In God’s Land: The Temple of Jerusalem

26 09 2019
Second Temple of Jerusalem built by Herod

The Temple is located in Mount Moriah, over the rock on which God commanded Abraham was to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22). Though he eventually sacrificed a ram instead of his son, that sacrifice created a blood bound between the Jews and God.

Solomon built the first Temple on that rock to commemorate the blood-bond, and since then, every Jews from all around the world would come three times a year to renew that sacrifice. The Jews also believe that the rock of Moriah is the foundation of the world because God specifically wanted Isaac sacrificed on it.

There are three covenants feast days in Israel; first is the covenant on Mt. Sinai when God revealed to them the Torah; they keep this day a feast in all Israel, and they call it the Shavuot or the Feast of Pentecost.
The second is Yom Kippur, a day of atonement, and the holiest day of the year in which they recite; the Shema (Hear oh Israel) as a way of remembering the promises and the third is the feast of Hanukkah or “the miracle of light” a remembrance of the time when the bottle of oil was refilling itself, as Judas Macabee rededicated the Temple profaned by Antiochus Epiphanies.

All the sacrifices in the Temple were done over the rock of Moriah just like Abraham did. The rock was enclosed in the chamber just before the room called Holy of Holies where the Arc of the Covenant rested

In the year 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, defeated Israel, ransacked and destroyed the first Temple and stole the Ark of the Covenant and it was lost forever.

When Herod came to power, there was already another temple, the second Temple built by Zerubabel, 520 BC but he didn’t like the fact that the access to the Temple was narrow, so he began the expansion of the Temple. He used rocks from the mountain to build temple and it took him 46 years! So you could understand why people where angry when Jesus said he will rebuild the temple in 3 days.
In the Temple, the room called the Holy of Holies was oriented towards the west, which is towards sunset, while the rest of the building was oriented towards the east.

Jesus and his mother came to this Temple re-built by Herod, and it was in this Temple that Jesus went missing for three days while his mother and his father was looking for him.

Roman Emperor Vespasian and his son, Titus, to suppress the Jewish rebellion, destroyed the second Temple in 70AD, fulfilling Jesus’ prophesy in Matthew 24:1-2, Jesus prophesied that the Temple of Jerusalem would be destroyed and that its destruction would be so complete that not one stone would left on another.

Herod’s Temple wall was so big and so compact that to destroy it, they had to explosives and the explosions were heard as far away as in Jericho 150km from Jerusalem. The Roman soldier expected to find gold when they broke into the holy of holies, but there was nothing. They left the ruins for centuries, without building anything on it, perhaps to rob salt into the wounds of the Jewish people and make it clear that they were totally defeated.

65 years after the destruction, some remnant Jews regrouped and came back to rebuild the Temple. Led by Rabbi Simon bar Kokhba, they attacked and wiped out the 22nd legion of the Romans army stationed in Jerusalem. This is known as the Bar Kokhba revolt. They established an independent Jewish state which they ruled for three years.
In 135 AD, Roman Emperor Hadrian left Rome with a huge army to crush the revolt. He destroyed 700 villages, and killed one million Jews and sold the rest to slavery at the port city of Caesarea Maritime. It was said that there were so many Jewish slaves that the slave market collapsed. You could buy a healthy Jewish girl for a pair of sandals.

Hadrian emptied Jerusalem of the Jews and brought in all the enemies of the Jewish people to live in Jerusalem. He was the one that brought the Philistines, Palestinian, Syrians and the Edomites. That’s why you have a grand conflict here.

In the 7th century with the first Islamic expansion, the Muslims came and built a mosque over the rock of Moriah, which is today called the Dome of the Rock.

Pictures of Muslim Mosque called the Dome of the rock standing where Herod Temple once stood

We saw the quarry Herod used and the water system that the harmonium 200BC used to bring water to the temple

We went down the tunnel from the western wall all the way to the Antonio fortress viewing the original wall built by Herod. We saw the rituals bathrooms. It was custom that everyone coming into the temple had to take a rituals bath, coming from far. Then they will buy a rituals bathrobe, they would put on a white robe, change their money

Before the six days war, Israel was divided into east and west Jerusalem, with East Jerusalem belonging to Jordan. After Israel won the six day war, they unified Jerusalem under Israeli control and the walls dividing the city were torn down, they gained control and access to the Temple and made it possible for archeologist to begin excavations below the temple to discover the remains of their ancient past.
Each time the archeologists worked, though, there was a trouble with the Muslim who now occupy the temple mount are afraid that the Israelis are doing something under there that will make them fall down.

Despite the Muslim Mosque, “ Dome of the Rock” now standing where the Temple once stood, the children of Israel still believe that the presence of God is still on this mountain, on the Western wall. So they go there to pray , though they can no longer sacrifice the customary ram, the still pray and put pieces of paper .The custom of putting papers on the wall is because in those days not everyone could come to temple, they would give a prayer request to a friend to put in the wall

Pictures of Western Wall or Wailing Wall

We stood in front of where the holy of Holy temple

We saw the base of mount Moriah and we stood on a street paved by the Hasmonean Dynasty when there was no wall.

Standing at the entrance of the tunnel

Pictures under the tunnel of the Temple

We saw the system of tunnels to bring water from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. These tunnels were rebuilt by Herod to channel water to the temple. The waters are collected in cisterns. The temple needs water because of all the animals killed there. We came out directly one the Fortress of Antonio, also called Ecce homo, which is in the Muslims quarters

Lectures on Antonia Fortress

Herod built the Antonia Fortress to help the Romans keep an eye on the Temple because the Jews asked them not to enter into the temple area. Though the Roman agreed, because of fear of the huge crowd, they requested that Herod build a Fortress Antonia next to the Temple, from where they could house legions to deploy incase trouble broke out in the temple, like a rapid reaction squad. Even Pilate didn’t live in Jerusalem, but in Caesarea Maritime, yet, he would come to Jerusalem, to the Fortress, for the feast and keep an eye out for trouble.

