Monday, January 18, 2010

Divine Liturgy at the Holy Sepulchre

At 11:00 PM on New Year's Eve, we walked over from our hostel to the Holy Sepulchre. The two entrances into the courtyard were closed, and a small group gathered waiting for them to open.

In the photo above, you can see me and a priest from Ukraine waiting just outside one of the entrances.

The church is open from, I believe, 4:00 AM until 8:00 PM, and there are so many tourists that the Orthodox actually never do liturgy at that time -- they always do vigils between about 11 PM and 3 AM, hoping thus for some quiet.

Around 11:30, the gates finally opened and a small group of probably around 30 people total went in.

Here I am inside the main church (you can see me in the far door into the altar area), which is directly opposite the Holy Sepulchre.

We started Orthros at 11:30, which was read and chanted primarily by these two monks. About 10 minutes into Orthros, the Catholics, who have a small church adjacent to the Orthodox Church, started their mass with a thundering organ accompaniment that reverberated throughout the whole structure.

Since it was New Year's Eve, the Catholics had also decided to have a service, and all of us were forced to endure it. The soppy organ music continued without stop for the next 45 minutes. In the altar, we couldn't hear one word of Orthros and actually had to have someone go back and forth to let us know where we were in the service so that we could respond when necessary.

The service was led by His Eminence Archbishop Theodosios (Hanna) of Sebastia (who has an interesting story, as you'll see in the link), and in addition to one hieromonk and one hierodeacon from the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, we also had one Ukrainian priest, one Russian priest, me, and one Russian deacon.

I asked the archbishop about the Catholic's organ music, and he said usually they did not have this problem, but that it did occur on special occasions.

On Fridays, the Orthodox celebrate the Liturgy not in the main church but upstairs in the chapel located on the very spot where Christ was crucified. Toward the end of Orthros then, just as the organ concerto had finished, the archbishop motioned for all the clergy to follow him up some stairs located in the back of the altar area which lead up to the chapel on Golgotha.

Here we are in the middle of Liturgy on Golgotha.

At the Great Entrance. The Brotherhood provided us with very nice vestments which feature the emblem of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Unfortunately, we didn't get to keep them. :)

Here I am receiving Holy Communion from Archbishop Theodosios.

Here we are toward the end of the Liturgy. Below is a scan of a photo that the Patriarch gave us of the inside of the Holy Sepulchre, in which Christ was buried and rose again. Also below is a 3-minute video my dad took during the Divine Liturgy.

After the Liturgy, we were invited for a coffee and a snack with the archbishop and the Brotherhood. We stayed for a few minutes and then, around 3:00 AM, we headed back to the hostel to get a couple hours sleep before heading out on a trip to the Dead Sea early the next morning.

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