Jerusalem’s Hidden Pilgrim Chapel


A cement courtyard welcomes visitors just outside the massive double doors leading in to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, located in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem. 

It teems with people as it does every day about this time. Some days more than others. I have been here only once when no one else was around with exception to my Jewish companion, a photographer, and a few of the priests who dwell here. It was an unusual moment to be sure.
But today is typical. Nuns of every age and size walk from the shadowed and narrow passageways leading toward the Via Dolorosa to where the sun pours in to the courtyard. Priests dressed in flowing brown garments speak to a few who have stopped long enough to engage in conversation. IDF soldiers mill about. Tour guides wave their arms and elevate their voices. “This way, this way,” they shout. And, like baby ducklings to their mother, their pilgrims gather and follow.
A few of the faithful are here alone, such as myself. I am here only because it is a part of my assignment for the pictorial book I will write with my friend, a woman who has been one of those tour guides for more than thirty years. We are sitting on the narrow steps directly opposite the doors and I am telling her that, after my last visit here, I am not really all that excited about entering again. “Too … eerie,” I tell her. “Too many icons, too much pomp and ceremony.”
And the priests, I think, seem angry almost. Irritated that anyone, let alone those who come in search of something–anything–to remind them of the sacrifice of their Lord, have infringed on the hallowed sense the early morning brings. Though part of me understands. I have sensed that same consecration. I have slipped between the ancient stone walls and stepped across the worn flagstone flooring when it felt as though the only other presence was that of God Himself. I have breathed in that holiness and felt it become one with myself. Remarkably different than when the “house” is full.
Miriam interrupts my thoughts, telling me of a place, far beneath where visitors weep and pray. A place she has not seen in years, she says. “Fifteen years, perhaps?” she muses. “Beneath the church,” she tells me, “is an etching, carved into the wall of a cave which is part of the Chapel of St. Vartan.”
Source: CBN | Eva Marie Everson