Today we had a chance to drive up to the top of the Mount of Olives and to look across the Necropolis of Jerusalem to the where the Dome of the Rock stands – where the Temple stood in Jesus’ time.
I knew intellectually that there view from the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron valley to the Temple was important to helping unlock additional meaning in what is called the “mini apocalypse” in Mark’s Gospel, but until I stood there and saw the details with my own eyes, I didn’t understand the full reality of what I had been told. Today I got it.
Somehow in the moment of hearing the Friday prayers and sermon from Al Asqua Mosque, visiting the Western Wall, looking to where the Holy of Holies had been, seeing smoke rise from where Gehenna had been and even visiting the Garden where Jesus prayed on Maundy Thursday night – which is right in the midst of the necropolis – I realized that all of this was a part of the prophetic actions of Christ in Holy Week. Every location that I had read about had a deeper meaning and context when placed into its historical location. Everything was much closer and much more intimate than I had ever imagined. Every location in the story of Holy Week could be seen from where the apocalypse had been told.
I tried to imagine what it must have been like on Maundy Thursday as the “crucified” passover lambs where being carried down the steps of the of the Temple, toward the Kidron, toward the garden, toward the graves. And imagining the deeper meaning of the true lamb, gathering his disciples in the Upper room to celebrate, to share in their lamb, and in the Lamb as they began their passover feast.
I have been told that part of the key to prayer in the mystic tradition is to be able to see the deeper levels of reality in the everyday. Standing at the top of the Mount of Olives, looking at where the Passion happened, and remembering when it happened, I had just a moment of that sort of seeing.
I guess I now understand why so many people have told me that I wouldn’t be able to fully grasp the whole story of Holy Week and the Triduum unless I came to Jerusalem to see. The events had to happen here, in the way they did – not in a corner someplace else, or in a different city as a sort of holy folly. They had to happen here so that the full meaning of Jesus’ death could be taught.