Ecce Homo

In 1857, Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne, a French Jew and former atheist who converted to Catholicism and became a priest, decided to purchase the site and start a convent The sisters of Zion whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Muslims.

The sister of Zion, found on the pavement to an etching of a game by Roman soldiers discovered in 1864 involving the execution of a “monk king”, the flagstones of Gabbatha, which John 19:13 describes as the location where Pontius Pilate adjudged Jesus’ trial

Lithostrotos: Roman pavement, the site of Jesus’ trial at the Antonia Fortress. An etching of the game of the Kings, a game played by Roman soldiers which they throw dice until one loses is the called king; this was what they did to Jesus. According to Bill Slot, “The Kings Game:” an actual board game etched into the stones, on which the Roman soldiers played to pass the time in between guard shifts or patrol duty, tossing dice carved from sheep knuckles and moving tokens around a crown-shaped board. This game, known to historians as Basileus, has been found throughout the Roman Empire, wherever soldiers were fighting off boredom. Many Christian scholars have considered the irony of “The King’s Game” in the very place where, a century earlier, Roman soldiers had mocked Jesus, “King of the Jews,” crowning him with thorns, dressing him in royal purple and taunting him.

We celebrated Mass at the Church of Ecce Homo.

Pictures as we walked to the Church of Ecce Home after exiting the tunnels

Basilica of Ecce Homo, named for Pontius Pilate’s Ecce homo speech which is traditionally thought to have taken place on the pavement below the church.

Mass at Ecce Homo

Between 1858 and 1862, he built a basilica (the Church of Ecce Homo), which overlaps part of the gateway arch called Ecce homo. Though, the arch itself is not from the time of Pilate, still it is in this very place, in the Antonia Fortress, that that Jesus was mocked.

Jewish quarters

After destroying Jerusalem, Hadrian built a new city on the ruins and called it Aelia Capitolina and built the Cardo Maximus generally lined with shops and vendors, and served as a hub of economic life. Cardo Maximus is still visible on the Jewish Quarter Street, though the original pavement lies several meters below the modern street level. In the 7th century, when Jerusalem fell under Muslim rule, the Cardo became an Arab-style marketplace. Remains of the Byzantine Cardo were found in the Jewish Quarter excavations

Walking through the Jewish Quarter and Cardo Maximus

The Jewish Quarter is one of the four traditional quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem
The quarter is inhabited by around 2,000 residents Jews and is home to numerous yeshivas and synagogues, most notably the Hurva Synagogue, destroyed numerous times and rededicated in 2010.(source Wikipedia)

Visit to the Hurva Synagogue





In God’s Land: Nazareth and Mount of Transfiguration

21 09 2019

20th September 2019

We had early breakfast, by 6.30am to be precise, and departed for Nazareth by 7.20 am prompt. Nazareth has about 70,000 inhabitants today, but in the time of Jesus, it had just about 100 people. It is a two hour drive from the city of Jerusalem.

We took the shortest way; high way 6, because we needed to get there on time to see Nazareth and celebrate Mass is at 11 am at the Church of Annunciation.

Our mission is to visit Mary’s well; a well that ancient tradition says was frequently used by the Blessed Virgin Mary and the boy, Jesus. We also hope see the workshop of St. Joseph, and the cliff from which the people of Nazareth wanted to push Jesus down in an act that is best described as an attempted murder. After Mass we intend to visit the ancient village of Cana where Jesus turned water into wine at the insistence of his mother and finally we will end our tour with a visit to mount Tabor, the mountain where Jesus transfigured and his clothes became dazzling white, in the presence of his apostles and with apparition of Moses and Elijah. (Mark 9:3)

As you can see it’s a tight schedule for one day thus the early rising.

Nazareth

350m above sea level, Nazareth was where everything started. God took flesh in the womb of a woman, the most pure womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lk 1:26-38). On the way, we saw the Chapel of our Lady of the freight, to commemorate Mary seeing the people of Nazareth trying to cast Jesus into the cliff. (Lk 4:29)

In the time of our Jesus, there were just about 30 families living in Nazareth. Today, Nazareth is the biggest Arab town owned by Israel. Most of the inhabitants are Muslims.

We entered Nazareth using the Via Maris (the way of the see), a high way that begins in Memphis in the delta of the Nile towards the lake of Galilee. We passed through the valley of the “seed of God” also called Jezreel, very fertile plain with abundance of agriculture. From the bus we saw rows and rows of cultivated fields. Agriculture is the highest export of Israel and a huge source of income. We passed through the land of Gideon
Finally we left the plains of Jezreel up to Nazareth.

Story of two Churches and Mary’s well

In Nazareth, there are two Churches of the annunciation. One belongs to the Greek Orthodox, who claims that the first apparition of Arc Angel Gabriel to Mary took place at the well whilst she was fetching water; she took fright and ran to her house. It was at the second apparition that she was finally calm enough to listen to the Angel and thus the orthodox built a Church near the well, and to give tourist something to see, they diverted the spring that fed the original Mary’s well to the Church, so Mary’s well is no longer flowing because this.

Pictures of Mary’s well

Mary’s well
Our guide, Oliver explains why Mary’s well is dry

Sad and unfortunately, this the only spring of fresh water in Nazareth, and they are using it up all for themselves.
We stopped to look the dry well of Mary, before proceeding to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, at least to have a look at the original water of the well.

