Monday, February 11, 2013

Bethesda

"Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate, there is a pool called in Hebrew, Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes.  In these lay many invalids - blind, lame and paralyzed.  One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, 'Do you want to be made well?'  The sick man answered him, 'Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.'   Jesus said to him, 'Stand up, take your mat and walk.' At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk."  John 5:2-9 
The Pools of Bethesda were built originally as part of a water supply system.  Afterwards, grottos were dug out to the east of the pools to provide a water cistern and baths for medical or religious purposes.  The pools have been known as places of healing.  
Throughout history, many have come to seek relief from their illnesses into these pools, which are impressive in size.  According to the Gospel of John, it was here that Jesus met and healed the man who had been ill for 38 years.
During the Byzantine and Crusader eras, Christians built large churches
 in honor of the healing of the paralytic.  
The churches also commemorated Mary's birthplace, traditionally located in this area.  

Today, the Church of St Anne stands next to the pools of Bethesda.  The church was built by the Crusaders around the year 1130 and dedicated to St. Anne, Mary's mother.  The church, built in the Romanesque style, is one of the most beautiful Crusader churches in the Holy Land.  

After the defeat of the Crusaders, Saladin (the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria) turned the church into a school to foster the Islamic faith.  In 1856, the Ottoman Turks presented the site to France in gratitude for their support during the Crimean war.  The church was eventually restored to its former condition.  
The acoustics in St Anne's, designed for Gregorian chant, are considered to be perfect in combination with the human voice.  Choirs arrive to sing all throughout the day and our group sang "Jesus Loves Me" to hear the sound.  The church guidelines state that only religious songs are to be sung in the abbey.  
This statue depicts St Anne and her daughter, Mary.  

The masonry work was incredible and it is considered to be the best preserved church of all the Crusader churches in Israel.   It is beautiful and serene in its simplicity.  

This beautiful mural is located downstairs, which is part of a cave that was built into the mountain.  This cave would have been a section of the house where Mary, mother of Jesus, lived as a little girl.  Across the way, was an altar to remember her.  
The entrance to the church was welcoming and peaceful.   
Our time was well spent to visit this small Catholic church located in the 
Muslim Quarter close to the Temple Mount.  

This statue proudly stands in the courtyard of St Anne's representing the French Cardinal Lavigerie, the founder of the order of African missionaries, also known as the White Fathers (of Africa).  

The church today is owned by the French government and run by the White Fathers.   The habit of the missionaries resembles the white robes of the Algerian Arabs (hence the name) with a cassock and a mantle.  A rosary and cross are worn around their neck.   The White Fathers were founded in order to evangelize the nations within Africa and the group later spread to other parts of the world.  

1 comment:

Janet said...

What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing. This is a part of Israel I did not get to see. It certainly makes me want to visit it all the more seeing your photos. Particularly the Romanesque church, I'd want to go there with a small choir to sing a hymn in harmony with them.

Chris