In Jerusalem the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is cellebrated with services in each of the seven churches of the Jerusalem Church Leaders. Each year it begins with an invitation to join the Greek Orthodox Church in the conducting of Compline at the Calvery section of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The service was conducted in Greek and as a result there were not many there who were able to join in! We watched and were being at one with each other by being there. Interestingly the time when many of the congregation was able to join in was in a section of the service that was in Latin! Many there knew the words and suddenly the volume of the congregational responses increased at least fourfold!
The service concluded with the Greek Patriach kissing the Calvery Stone, and then the others involved in the service doing so. Then the usual procession of pilgrims coming to the stone was resumed.
The ecumenical congregation was invited downstairs into the vestry rooms. Soft drinks, knaffe and chocolates were offered round and we were invited to view the relics. This is so far removed from my religious practice that I was very curious to see what was there! I had seen them last year but wanted to refresh my memory. I find it bizarre – but there is no denying that these artefacts mean a lot to many people. The foot of saint …. or the finger of saint … . They do provide a dramatic example of the continuity of the church through the centuries. Here were a scull, bones from feet, hands and arms, that come from Christians living (in some cases) just a couple of hundred years after Jesus did. The room had ancient and modern icons, and a beautiful picture of Mary (see slide show).
The diversity of Christian practice and liturgy is something few Christians in the West have any idea of. It is a privilage to be here in Jerusalem and have the chance to share in the worship life of churches so totally different from my own.