Pictures of the Visit to the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation

Pictures ate the courtyard of the Greek Orthodox church of the annuciation
Seated inside the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
Roof of the Church

The grievance between the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox goes back many century and many versions of the conflicts bear the bias of who is telling the story. Some say that the bone of contention was that the fourth crusaders sacked Byzantium, stole the true cross, crown of thorns, which led to the mutual excommunications between the two branches.

The synagogue that almost murdered Jesus

Next, we visited the 1st century synagogue where the boy Jesus and his father and mother often went to pray. It was a stone throw from Mary’s house. It was here that they wanted to throw him off the cliff after he had read the scroll. The story is told in Luke

It reads:
“Jesus returned to his hometown Nazareth, from Capernaum, and he went to the synagogue. The synagogue official gave him the scroll to read, they didn’t like his interpretation and they tried to cast him of a cliff.” Luke (4:16-29)

The Jews had a custom they called Bar mitzvah in which every boy who comes of age is given the scroll of the book of the prophet Isaiah to read and afterwards asked to explain or interpret the verse he had read for all in the synagogue. If he passes, he is included as one of the ten that can start a synagogue. Jesus was given the scroll and the people didn’t like how he interpreted it and wanted to kill him.

Church of the Annunciation


When we left the synagogue, we went straight the authentic Church of the Annunciation, which is next to the synagogue. According to an ancient tradition passed on by some Fathers of the Church, some relations of Jesus were still living in Nazareth in the 2nd century had preserved both the room in which the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, and the house of the Holy Family. There are written testimonies of pilgrims who visited the house in Nazareth in the 4th century when it was already a place venerated by Christians, complete with an altar.

Pictures of the Church of the Annunciation

Catholic Church of the Annunciation
Introduction from Saxum
Walls surrounding the Church is covered with beautiful paintings of Mary from all corner of the world
Entrance
Different depictions of Mary inside the Church
Side view of the Church
Sculptor of Mary as a young girl over the entrance

The Catholic Church of Annunciation the biggest, most magnificent church in the Middle East. It was built over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era and then Crusader-era church. Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, the remains of the original childhood home of Mary. Scientific tests on the house in Loreto matches the one here, in Nazareth, likewise the graffito written on the walls and traces of oil found on the wall dating back to the time of Jesus are identical in both places.

On the front door of the Church, there is a depiction of the major events in Jesus’ life.

Pictures of the Front door of the Church

Inscriptions at the door
Designs on the wall
Pilgrims visiting the Church
Magnificent Image of our lady at the Annunciation from Philipines
magnificent depictions at the door ” the life of Mary”
Inside the upper floor
Church of the Annunciations is the biggest church in the middle east

We recited the Salve Regina inscribed on the wall on both sides of the main door. Above the door, there is a bronze sculptor of Mary as a young girl, looking towards Calvary, Jerusalem

Then on the arcades of the Church, there are paintings of Mary from different countries of the world; Germany, Japan, Philippines and so on.
In 1964, when the Church was being built, the Pope Paul VI wondered if it was necessary to have such a big Church, in such a small town, but today Christians of Nazareth are grateful because they didn’t know that they would become a minority

The Church consists of two floors. The ground floor is at the level of the grotto of the 1st century house where Mary lived, and the upper floor of the Church has many stained glass windows and paintings of Mary donated from every country in the world.

The altar piece is a magnificent painting of heaven with all the saints and martyrs walking towards eternal happiness with Mary depicted in an amazing representation as giving birth to the Church.

Pictures of the upper floor

Preparing for Mass at the Upper floor
dome of the Church

On the ground floor is original room that Mary was in when the Angel visited her. Its white stone wall blackened with age and behind a small stair case going to an upper floor

Pictures of ground floor and grotto of Mary’s house

Loswer floor, house of Mary 1st Century
Reaching up to take a shot
Standing in front of Mary’s house
Panoramic view of Mary’s house
Shot at the circle from which Mary’s house can be seen from upper floor

Nazareth means the of spring water. It is amazing how insignificant this little town had been before the birth of Jesus, for instance, the Old Testament never mentioned Nazareth, neither does Josephus, the Jewish historian, who is reputed to record anything important to the Jews. It is marvelous that God has chooses such a lowly place to come down to meet us. This should encourage everyone one who feels left behind, that God chooses the lowly and enfeebled things of this world to confound the rich and the powerful.

We attended Mass at the upper floor of the Church of Annunciation by 11 am

Pictures of the Mass

At exactly 12 noon, the bells of the Church of the Annunciation started ringing out melodies and the scene of the annunciation was reenacted as the Franciscans gave a benediction from inside the house of Nazareth while we stood aside and watched.

Pictures of Noon Benediction

Like we said earlier, this Church is the biggest Church in the Middle East, and it therefore the envy of all. In 2002, Muslims raised money to build a big mosque directly in front of the Church of the annunciation. The intended that mosque would be bigger and over shadow her glory.

The day the foundation, the fundamentalist Muslims were gleefully shouting in unison “Today Nazareth, tomorrow the world!”
But things quickly went out of control, and riots broke out, many Christian shops were burnt and looted causing the Israeli government intervene and cancel the project, forcing the Muslim to stop the constructions and uprooted the foundation already begun.

The city of Nazareth is run by Muslim families, thus sanitation is poor, laws are not enforced, and the town is badly run. In the ottoman where here for 400 yrs and they really didn’t care about the local population, so no hospitals where built. Thanks to foreign countries that mercifully came and built and built hospitals, there might not have been any hospitals in Nazareth today.

There’s a minaret and a mosque on the highest point in Nazareth. How it happened was that 23 yrs ago, a family asked if they could hire this highest point, and the owner said yes, the family lived there for a few months and then gradually built a mosque on top of the peak. The problem is that once a mosque is built, it’s impossible to remove it. That place becomes holy ground. That’s why the foundation of the one that they attempted to build over the Church of annunciation had to be removed. So they built the mosque by stealth.

