Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Visiting Iowa

I spent the last 5-days in Des Moines, IA, for work and while I was here I had the chance to reach out to some Masons that I knew lived here. This is one thing I love about being a Freemason: my job sends me all over the country, but no matter where I am, there are bound to be Brother Masons nearby.

After I flew in and got checked into my hotel, I headed to downtown Des Moines to the Scottish Rite Masonic Center where I attended the conferral of the Third Degree of Freemasonry. I always love watching degree work done in other jurisdictions. Legacy Lodge No.678 conferred the first section and the Grand Master and several Grand Lodge officers conferred the second section and raised the new Master Mason. Another Mason who was attending had raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason that morning so I presented both of the new Master Masons with the lapel pin of the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Idaho. I walked around and toured the rest of the building which had an excellent library and a large auditorium.

Friday after work I drove around and discovered how much Freemasonry had such a historical influence on the area. I even found a graveyard owned by the Masons. Saturday night, one of the Brothers who is heavily involved in both the York Rite and Scottish Rite took me out to dinner. Yesterday I had beers with another Brother and we had a good chat. Now I'm on my way to South Dakota for another work trip.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

What a Year!

While I've seen a few memes saying that 2022 sucked, this year was great for me. I did start it off still recovering from a partially torn ligament, but I was on the mend and the year kicked off with work trips to Wyoming, Alaska, and Oregon. During the Wyoming trip, this site crashed and it took weeks to get it back up. I came really close to shutting it all down for good.

With February came Masonic Week where, among other meetings, I received the Fourth Grade (Councillor) of the Royal Order of the Masonic Knights of the Scarlet Cord. The rest of the month I spent in California for work.

I attended the Grand York Rite of Alaska during the first weekend of March. The next weekend was the Special Conclave for the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar in Indiana where Sir Knight Michael Johnson was removed as Grand Master. While what was done was necessary, I still consider this one of the lowest points of my Masonic career.

April, May, and June were filled with work trips as well as attending the Grand York Rite of Oregon, Grand York Rite of Idaho, Grand York Rite of Washington, Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Saskatchewan, Grand York Rite of Montana, and the College of Montana, SRICF.

After working most of the month of July in Louisiana and California, I took the last weekend off and attended the SE SRICF Regional Conference in Birmingham, AL.

The last two weekends of August were filled with York Rite appendant bodies in Idaho and the Convent General of the Knights of the York Cross of Honor in Salt Lake City.

I attended the Grand York Rite of Colorado and the Grand York Rite of Wyoming in the first half of September. Wyoming was a bit tense as the Grand Master that was removed back in March is from Wyoming and was present at the Grand Commandery of Wyoming, as was his right.

With October came the annual Northwest York Rite Conference in Boise where I presided over the Chapter portion. I'd like to thank Chad Burks, General Grand Scribe for his assistance and educational presentation.

I along with three other Fratres flew out to Kentucky to attend the annual meeting of the High Council of the Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis where I presided over the conferral of the VIII° (or Magister) on several worthy candidates on Friday, presented a paper on the Mithraic Mysteries on Saturday, and was appointed Guardian of the Caverns for the 2022-2025 Triennium. Following this meeting, I spent the night in Manhattan before flying out to Israel where I spent 9-days touring the Holy Land.

On the first Friday in December, I was asked to give the Staircase Lecture in the Fellow Craft degree. I did pretty well considering that I had not given it in 14 years. The next day was the first weekend in December which brought the meetings of Tri-Valley College No.178 of the York Rite Sovereign College of North America, Redemption Tabernacle No.XL of the Holy Royal Arch Knights Templar Priest where I was appointed V Pillar, and St. Michael Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine where I was elected Puissant Sovereign.

I spent 211 days on the road, 5,694 miles driven (not counting drives into work or around town), and 78,426 SkyMiles flown.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Years' Eve and New Years' Day! I'll be spending the evening with some old Army buddies who always throw a New Years' Eve Party.

