By Heather O.
On Sunday, J was invited to a impromptu birthday party, which was pretty perfect, as we had no plans and DH was teaching that day. (Remember, the Sabbath is on Saturday over here.) So after I packed him off to have glorious thumb wars and wrestling fights with other 9 year olds and their siblings, Little Sister and I had a little mommy/daughter date in the Old City.
I had wanted to see the Pools of Bethesda, or at least what is left of them. The pools are located along the Via Delarosa, or The Way of Suffering, traditionally thought to be the path Christ walked as he carried his cross up the hill to be crucified.
Like most traditional pilgrimage sites, there is a church built near the pools, in this case, one dedicated to Mary’s mother, St. Anne. It’s a small church, and said to have awesome acoustics for singing, which is not only allowed, but actively encouraged. So with my girl chirping next to me, I sat in the church, waiting for it to clear out, so I could do some singing. When the Italian tour group ahead of us left, and the church was empty, I took Little Sister up to the altar, which is beneath a large arch, and sang “I am a child of God”.
Either Little Sister doesn’t know the words nearly as well as I thought she did, or she was intimidated by the space, or she was just mad there wasn’t any candy anywhere, but she stopped singing, which meant I sang most of it solo. I took my time, enjoying the sound of the echo as I sang all three verses of the song, thinking I was alone.
While my back was turned to the chapel, the tour group had returned and filled it. When I took Little Sister’s hand and turned to exit, I saw 30 Italian faces staring silently at me. Some had their video camera out. One person silently clapped.
I was mortified. I hadn’t planned to perform for anybody. So, I grabbed Little Sister’s hand and practically ran out of the church, head down so I wouldn’t have to look anyone in the face.
Still, I was moved, more so than I’ve been probably the entire trip. The simplicity of the church was appealing–it was small and mostly unadorned. The ruins of the pools kinda looked like every other ruin we’ve seen, but they do have a stairway down about 2 stories to some underground cisterns, so it was easy to imagine that water bubbling up into pools, agitating the water, making people believe angels were stirring it, turning the waters into something miraculous. After wandering around in the heat for a while, Little Sister wanted to go back to the chapel to sing again, and this time, there was a choir singing. They were American tourists this time, and they were singing a song I didn’t recognize. But the beauty of the music, the echoing harmonies, the simple expression of their faith and love for Jesus Christ, brought me to tears, and I joined in towards the third chorus with my own harmony.
Nature and music. That’s what does it for me.
And I have to say, after the jet propelled fairies, it’s nice to know I can still feel the Spirit after all.
Eventually, after meandering down the Via Delarosa for another half and hour or so, Little Sister declared she was tired and ready to go home. We hopped on an Arab bus to take us home, part of our now familiar routine. But this time, the driver stopped me before I got on. The bus was full, and he wanted to know where I was going. He obviously thought I was a lost tourist, getting on the wrong bus.
“French Hill”, I told him.
“Before the bridge?” he said.
Actually, I was planning on getting dropped off just under the bridge, but I figured it was too fine a point to argue, so I just nodded and paid for my seat. I got Little Sister settled, and she was relaxed as we drove through the city towards home. Then, much farther from home than I would have liked, the bus stops and the driver shouts out in English, “Excuse me! French Hill! Get off, please!”
I knew where we were, and it wasn’t where I wanted to get off. I shook my head and called up to the driver, “No, farther, farther. Keep going.”
“NO!” he said, “This is where I told you! Before the bridge, you get off NOW!” He was emphatic, and I wasn’t sure what to do. So, I got off. And then watched as he drove away, exactly where I knew he would, exactly where I knew I wanted to get off. Sighing, I boosted Little Sister onto my hip, and she slumped against me in a sleepy haze as I trudged the extra quarter of a mile towards home.
Holy relics, singing pilgrims, grumpy Arab bus drivers. Man I’m going to miss this place.
WordPress database error: [Can't open file: 'wp_comments.MYI' (errno: 144)]
SELECT * FROM wp_comments WHERE comment_post_ID = '2439' AND comment_approved = '1' ORDER BY comment_date