After spending time in the Church of the annunciation, we walked over to another Church, called the Church of St. Joseph. It is said that the workshop in which Joseph the carpenter and the foster father of Jesus was located here. What we saw were ritual baths and what looked like a place for baptism. The workshop must have been converted into a church during the first century and hence the ritual baths.

Pictures of the Church of St Joseph

Ritual births in the Church of St. Joseph

Cana

We finally left Nazareth about 1 pm to go to Cana. We passed by the ancient Roman town of Sephoris. This town is not mentioned in bible but was very rich and close to Nazareth. Perhaps, some of Joseph’s clients lived there since it was just 3km from Nazareth and perhaps Jesus used to accompany his father there to make deliveries. Sephoris was rich Roman city, and Jesus must have seen luxurious life, huge balcony and opulence, in contrast to his cave like home in Nazareth.

Pictures on the road to Cana

Pilgrims who came to renew there marriage vows

When we entered the city of Cana, we saw that all the shops here advertise “the Wine of Cana,” the Miracle of Jesus in Cana. Archeologically, there is no certainty of the authenticity of this Cana and as it where, many other Canas have cropped up, with competing claims of being the authentic Cana of scriptures. Still, it was good to be here.

Pictures of Church of Cana

Underneath the Church at Cana

As we were at Church of Cana, a group of people came to renew their marriage vows.
Cana is about the superabundance of the grace of sacraments. We bought the wine of Cana, sweet wine

Mt. Tabor


When we left the Church of Cana, our next destination was Mount Tabor.
Tabor is on the outskirts of Cana and before we could leave Cana and get to the outskirts, we encountered lots of traffic because the Muslims were coming from the mosque and school children closing from school.

Pictures of the road to Mt. Tabor

Mt Tabor
Tabor and surrounding district
On the bus up Tabor
Church of Transfiguration at the back ground

We passed by the Bedouin town of Shibli is set at the foot of Mount Tabor. It consists of a single clan, and everyone has the same surname and they intermarry between themselves. This is not only a health hazard but a logistic nightmare for a postman who has to deliver parcels to them.

We had a quick lunch at the base of Mt. Tabor before boarding taxis that took us up to the peak of Mt Tabor. Tabor is 640m above sea level and this is where Jesus transfigured before three of his apostles, Peter James and John. Moses and Elijah appear during the transfiguration. This is also where in the Old Testament, Deborah fought and killed the Canaanites.

Church of Mt. Tabor

Nowhere in the gospel is the Tabor mentioned, yet Jesus chose this mount to display his glory to the apostles to strengthen them for his coming passion and death. The Byzantines have originally built a church at this peak. The crusaders also built a church here. They were all knocked down by the Muslims until the Franciscans came and bought the property and gave the contract to the same architect that built Shepherd fields, and many others churches

Pictures of Inside the Church of Mt. Tabor

Entering the Church of Transfiguration
A group of south African pilgrims having Mass
Painting of Moses on the Roof of the Church
Views from the hieght of Tabor
Church of transfiguration

On the left inside the church, is the Chapel of Moses with Ray of light.
Then the Chapel of Elijah, with his animals.
At the bottom of the Church, a beautiful image of Jesus transfiguration. On the longest day, the light shines in on this image and it shimmering and beautiful. The roof is made of alabaster, because the architecture wanted people to be transfigured.

It is said that every year, a batch of young drug addicts come here from Italy, working and praying to be transformed.

Why did the Lord choose to transfigure himself in a place that was so far from where he lived and required a strenuous physical effort over a long trail?” Blessed Alvaro gives the answer himself, saying “that it was probably so that we could see with our own eyes that to reach God, we also have to put in a human effort that is physical sometimes.”





In God’s Land: Jesus in Prison and Peter Denies

18 09 2019

Basilica of St. Peter in Gallicantu

The band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas; for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.

Peter, terrified by the servants, denied having anything to do with Jesus. “I do not know him; I do not know what you are saying; I do not know this man!”
And immediately, while he was still speaking, a cock crowed and the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” He went out and wept bitterly.
On the door of the Church of Peter in Gallicantu (Gallicantu means “cock crow”) commemorates the triple denial of Peter and the bitter tears he wept after the cook crowed.
It is located on the eastern slope of Mount Zion outside the old Jerusalem wall.

Pictures of the exterior of the Basilica of St. Peter in Gallicantu

Art work on the door of St. Peter in Gallicantu


At the entrance is a joint art work of Jews, Muslims and Christians of Jesus at supper with his discipline and telling them that one of you will betray me.

Inside the Basilica of St. Peter in Gallicantu

In inside the first floor of the Church, is the court of the Sanhedrin, with fresco of 12 Sanhedrin judging Jesus on the altar piece.
Jesus’ trial was illegal because courts do not open at night. And no trails should hold during Passover.

Jesus’ Prison

From here we went down below to the house of Caiaphas proper and the dungeon below. Prisoners arrested at night where usually thrown into the dungeon till the morning when trial could hold. The prisoners, hand tied, were dropped down through a hole and then they are fastened facing the wall with hooks. The prison was discovered accidentally when the hammer of a construction worker dropped accidentally and fell through a hole in the ground.

The hole from which Jesus bound hands and feet was let down into the dungeon

We read the psalm (88) here and touched the wall where Jesus was bound till morning. Next, we climbed back up, and looking at the purity bath, or ritual baths, or micvah which Caiaphas had in his home. This practice has been adopted by the Muslims also.

Where Peter denied Jesus

We then went to where Peter denied Christ three times, outside, at the courtyard. There was a statue of him with the two maids.