My Top Posts from 2022

The Rite of Baldwyn: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2022/06/the-rite-of-baldwyn.html

Templar Titles and Terms: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2022/05/templar-titles-and-terms.html

Temple Church: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2022/07/temple-church.html

What is Monasticism? https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2022/02/what-is-monasticism.html

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Anti-Mason Disinformation: Altiyan Childs

For the past two years, I've seen a video by Altiyan Childs defaming Freemasonry. Childs, known in Australia for winning the X-Factor, lost the limelight after he was found guilty of using meth in 2012. I'm not going to make a minute-by-minute response, but here are the major points:

Freemasonry never says Christ is bad or lower than demons or on par with demons or that He can be ignored. Most Masons are Christian and there are several Christian orders within Freemasonry such as the Knights Templar, Knights Preceptor, York Rite College, Red Cross of Constantine, Knights of the York Cross of Honor, Royal Order of Scotland, Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis, Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priest, and the Chevaliers Bienfaisants de la Cité Sainte. Also, acknowledging that others have different beliefs doesn’t mean that I accept those beliefs as my own.

Covering one's eye is not a mode of recognition in Freemasonry nor is the "hidden hand" (people sometimes reach into their pockets...it's okay). Nor does an awkward handshake make someone a Mason. The vast majority of those shown in this video are not or were not Freemasons.

The all-seeing eye is used in Freemasonry, but it was used in Christian iconography long before it was adopted into the lexicon of Freemasonry (around the end of the 18th century). The unfinished pyramid with the all-seeing eye (which is on the Great Seal of the US) was actually designed by a non-Mason named Charles Thomson. Not every appearance of an all-seeing eye is related to Freemasonry.

If he was a Mason, why is he using "Richard's Monitor" (which isn't a recognized or authorized ritual book) and not the one he had while he was in? Why does he never show any certificates or patents of membership? Also, if he was a Mason, why is he referencing co-masonry and universal masonry, which are fake or irregular groups? If he had been a real Mason, he'd know that so either he's lying or wasn't a Mason and doesn't know.

As for penalties, the only thing a Lodge or Grand Lodge (or any Masonic body) can do is convene a trial and if the Mason is found guilty of violating his obligation, Masonic law, or the laws of the land, the only punishments are reprimand, suspension, or expulsion. Such things are drawn out in the Constitution of every Grand Lodge. Masonic law, nor anything in Freemasonry, is above the law or makes Masons feel they are above the law.

Pike did not construct or create the 33-degree system of the Scottish Rite. He reformed the rituals, but the Scottish Rite was in existence before Pike was even born: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2012/10/the-scottish-rite-of-freemasonry.html

The title "Grand Commander Sovereign Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry" does not exist in Freemasonry. This is an invention of anti-Masons: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2019/09/the-taxil-hoax.html

The Pike statue: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2015/07/pike-statue-in-dc.html and https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2020/06/mob-tears-down-pike-statue.html

Freemasonry has nothing to do with Satanism: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2016/08/satan-and-freemasonry.html

Freemasonry is not a religion, secret or otherwise: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2020/03/concerning-religion-and-freemasonry.html

His comments on Andreae were complete bullshit and not based on any good research. And he tried to stem Freemasonry from Rosicrucianism as if that is accepted history rather than fanciful theory.

He states that all other beliefs and loyalties are to take a backseat to Freemasonry which is a false statement as we tell the candidates before taking his Obligation that it does not override or supersede any other Obligations one has to God, country, family, or friends.

Here are the facts behind the French Revolution and Freemasonry: https://freemasonry.bcy.ca/texts/revolution.html

He says Freemasonry wasn’t around until 1610, but there are Lodge records that date to 1599 AD and the Regius Poem dates to 926 AD (carbon-dated to have been written around 1380 AD) which predates your Rosicrucian Manifesto obsession: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2010/05/regius-poem.html

Nothing about the founding of the US was about influencing the world in a sinister way. It was about breaking the chains from a tyrannical monarch and allowing a people to choose their own destiny and form of government.

