jesus and neither was he a member of their mutual admiration society. Jesus has attacked the Pharisees on numerous accounts because of their duplicity of life. Now a Pharisees invites him over ON THE SABBATH (see verse 1) and we are told they are watching Him.

Interestingly, the scripture of today’s Gospel skips out the part where at this meal a man with dropsy seems to be planted by the Pharisees in this home. A further reading of the Gospel tells us that the Pharisees were scrambling for the best seats which further strengthens my belief that this was no meal to honour Jesus but a ploy to trap him and see if he would heal the man; which He did after duly chastising the Pharisees.

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Gethsemane and the Church of all Nations

The Church of all Nations is also called the Basilica of the Agony or the Basilica of Gethsemane. This is a Roman Catholic Church located on the Mount of Olives, east of the Kidron Valley, between the path up the mountain and the busy Jericho Road. The Garden of Gethsemane which in Aramaic means ‘olive press’ occupies an area of approximately 1,200 square meters.

The eight trees with gnarled trunks are older than any olive trees and in 1982 the University of California carried out radiocarbon-dating tests on some root material from Gethsemane. The results indicated that some of the wood could be dated back 2300 years. Walking along the enclosure of the grove one can also see the olive tree planted by Paul VI on 4 January 1964 during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Mount of Olives is strewn with olive trees, sadly most pilgrims think that this enclosed  is all that is left.

The first Church was built in 379 during the Byzantine period over a place made holy by the prayer and agony of Christ. This Basilica was then destroyed by the Persians in 614 and in the 12th century was rebuilt by the Crusaders. The present Church of all nations was built between the years 1919 and 1924. Twelve nations contributed towards the building of the Church and to honour these nations the Church has 12 domes, one for each contributing nation.

The façade has a portico with four columns and wedged between them are statues of the four evangelists. The mosaic in gold which dazzles when gazed at from Mt Zion has at its centre Jesus as he kneels in agony between the material world and his Father who holds a plaque with the first and last alphabets of the Greek language. Six angels are depicted in the mosaic, one of whom receives His heart which He sacrificed for humanity. The robes of Jesus are in red depicting his humanity (the colour of blood) 

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Chapel of the Ascension – Acts 1:9-11

Six hundred and fifty feet north of the Pater Noster Church(Our Father) is the Chapel of the Ascension which is also a mosque. The chapel sits on the top of the Mount of Olives. When St Helena came to the Holy Land she was shown the place where today stands the Church of the Pater Noster as the spot of the Ascension.

By the time the pilgrim Egeria’s (possibly a nun) traveled to Jerusalem in 384, the spot of veneration had been moved to the present location, uphill from the cave. Another tradition holds that it was  Egeria who in her detailed account of the Holy Land found two footprints in the rock which can be seen in the Chapel of the Ascension. (http://www.ccel.org/m/mcclure/etheria/etheria.htm

An aerial view of the Chapel on the top of the Mount of Olives

Right after this discovery a circular Byzantine church was built surrounding the rock on which was believed to be the footprint of Jesus. The Byzantine church was destroyed and rebuilt several times but finally destroyed in 1198 AD by Saladin who led the Ottoman (Turkish) army.

However while the Church was destroyed the central dome around the foot print was left intact by the Ottomans as there is a shared belief in the Ascension by the Muslims. The Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but raised to Heaven directly without Resurrection before Ascension (An-Nisaa’ 4:157-159). The mark that we see today is believed to be the imprint of Jesus’ right foot since the section bearing Jesus’ left footprint was taken to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the middle ages.

Inside the Chapel at the imprint of the foot of Jesus

The Chapel of the Ascension, as it stands today, holds only the sacred spot. What stands around it are the base of the columns, remnants of the Church built by the crusaders. The chapel that we see today includes several changes made by the Muslims. They sealed the area between the pillars of the shrine enclosing the foot print of Jesus and added a dome to the structure while adding a mihrab – a prayer niche in the wall facing Mecca.  A mosque with a minaret was added next to the Chapel in 1620 however the entire site remains in Muslim possession.

 Fr Warner D’souza

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