The stairs used by Jesus to go from the upper room to gethsemane


From this balcony we could see the garden of Olives and Gethsemane
We also saw the stairs that Jesus used to go to from the Cenacle across the Kidron valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. Also visible from there was the east end of the temple, said to be the spot on which King David was standing when he saw a naked woman bathing and committed adultery with her and subsequently murder.
There also he saw the angel of God standing by the dome of the rock, (rock of Moriah) ready to destroy the city of Jerusalem, and he pleaded with angel to spare the city and kill him(David) instead.
The angels said to him “Go to the Mount and make a sacrifice.”
After he had made the sacrifice, he said to the angle, “Let me build you a temple here. But the Lord said no, since his hands were stained with blood, and told him that his son, Solomon will build the temple. We left the Basilica after staying there for about an hour, pondering the deep love that God has for us, we headed to the Church of the Dormition of Mary, where we were to celebrate the Holy Mass

On our way to the Basilica of Dormition of Mary

We arrived the Church of Dormition of Mary located in the highest point on Mount Zion. The location is identified in Christian tradition as the place where the Virgin Mary died — or “fell asleep”, as the name suggests. Christian sources say that Mary was probably 50 years old when she died. There are claims that Mary died in Ephesus, Turkey, but this is not supported by the early Christians. According to St. John Damascene, “St Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon [AD 451], made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St Thomas [who arrived late], was found empty; wherefrom the apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.”

Pictures of the exterior and interior of the Basilca of the Dormition of Mary

Basilica of Dormition of Mary
Mosiac art work of Mary careing for infant Jesus on the dome
Mosiac floor of the Basilca of Dormition of Mary

On the ground floor of the Church, there is a life size statue of Mary sleeping.

Life size statue of Mary sleeping
Mosiac of six Old Testament women above the sleeping statue
Painting above the statue of Mary sleeping: Jesus caring for Mary in Heaven
Painting on the basilica dome: Mary cared for Jesus on earth

On the mosaic above the statue of our lady Dormition, there are paintings of six women in the Old Testament.

We said the Hail Mary Six times besides the statue of sleeping Mary.
There were more details we could have missed. The painting on the dome in the basilica proper was Mary caring for Jesus which represents the humanity of Jesus. While the painting on the dome above the sleeping statue showed Jesus caring for Mary in heaven which represents the divinity of Jesus.

We heard Mass at the Basilica of Dormition of Mary

It was a great experience to celebrate Mass at the place where Mary the Mother of Jesus breathed her last. We ask her to intercede for us who still remain her till we go to join her in her in heaven where she is.

Pictures after the Mass





In God’s Land: Gethsemane, Jesus’ Agony

16 09 2019

“Father, remove this cup from me, but not my will but thine be done.”
When God’s appointed time comes to save mankind from the slavery of sin, we contemplate Jesus Christ in Gethsemane, suffering in agony to the point of sweating blood (cf. Lk 22:44). He spontaneously and unconditionally accepts the sacrifice which the Father is asking of him.
Ancient information located the grotto of Gethsemane, in the Kidron Valley, where Jesus went with his disciple, and where he was arrested. Excavations which took place after a flooding revealed that place was previously an olive press with olive gardens and a cistern. In 4 century AD, a byzantine rock church was built there and later rebuilt in the 6th. Also several tombs were excavated near by witnessing to the ancient tradition of burying the dead near holy places.

The Garden of Olives

The Church of Gethsemane has 16 domes because 16 nations donated to rebuild this church. Gethsemane was an olive oil press. Inside the garden, 8 of the trees here still dates to the time of Jesus. It was a garden or orchard where there was an oil-press (this is the meaning of the name Gethsemane), and it was outside the city walls of Jerusalem, to the east of the city, on the way to Bethany.

Pictures of the Garden of Olives

The Church of Gethsemane

Inside the Church of Gethsemane, the blue-ish purple color of the stained glass windows helps pilgrims pray. The Church faces the golden or beautiful gate where Peter healed the blind man. It has a deer on the roof. The deer is on the dome is the symbol of psalm, like a deer thirsts for water so my soul is thirsts for the living God. In the year 2009, Benedict 16th celebrated Mass in the olive garden across and the President of Israel, Netanyahu, attended

Pictures of Church of Gethsemane

The stone on which our lord sweated blood

Here we are touching the stone on which Jesus sweated blood while he was praying

Mary’s Empty Tomb

Next we went to see the empty tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where she was assumed body and soul into heaven. When Mary passed away, they laid her in-corrupt body at Mount Zion for nine days. After, they took her to the burial grounds of Gethsemane and buried her. Jews buried their dead facing the temple and thus our Lady’s tomb faced the temple.
Three days later, they found the tomb empty.
According to archeologist, Niccacci, there was an ancient text that was read during the feast of Assumption which described the location of Mary’s tomb as part of the Jewish burial ground or (Necropolis)
In 1959, excavations revealed that the Mary’s empty tomb was on a burial ground, there was a happy coincidence between this literature and archaeological findings. Early Jewish Christians had isolated the tomb from the rest of the tombs and preserved it with veneration. Two churches, one upon another were built by the Byzantines in the 5th century BC.
We celebrated Mass at the Grotto of Gethsemane (Where Jesus was arrested, betrayed by Judas with a kiss)

Pictures of the Empty Tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Inside Mary’s tomb

Mass at Gethsemane

A place of agony, a place of our incapacity to keep close to our lord in prayer! We ask God to teach us to abandon our selves to the will of God. Help us to always do the will of God

Church of the Pater Noster

Next, leaving Gethsemane we went to the Pater noster Church.
It’s the place where our lord thought the disciples the prayer, Pater Nostra. It’s also here that our lord ascended into heaven. It’s also here that our lord wept over Jerusalem.
We had to pay money to enter because it is controlled by Muslims. When Saladin conquered, he converted it to a business, Muslim businessmen pay to hire it and charge money from Christian pilgrims.