The Templars were absolved by the Pope in the Chinon Parchment: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2012/08/the-chinon-parchment.html

The Templars had false charges laid against them by a tyrannical king who controlled the Papacy: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2012/03/death-of-jacques-demolay.html

Templar continuation myths and Freemasonry: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2019/11/the-sword-and-trowel.html

You are confusing Freemasonry and the Illuminati which are and were different groups: https://freemasonry.bcy.ca/texts/illuminati.html

The 1782 Congress of Wilhelmsbad: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2013/07/the-1782-congress-of-wilhelmsbad.html

Barruel was discredited: https://freemasonry.bcy.ca/texts/robison-barruel.html

Some Founders were Masons (most of whom were Christian), but not all: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2012/12/freemasonry-founding-of-united-states.html

Stonecutters was never an actual name of Freemasonry. That is a parody done by The Simpsons.

The Carbonari is not Freemasonry or a part of Freemasonry: https://freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/anti-masonry01.html#alta

The Black Hand is not a name used in Freemasonry or any of its concordant bodies.

Freemasonry had nothing to do with the establishment of socialism or communism. Freemasonry champions freedom and liberty, not government constraint. FYI, communist and socialist nations have consistently and historically banned and suppressed Freemasonry.

We don’t use the term “levels” to denote advancement or rank in Freemasonry: https://www.travelingtemplar.com/2018/05/what-level-are-you.html

Freemasonry isn’t a unified system nor do we “work together for our own prosperity and power.” That’s just an outright lie. Freemasonry is a decentralized system with hundreds of Grand Lodges around the world, each one is sovereign and independent.

After watching this video, I doubt his statement that he used to be a Mason. I've been a Mason for over 16 years and he uses no terminology that any Mason would know, but he does speak as if he's getting his information from an anti-Mason site which often confuses and mixes up words. He's just a burned-out "artist" who replaced meth with Christian fanaticism and looking for more attention.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my family, friends, Brothers, Companions, Sir Knights, Companion Knights, Fellows, Knights Companion, Cousins, Knights, Knight Priests, and Fratres around the world.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

RIP Rex Hutchens

Tonight I was informed that Bro. Rex Hutchens has passed away. Many know him as a 33° Grand Cross, the author of "A Bridge to Light," and the quintessential Masonic scholar. The first time I met Rex was in 2007 and I had no idea who he was. I was in Arizona for training at Fort Huachuca when I found out that the Grand Lodge was going to do a cornerstone dedication in Rio Rico. The dedication was well attended even though it was over 100°F. As an out-of-state visitor, I was introduced to Rex, the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arizona. We chatted a bit and even played a bit of chess to which he beat me pretty spectacularly. It was after I got back to Idaho that I discovered who he was.

Rex was a very active Mason, to say the least. He was a Past Grand Master of Masons of Arizona (2006-2007), Deputy for Arizona of the Supreme Council of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, USA, Past Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons of Arizona (1997), Past Grand Master of Royal & Select Masters of Arizona (2004), and Past Grand Commander of Knights Templar of Arizona (2007). He was in the Knights of the York Cross of Honor and recipient of the Knight of the York Grand Cross of Honor (Four Quadrants), a Knight Companion of the Red Cross of Constantine, a Board Member for the Scottish Rite Research Society, a Fellow of the Philalethes Society, a Founding Fellow of the Masonic Society, a Friar of the Society of Blue Friars, and recipient of the Knight Grand Cross in the Grand College of Rites.

I'm sure he was a member of more groups, but I couldn't find anything more. I did find, however, that there is a Lodge named after him, the Rex R Hutchens Research Lodge No.5 in Arizona.

Rest in Peace Brother

Friday, December 9, 2022

Anti-Mason Disinfo: Donald Trump

Not getting into partisan politics, but with the recent announcement of former President Trump that he's running again for President, a number of silly conspiracies have popped back up one of which is that Donald Trump is a Freemason. This theory comes in four different ways or sources: the Trump coat-of-arms, his supposedly saying "I'm a Mason", his holding an envelope that is secretly a Masonic apron, and his hand gestures.

