THE WORLD AROUND US
 
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (In Arabic)      
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Today’s The World Around Us will be presented in Arabic, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Greetings noble viewers, and welcome to The World Around Us. In today’s episode, we’ll be visiting the place where the compassionate enlightened Master Jesus Christ spent the last days of his physical life in sacrifice to humankind, according to Christian belief.

The site, in the Holy City of Jerusalem, is now known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or, to Eastern Orthodox Christians, the Church of the Resurrection. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was first built by Emperor Constantine in 333 after his mother Queen Helena found the site of Golgotha, the place where Lord Jesus was crucified.

The present-day church is a restoration done in the 12th century. It is now managed by various Christian communions, including the Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, Greek Orthodox, etc, and is revered as one of the holiest sites in Christendom. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a magnificent structure with many altars and points of interest. The most important parts of the church are probably the last five of the 14 stations along the Via Dolorosa, or the Way of the Cross, which trace beloved Jesus’ laborious footsteps.

The exterior appearance of the church is characterized by two domes; the larger dome is over the round hall where a burial site of Jesus is located, and the smaller dome is over the Catholicon hall. Outside the church is an open courtyard. During Holy Week, the week before Easter celebrating Jesus’ ascension, a traditional ceremony of washing feet is held here. It commemorates the event that Jesus Christ lovingly washed his apostles’ feet. This simple ceremony demonstrates the humble, serving spirit of a great person.

As Master Jesus stated, “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.”

On the north side of the yard are two entrances. The left one leads one into the church. On the right of these two entrances is a stairway leading to the Chapel of the Franks, which is Station Ten of the Cross. This chapel is believed to be the place where Jesus took off his clothes before crucifixion.

In the church, there is a stairway on the right leading to the second floor on which there are two further stations of the Via Dolorosa. Station Eleven of the Cross, also known as the Nails of the Cross Altar, is where the hill of Golgotha was located.

Located behind the wall of the Chapel of the Franks, the nave houses a Latin Franciscan altar and features a mosaic figure of Jesus in the high ceiling from the 12th century. Behind the altar is another mosaic, which depicts the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and a holy woman at the foot of the cross.

Next to the Latin Calvary is the Greek Calvary. The nave was built around the actual Rock of Golgotha found here. Protected under glass, the rocky outcropping can be seen from each side of the main altar. Under the altar is a silver disk with a central hole through which pilgrims can touch the stone. Watching over the altar are the icons of the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist standing on both sides of Jesus Christ.

Characterized by glittering silver and golden colors with Greek motif, the place is imbued with a unique holy atmosphere. Indeed, it was at this spot where Master Jesus showed his infinite love and tolerance towards those who tortured him, praying to God, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

This was also the place where he delivered his last words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”

At the moment that Jesus is said to have breathed his last upon the cross, there was a shattering earthquake. A Roman centurion witnessed it and exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The temblor made a crack on a rock, which can be seen through the glass in the Chapel of Adam in the church. The chapel is named after Adam, the first man on Earth, because his relics were found here.

After he was dead, Jesus was removed from the cross and laid on a stone, which is now known as the Stone of Anointing. As recorded in the Bible, “Then they took the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”

Located right at the entrance of the church, the stone commemorates the preparation of Jesus’ body for burial. Visitors kneel there, touching and kissing the stone, to express their reverent love for Master Jesus. Above the stone slab are opulent lamps, each donated by different Christian denominations, including Armenians, Copts, Greeks and Latins. Behind the stone is a wall mosaic, which depicts Christ’s preparation for burial.

The final station of Via Dolorosa is a small structure that houses the tomb of Jesus, which is located in the center of the round hall called Anastasis (Resurrection). Over the small structure is the church’s big dome, which reaches 11 meters in height, 20 meters in diameter, held aloft by 18 massive columns.

Through a narrow door on the east side, visitors are allowed to enter the inner chamber of the tomb. The first room is called the Chapel of the Angel, which stores a piece of the stone used to seal the tomb after Jesus’ burial. It is believed that after Jesus’ resurrection, the stone was moved away by an angel.

As said in the Bible, “For the angel of the Lord descended from Heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.”

The second room is the tomb of Jesus itself. A marble lid covers it. The church also houses some tombs dating to the first century, which serve as a further evidence supporting the fact that this is the actual site of Jesus’ burial. Jesus Christ returned to life three days after the crucifixion. When Mary Magdalene and other disciples paid visit to the tomb, they found it empty. As recorded in the Gospel of John,

“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher.” Jesus said, “Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.””

The location where Mary Magdalene met Master Jesus is on the north side of the rotunda. There is now a small Franciscan chapel dedicated to her. The chapel is named “Mi mou aptou,” meaning “touch me not,” to commemorate Christ’s words.

At one point, Jesus was housed with two thieves in a prison, which is located in the north-east side of the church. One of the thieves repented for his sins, asking for Jesus’ forgiveness, saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

And Jesus replied, “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Today, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, there is a chapel located on the north side of the main altar dedicated to the penitent thief, Saint Dismas.

Every year on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter day, a miraculous ceremony of the Holy Fire takes place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The origin of the ceremony can be dated to the 4th century. On that day, the Greek Orthodox patriarch enters the Tomb of Christ alone, after reciting hymns and prayers.

Before he enters the chamber, Jewish Israeli authorities would make sure that he doesn’t carry any means to light the fire. Then, the congregation chants the Kyrie prayer until the patriarch comes out with white candles spontaneously lit by the Resurrection power. The fire is then passed to the crowd. Pilgrims reported that the Holy Fire did not burn anything for the first several minutes of its appearance.

This concludes our journey through the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The place reminds us of the boundless love and sacrifice of a living Master for his disciples and the whole world. May all be inspired and live a spiritual life as God’s children.

Faithful viewers, thank you for joining us on The World Around Us. Please now stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for Words of Wisdom, after Noteworthy News. Blessed be your pure hearts and noble deeds.

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