Pictures of the Church of the Pater Noster

The Church of Pater Noster today has the arch of the crusader.
Our Lord loved the Mount of Olives because it over looked the city of Jerusalem. It was from the Mount of Olives that Jesus ascended into heaven. It was also here that our lord wept over Jerusalem. The Mount has numerous caves and it is in one of them that Jesus taught his disciples the “Our lord’s prayer” or the “Pater Noster” as it is called in Latin. The Church of the Pater Noster stand on the Mount of Olive, astride one of the caves in which ancient tradition says Jesus taught this prayer per excellence.
It was built under the direction of Constantine’s mother Helena in the early 4th century. The church survived intact until it was destroyed by Persians in 614.
In the year 1875, a young princess, Princess Aurelia Bossi came to the Holy land and saw Muslims selling the remaining stones of the 4th-century church for tombstones, she paid them off and acquired the land, and handed it to the French government. She is buried here as a mark of gratitude for recovering this place from the Muslims.
In the Church, the Pater Noster is written in 173 languages. There’s also a piece of mosaic left over from the basilica built by St. Helena

Yes, it is a cave, winter is cold, and our Lord had no money to pay for hotels, so he and his disciples gathered in caves they didn’t have heating. Here, in this cave, Jesus spoke about the end and about his passion and death. When he finished, one of his disciples asked him, Lord teach us to Pray
Here we held hands and sang the Pater Noster in English, Philippines and Igbo.

We saw the plaque in Samaritan. They were part of the Jews, but were excommunicated because they mingled with Babylon. Today, they (Samaritans) still intermarry between themselves and thus are dying out. There are just only 760 Samaritans remaining in the world (380 in Jerusalem and 380 in Shecem) and many of them are retarded.

Ascension

Next we went to the Chapel of Ascension
There are two foot prints of the Lord which he left as he was lifted up to heaven chiseled into a rock but one has been removed and put in the dome of the Rock. From here our lord Ascended to Heaven

Pictures of our visit to the Chapel of Ascension

Video from Saxum on the Ascension

Church of Dominos Flevit. Where our lord wept over Jerusalem.


Next we climbed further up to the Church of Dominos Flevit, this was where Christ wept, crying:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! – – Matthew 23:37
Jerusalem, a city that Jesus loved so much, that never returned the love of God because they have not learned how to be friends of God. We become God’s friends through prayer. When we persevere in prayer, even if it is repeating over and over, Jesus I love you.
As St. Augustine says, “It must burn in you that which you want to ignite in others.” Jesus was burning with sacrificial love for Jerusalem, wishing to heal her and teach her the way of live but she wouldn’t listen.
Planted in front of the Church was the tree of the crown of thorns

The Church of Dominus Flevit overlooks today the dome of the rock and the Alaska mosque, because the prophesy of Jesus was fulfilled in the year AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed, and the temple burnt down, such that there was no one stone left upon another.

That is the focus of the trouble between the Jews and the Muslims. The Muslims claim that the rock enclosed by the dome is the place where Prophet Mohammed ascended. But yet the Temple Mount was the holy place of the Jews many centuries before the birth of Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam. King Solomon constructed the first temple in the very place that the dome of the rock is today in 900 B.C, but it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Second temple was built by Herod 20 B.C. This destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Mohammed was born in 22 April, 571 AD

To enter the Al-aqsa mosque and the temple mount is free but there was a time it cost ten dollars per visit. They stopped collecting money after the second intifada which started when the then Israeli President, Ariel Sharon entered the Al-aqsa mosque. As we stood looking at Jerusalem and the temple mount from the Church of Dominus Flevit, time for the Muslim prayers arrived and at once powerful microphones started blasting out Islamic prayer call to prayers.

Pictures of Dominus Flevit





Nigerian Teens Create Sci-Fi Movies With Smartphone

21 08 2019
Critic company

The saying that if you give a hungry man a fish, you will feed him for a day but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for life is so true for 8 teens from northern Nigeria who are making science- fiction movies using a broken smart phone.

No doubt, they love watching Sci-Fi movies but unlike other teens their age, the Critics company, as they call themselves, are determined to make their own. They came together 2016, started creating short film with special effects they learnt from YouTube videos.

Using a broken tripod stand to hold up a smart phone with a cracked screen, they shot a ten minute film called ‘Redemption’.

This film caught the eye of international media organization like Reuters, Aljazeera and others who celebrated them for making history by successfully making first Nigerian sci-fi movie. According to one of the young filmmakers, Godwin Josiah, their aim was to show that kids in the north are doing something different.

Support has since started pouring in. Veteran film maker Kemi Adetiba, tweeted enthusiastically about them in June and helped them raise $5,800 to upgrade their equipment.

Imagine what they could do with a formal training in sci-fi movie production.

Ironically, this same youtube medium that can create porn addictions that wrecks the lives of other teens is empowering and enabling these 8 youngsters to acquire skills in movie production. This shows that it is not the media as such that is to blame when youths get hooked on internet porn but the lack of focus and motivation among young people.

Serious minded teens can sift out the best and useful things in social media and use them to advance themselves without necessarily falling prey to harmful contents as these 8 teen have aptly demonstrated.

Still, it takes guts and drive and thinking out of the box. It demands  finding a dream, pushing forward and following that dream to its logical consequences.