The Trump Coat-of-Arms

In 2008, the Trump International Golf Links established a championship golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland, but one thing ran them afoul of the authorities and that was the use of unregistered heraldry the company used in their promotions. After four years, the Trump organization won the right and registered their coat-of-arms (see above):

A shield with three chevrons, two stars, and a double-headed eagle clutching golf balls in its talons, with a helmet above the shield and a crest of a lion waving a flag with the words "NUMQUAM CONCEDERE" (Never concede, never give up, or never give in).

A spokesman for Trump International stated the following about the coat-of-arms:

Three chevronels are used to denote the sky, sand dunes and sea — the essential components of the [golf resort] site — and the double-sided eagle represents the dual nature and nationality of Trump’s heritage. The eagle clutches golf balls, making reference to the great game of golf, and the motto 'Numquam Concedere' is Latin for 'Never Give Up' — Trump's philosophy.

Now anti-Masons and conspiracy theorists say that the use of a double-headed eagle is proof that he is not just a Mason, but a 33° [Scottish Rite] Mason because to them that is the end-all degree of Freemasonry where the sinister secrets of Freemasonry supposedly revealed [queue spooky music]. One even went so far as to say that it is actually a “double-headed phoenix” and that it is “one of the most prominent logos of freemasonry.”

The double-headed eagle has long been a symbol of imperialism and has been used by the Byzantine Empire, Holy Roman Empire, and Russian/Tsarist Empire. For these empires, it was intended to represent dominion over lands in the East and West, but this symbol was also used with the Hittites, Sumerians, and pre-Pharaonic Egypt. This symbol was also used by some Islamic Sultanates in the Middle Ages, but after the Crusades, it became popularized in the Western world by its use by the Holy Roman Empire, and today has been used by several European nations in their seals, flags, or coat-of-arms.

In paganism, the eagle was used to depict the sun or the supreme god of a pantheon. In Christianity, one of the Hayyoth that sits around the Throne of God is depicted as having the head of an eagle. The Eagle is said to also represent the Gospel of John as his Gospel deals with Christ and the Word of God as the Eagle was to the ancients a divine messenger which also makes it associated with the archangel Gabriel whose name means “God is my Strength” and often served as a Messenger of the Most High God. The double-headed eagle is a symbol of union, dominion, and sovereignty; and is clearly a dualistic and alchemical symbol, and there is much more to this symbol, but that is a discussion for another time

For Freemasonry, the double-headed eagle is used by the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite where it’s often depicted surmounted by an imperial crown. The earliest Masonic use is dated to 1758 with the group known as the “Emperors of the East and West”, the progenitor to the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, who granted Stephen Morin a patent that brought this system of degrees to the Americas.

The double-headed eagle is an ancient symbol that was long used before it was used in Scottish Rite Freemasonry and the use thereof doesn't equate to Masonic affiliation. Trump's use of it seems to be nothing more than his company's attempt to give the Trump name a grandiose appearance as it spread to Europe.

"I'm a Mason"

During his tenure as President of the United States, I would see the claim on Twitter or YouTube that Donald Trump stated that he was, in fact, a Mason. They'd link audio of Trump talking with Pastor Scott and his wife who met with him during African American History Month. After Belinda Scott introduced herself, Trump started the following conversation with her and Past Scott:

MS. SCOTT:  I’m Belinda Scott, Darrell’s wife.  New Spirit Revival Center from Cleveland, Ohio.  Pastor of New Spirit.  Great amount of support in the African American community where we are.  We love the Lord, we love our new President, and we are praying for our President on a regular basis.

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, the one thing I didn’t understand about Belinda — I thought they were married maybe five or six years, because look how they look so young.  (Laughter.)  Should you say how many years you’ve been married?

MS. SCOTT:  Thirty-five.

PASTOR SCOTT:  We’ve been together for 38.

MS. SCOTT:  Been together for — but in the Lord –(laughter) —  35, yes.

PASTOR SCOTT:  Two years under — (inaudible.)  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s actually amazing.  I wouldn’t have known.

The conversation between the President and Pastor Scott continues for a few more minutes before moving on to other attendees. However, it was the President's last line where he supposedly said, "I'm a Mason." Without having seen the transcript, I was confused by the audio as the conversation was about how long the Pastor had been married and then anti-Masons would have us believe that Trump then just blurted "I'm a Mason." That would not have made any sense. His expressing amazement at the longevity of their marriage makes sense and fits into the context of the conversation.

Holding an Envelope

In June 2018, President Trump hosted Kim Yong Chol, a senior North Korean official, who delivered a letter from Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator, that was very large, to say the least. Trump took a picture (see below) holding this envelope and the conspiratards erupted all over the internet stating that Trump was actually holding a Masonic apron. It goes without saying that an envelope is not an apron and nothing Masonic would be coming from North Korea where Freemasonry is non-existent, and, in my opinion, Freemasonry is contrary to the ideals of the North Korean regime.

Hand Gestures

Trump is a very animated speaker and has given the conspiratards an ample amount to talk about. While sitting Trump has been photographed with his hands held as pictured here. Apparently, anti-Masons and conspiracy theorists think this indicates that he is a Mason or at least involved with the infamous "new world order." When I asked one anti-Mason what proof he had that this was Masonic, they Tweeted a picture of signs used in the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), but anti-Masons do not accept that the OTO is not Masonic or an appendant body of Freemasonry. Now to be fair, they also think that using the "OK" gesture is the "666 gesture" and makes someone a Mason while others erroneously think it is a symbol of white supremacy.

Doing some research into hand gestures, it is called "steepling" or the "steeple hand gesture" as your hand often forms something like a church steeple when holding your hand in this fashion. This hand gesture is a sign of confidence, authority, and expertise, but can also come across as a sign of overconfidence or arrogance. It goes without saying that Trump is someone who comes across as confident, albeit arrogant at times.

The fact is that Donald Trump is not a Mason and none of the foolish theories come close to meeting the burden of proof to show otherwise.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Puissant Sovereign

Tonight I was elected and installed as Puissant Sovereign of St. Michael's Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine. I'd like to thank my Knights Companion for the faith they have placed in me to preside over this august body and I have some big shoes to fill. I'd also like to thank G. Arthur Shoemaker, Intendent General of Idaho, for installing me and my officers. Art has played a major part in my Masonic career: I served as Senior Warden while he was Worshipful Master, he knighted me into the Knights Templar, I served as his Grand Orator when he was Most Worshipful Grand Master of Idaho, I helped install him as Most Excellent Grand High Priest of Idaho, and his wife is a second mother to me.

For those who are not members of the Red Cross of Constantine, the Puissant Sovereign is the presiding officer of a Conclave and corresponds to the Worshipful Master of a Blue Lodge. As the Worshipful Master represents King Solomon, the Puissant Sovereign represents the Roman Emperor Constantine.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving

I wish everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! I am thankful for my life and for my family who I am spending the day with.  I am thankful for servicemen and women who keep the peace. I am thankful for all of my Brothers whithersoever dispersed around the world.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A Knights Pilgrimage

Today marks 14 years as a Sir Knight of the Valiant and Magnanimous Order of the Temple or Knights Templar. The symbolic progenitors of our Masonic knighthood protected pilgrims and crusaders on their way to the Holy Land, but today we Knights display our courage and goodwill in a number of ways like the Eye Foundation and the Holy Land Pilgrimage. During the 68th Triennium, the program was expanded to allow non-ministers to go at their own expense in what is called In the Footsteps of Jesus. The first one was in 2019 and due to COVID-19, the second one was not held until this year. I had the pleasure of being one of the Pilgrims to the Holy Land. I've been anticipating this since March 2020 when I first registered, but due to COVID-19, it was postponed until this year. Once the day arrived, I departed my house, went to the SRICF High Council, and stayed the night in NYC before heading to the Holy Land. At JFK Airport I met up with my tour group and we made the 10.5-hour flight over to Tel Aviv. Once on the ground, we got some much-needed sleep.