In life, honest and productive work is usually rewarded with fame and success, and Godwin Josiah and his cousins are making themselves useful with a broken smart phone

Nigeria has over 70million are teenagers, but still teen productivity is so low. Experts say that this is due to skill deficiency Nigerian educational curriculum, which is shockingly theoretical rather than practical, and many teen leave school ill equipped to earn a living. Hence the high rate of youth jobless, resulting in political unrest, economic instability, drug abuse, crime, prostitution, human trafficking, terrorism and kidnapping..

The Critics Company have alerted people to the possibilities of digital media like YouTube to tutor themselves in skills that can fetch money or jobs or even help them start their own businesses. 

Many handy skills can be learned via YouTube: from air-conditioning repairs to fashion designing and computer programming and countless free online tutorials on software development. Furthermore, an average low-end smart phone is chockfull of useful apps, such that an average user cannot exhaust 1% of its capability.  There are apps that can transform a smartphone  into a math lab, reader, and multimedia learning platform and many other things, and most are available free.

The triumph of these teen is good news for a region considered by most as educationally backward and where teens are often school shy. The Kaduna state governor, Malam Nasir El-rufai has praised their creativity, invited them to statehouse for special visit and is generally making a fuss of them. He has also offered the government’s support and constituted a team of senior officials to work on the details with their family.

Josiah and his cousin are blazing a path for African teens to follow, and confirming that with courage and determination, any African teen will not only survive, but actually thrive in these polluted waters through through hard work, unrelenting focus.

  Their fame and success has even wider relevance. Teens the world over should cease being passive consumers of social media content and become innovators, leveraging on these platforms to create and market their own ideas and become creators, and contributors to human progress.

They are an indictment of those who engage in online scams popularly known in Nigeria as “419”, a scam that has given millions of Nigerians a very bad name.

They are also showing up the so called Nollywood industry, still stuck in their abysmally low quality films, rife with poorly written scripts and stale story lines  revolving around time worn themes of sex, money and power.

They may yet give the Nollywood oligarchs a run for their money and possibly break their  strangle hold on the industry.

With sci-fi movies like Star Wars and Avengers grossing over $900Million and $800Million respectively, a sci-fi skill set is not a bad investment and the Critics company could be pioneers in a business that could bring much needed foreign exchange flowing back into African pockets. Time will tell.





Peer pressure: The Caving of Miley Cyrus

12 08 2019

By Chinwuba Iyizoba

There is a saying that the corruption of the best is the worst. This rings true in case of Miley Cyrus, a once adorable chastely clad girl who attended church regularly while growing up and wore a purity ring.

 At 11, she became a teen idol with millions of fans for her role in Disney Channel television series Hannah Montana.

She went from success to success, earning golden globe awards and was ranked the 4th best selling female artist in 2009. Her Hannah Montana soundtrack sold millions of copies. The taste of success was sweet as she performed for Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British Royal Family at the Royal Variety Performance in Blackpool, Lancashire.

Unfortunately, in 2010, things took a bad turn. Her film “The Last Song (2010), based on the Nicholas Sparks novel did badly, her studio album that same year was a commercial failure.

Attributing her string of failures to her unsexy image, she parted way with her old manager and hired a new one who advised her to take a wrecking ball to decent girl image.

She heeded the advice and transformed from wholesomeness to the highly sexualized woman we see today. 

In a video interview in 2014, she shared her transformation story

“It was always Miley is boring, boring, boring she said, revealing the unrelenting peer pressure with which modern showbiz stars have to contend.

 She didn’t need much convincing though, she loved being a superstar and if going bare will keep her there, so be it!

 Against her mother’s advice, she ditched her decent garments for naked profanity. Her 2013 album “Wrecking Ball” showed her swinging naked on a wrecking ball. It was viewed over nineteen million times within its first day of release and became first single to top the Hot 100 chart in the United States having sold over two million copies.

Fame and power– honey she had once tasted and loved– flowed back into her tongue in torrents. Today, she is worth somewhere around $200 million.

In same video above, her mother said she doesn’t agree with everything Miley does but added, “We must understand that we are dealing with a 21 yro girl, and this is what 21 yr olds do, Miley is just doing hers in front of the world.”

Yet private things are best kept from the world.

True, parents should allow their adult children freedom to live their lives, yet they should never abandon their duty to correct them when they go wrong especially if it is due to peer pressure.

Public nakedness is wrong because it can provoke extreme revulsion or extreme attraction; the same parts of the body that attract sexually are also the same ones that repulsive during excretion. That’s why decent people choose to be naked only in private, and before people who they trust. Exposing of private parts to strangers can incite lust or derision. Of the two, lust is the more dangerous.

Lust is a craving force that can lead to crimes like rape, and murder. Sex when abused has a markedly disastrous effect on society. According to C.S Lewis, “Someone who abuses sex may easily populate a whole village.”

It is thus common sense to control and moderate this power through decent clothing. To dress modestly is to live charitably with other, for it is charity to avoid arousing lust or revulsion in others. Unfortunately, modern showbiz only care for money.

Today’s showbiz stars must dance naked before camera crew if they want money, power and fame. It is the echo of the ancient serpentine offer, “All the kingdoms of the world I will give thee. If you fall down and worship me.” Jesus may have rejected that offer but many celebrities are grabbing it with both hands.

Yet as scripture says, “The canal cannot see God,” Miley regularly wears devil horns on stage,and continues degenerating to vicious license, and things are going dark quickly for her.

Slave of sex and selfish, she is incapable of faithful lifelong love. She recently ditched her husband Liam Hemsworth for a lesbian, after just 8 months of marriage.

She’s now a frenetic supporter of every sexual deviate.  Bent on sexualizing her teen followers, she is a strong advocate of abortion, and infanticide, and recently posted a picture on Instagram, with her serpent tongue on an abortion cake

Her addicted fans hail her as Queen and like puppets are imitating her excesses to their own destruction.