Day 1 - Via Maris

The first day of touring started with walking around the ancient Port of Joppa (also spelled Jaffa or Yafo) where Peter stopped by the House of Simon the Tanner. At this house, the apostle Peter received a vision from God which led him to promote the message of Christ to non-Jews. After this vision, Peter traveled to Caesarea and baptized a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. While in Joppa we also crossed the Wishing Bridge, which has zodiacal symbols on it and climbed to see the view from Abrasha Park. This park also has an archway on it that is carved to show Jacob's Dream, the Sacrifice of Isaac, and the Fall of Jericho. You will notice in several photos that there is a lot of blue. Blue is often used in Middle Eastern cultures to repel evil.

We followed in the steps of Peter to Caesarea Maritima where we were taken to the National Park. It was here we saw the amphitheater and hippodrome as well as the palace ruins where Paul was put on trial. 

My fellow pilgrims and I then traveled to Mt. Carmel, the site where the Prophet Elijah defeated the Priests of the Canaanite god, Baal. Today, the Discalced Carmelite Order runs a monastery on Mt. Carmel which is an impressive building that overlooks the Jezreel Valley or Valley of Megiddo (Greek: Armageddon).

Another bus ride and we arrived at Tel Megiddo, the site of ancient Megiddo. There is archaeological evidence that dates Megiddo back to the Neolithic era. This place held such prominence as it sits along an important trade route that connected Asia Minor, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. After walking around the ruins, we descended the 180 steps (8-9 floors) into the water tunnel that would have fed fresh water to the ancient fortress.

The last place we visited that day was Mt. Tabor which is the site of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The Transfiguration (also called the Metamorphosis) is where we see the divine and mundane meet in Christ in witness of the Apostles Peter, James, and John. On Mt. Tabor is found the Church of the Transfiguration which is run by the Franciscan Order. I received one shock when I saw the Grand Captain General of the Grand Commandery of DC walking by. He was apparently there with a tour sponsored by the Episcopal Church.

We then traveled to Nof Ginosar, a comfortable kibbutz along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Day 2 - The Land of His Ministry

After going through the museum about the Ancient Boat of Ginosar, we took a boat ride on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. Once back on land, we traveled to the Mount of the Beatitudes where Christ gave the Sermon on the Mount. Atop this mount, is the Church of the Beatitudes. It was a beautiful area and interesting being on a hill that is still below sea level.

The rest of the day we visited Korazim (one of the villages cursed by Jesus), Magdala (possible birthplace of Mary Magdalene and an important fishing village in Christ's time), and Capernaum (hometown of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John). The day ended with a drive to Yardenit (Little Jordan) where I was baptized in the River Jordan. While not exactly the spot where St. John baptized Christ, it was still one of the highlights of the trip and my life.

Day 3 - Iter Hierosolym

Some of our plans from Day 2 were changed because of how busy some of the sites were so we made a quick trip to the Church of the Multiplication before going to Cana to see the Church of the Wedding where Christ turned water to wine, His first miracle. We then made our way over to Nazareth where we walked to the Church of the Synagogue and the Church of the Annunciation. The Synagogue Church was said to have been a synagogue that Christ studied and preached. The Basilica of the Annunciation was built over the ruins of the house of the Virgin Mary and where she received the message from the archangel Gabriel that she would birth the Son of God. This church was amazing and it was amazing seeing the blend of old and new architecture in one structure.