Miley Cyrus dances pornographically atop the grave of chaste Hanna Montana, however, she and her unscrupulous collaborators should know that there is a huge and devastating cost to what they are doing.

According to researcher, Patrick Fagan PhD, internet pornography is killing families and is responsible for 50% of divorces with over 40million addicts in the US alone.

And just like drug addicts have a powerful tendency to violence to satisfy cavings; porn addiction is linked to rape and other sex crimes. FBI’s own statistics show that pornography is found at 80% of the scenes of violent sex crimes, or in the homes of the perpetrators.”

 A great percentage of Miley’s 44 million Facebook followers are teen boys who do badly at school because porn exposure is linked to problems with problem-solving, reasoning and comprehension abilities, all of which are necessary to succeed in school.

These are real costs, borne by ordinary people, parents of families, mothers and fathers husbands and wives. They would do well to protect their homes and children from these disruptive influences by monitoring the type of social media content their wards consume.

Still, it must be remembered that Jesus did not come to save the righteous but sinners. With more energetic supernatural means of prayer and fasting, the corrupted can be purified to shine brighter than diamond. Let us not leave this soul sunk in her wantonness for want of prayer and fasting.

Chinwuba Iyizoba is the Editor of Authors-choice and an author.





Who Wants African Teens Having More Intercourse?

9 06 2019

by Chinwuba Iyizoba

African teens web

Over 4 million candidates for the West African Senior School Certificate and General Certificate Examinations (GCE) English literature are required to read a novel called “Faceless”, about a 10yro girl, molested and killed by a pedophile.

Set in suburban Ghana, in 2000, the novel by a Ghanaian female writer, Amma Darko, races through harsh, frightful and sometimes out-rightly disgusting deviant sexual crimes against minors.

With adult themes about sex, orgasm, rape, breasts, incest, prostitution, condoms, pedophilia, the novel reads like a play of soft pornography.

One wonders why such should be required reading for school teens. Why aren’t we encouraging our youngsters to read great literary works that stimulate their creativity and innovation, that inspire them to hard work, that furnish them with proper reasons to shun corruption and that helps them embrace sexual discipline?

Books on pedophilia, rape, murder, incest on the other hand cause harm.

According to psychologist, Carolyn Ross, “Just as we read specific books and show educational movies to our children in hopes that they learn lessons from the characters… boys who were exposed to sexually explicit media were three times more likely to engage in oral sex and intercourse two years after exposure than non-exposed boys. Young girls exposed to sexual content in the media were twice as likely to engage in oral sex and one and half times more likely to have intercourse.”

So, who wants African school teens having intercourse? 

The answer is Planned Parenthood.  By far the worst organization in every country they operate, they make money by providing abortion services. They are interested in teens having sex because the highest demand for abortion come from people who have sex when they aren’t ready for babies, and teens are by far the largest group in the world not ready to have babies.

In the US where they have aggressively invaded schools. Family Watch, a US family advocacy group issued a warning to parents everywhere: Investigate what Planned Parenthood is doing in your country and in your state, and especially in your children’s schools.

A group of high school parents in the Iowa were surprised and upset when they learned Planned Parenthood was teaching sex education to their teens in the district’s schools. You can read what they discovered here ~it is frightening

Anglican Mainstream, a family online magazine, alerted parents to cross check their teen’s school books warning parents of Planned Parenthood’s agenda to sexualize their children. “Sex education is a major Planned Parenthood marketing tool for their contraceptive/abortion business. Sex education is how they groom children in order to generate paying customers for “services” provided in their 65,000 service points in over 170 countries,”

Entering African schools Faceless

Like snakes, they have slithered into African schools undetected, and parents are none the wiser. They have bribed school administrators, education boards to introduce compulsory reading texts like “Faceless” that innocuously encourages early sexually activity among teens.

In the novel, the main character, Kabria, a mother of three, catches her teen daughter hiding some pamphlet of Planned Parenthood under her pillow. Having only a vague idea what the organization did, she sneaked back later to read the pamphlet and was “delighted” that they (Planned Parenthood) provides guidance and counseling for teens on how to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. 

This is the kind of false and misleading information Planned Parenthood uses deceive, and carry out its nefarious acts.

 Population control

They aren’t only promoting lurid books to minors; they also promote population control especially among black people. Indeed, pro-life advocates have consistently argued that blacks have been specifically targeted by the abortion industry. After all, in 1939, Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, stated her desire to “exterminate the Negro population.”

All along the novel are hints and subtle hues of massages that preach population control. In one scene, two fat women were gossiping about marital troubles, one of them bemoaned her pregnancy and blamed her husband who stubbornly refused to use condoms and hence their six children instead of the three she had originally intended to have.

These women have been brainwashed by Planned Parenthood radio and television broadcasts. Melinda Gates, was even quoted as saying that the great unmet needs of African women are birth control and condoms.

Over Population is a Myth

 

Yet numerous studies show that the real reason for poverty in Africa is corrupt rulers, not a lack of birth control. (Source author-choice) 

Majority of Africans greatly value children. They know that in a society like theirs, where no government sponsored social security programs exists, children are their best investment for the future and the more the better

To think that millions of African boys and girls from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, the Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, as well as the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan are required to read this novel, cover to cover, soak it up and master it to pass their exam is heart breaking.

Reading has made many Saints, but also many demons. Good books, especially novels with virtues, clean and classy themes have great potentials of forming the minds of young African towards virtues, while vicious books and novel lurid in contents not only corrupt their minds but cause poor academic performance.

The compulsory reading of this book isn’t by accident; Plan Parenthood wants to catch them young, when they are most vulnerable. West African parents should wake up and reject this willful corruption of children dressed up as literature.

 

by Chinwuba Iyizoba