We then traveled down to the ruins of Beit She'an, much of which has only been recently discovered and excavated, before we traveled through the West Bank to Jerusalem. Before checking into the hotel, we visited the Garden Tomb which is an alternate site to where Christ was buried and resurrected; the primary site for this is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Day 4 - Primum et Ultimum Dierum

We visited the Church of St. Peter Gallicantu first thing in the morning of the fourth day of touring. This church commemorates Peter's three denials of Christ when the latter was arrested. This church is also said to be the site of the house of the High Priest Caiaphas.

On our way to the Cenacle or Upper Room (Room of the Last Supper), we passed the Dormition Abbey. The Upper Room is said to be where Christ held the Last Supper with his apostles and where the apostles gathered after the events following the Last Supper. The Dormition Abbey marks the spot where the Virgin Mary died. Beneath the Upper Room is the Tomb of King David. While it is debated whether or not it is the actual tomb, it was likely selected as Jews were restricted from entering the Old City for a time; for a few years in the 20th century, it was the holiest place for Jews.

At this point, we had to leave our guide behind as he is Israeli and could not enter Bethlehem with us which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Inside Bethlehem, we went to the Fields of the Shepherds and the Church of the Nativity. The Fields were where the angels announced the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds and also where Ruth gleaned grain in the fields of Boaz. While at the Fields of the Shepherds, we also visited the Chapel of the Shepherds' Field (also called the Church of the Angels) where we sang "The First Noel" and "Angels We Have Heard On High."

The Church of the Nativity is actually three different churches operated by the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, and the Greek Orthodox Church. All three churches have access to the cave or grotto which all three agree is the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

After a short walk and bus ride, we went to the New Bethlehem Store which is run by the Nisan Brothers who specialize in olive wood carvings.

Day 5 - On Our Own

Being Sunday, we started the day with a church service at the Seventh Station of the Cross where a small chapel exists. Station 7 is where Christ left Jerusalem and the remnants of the old gate are where the chapel was built and is today maintained by the Franciscans.

A small group of us made it over to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where, after a 2-hour wait, we made it into the Shrine that houses the tomb that held Christ's body after his Crucifixion and Death. This, by far, was the highlight of the trip for me. While not as grand in appearance as some cathedrals and churches in Europe, without this holiest of places and events that occurred there, places like St. Peter's Basilica in Rome would not exist.

After lunch, a few of us wandered the Old City of Jerusalem and the four quarters that compose it (Christian Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Jewish Quarter, and Armenian Quarter). I was disappointed to hear that Zedekiah's Cave was closed due to construction as this cave was where the stone for the Temple of Solomon was quarried.

Day 6 - Via Dolorosa

This day began with a visit to the Western Wall (also called the Wailing Wall). This wall is a small remnant of the wall that once surrounded the Jewish Temple. Due to the restrictions placed on the Temple Mount, the wall is the holiest place in Judaism where Jews can still pray. While I was there, it was packed full of Orthodox Jews praying. It is common practice to leave notes with prayers in the cracks of the Western Wall. Twice a year, a Rabbi collects the notes and buries them on the Mount of Olives.

We then made our way to the Temple Mount where Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock now sit where King Solomon's Temple was once. Al Aqsa is said to mark where Muhammed was transported from Mecca to Jerusalem in one night. The Dome of the Rock is said to be the place where Muhammed ascended to heaven. This same rock, the Foundation Stone, is said to be where Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, where Jacob had his dream, where the Ark of the Covenant resided in the Holy of Holies in King Solomon's Temple, and the Axis Mundi.

We then proceeded to the Lions Gate and St. Anne's Church. St. Anne's had great acoustics and several groups sang many hymns in their native tongue. This church is built next to the ruins of the Pools of Bethesda (Hebrew for "mercy") and over the ruins of what is believed to be the birthplace of the Virgin Mary. The church is dedicated to St. Anne, the mother of Mary.

We then started the Way of Sorrow with the Churches of the Condemnation and Flagellation which serve as the First and Second Stations of the Cross. Traveling through the Old City we traveled to each Station of the Cross before ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which holds the last stations within its hallowed walls.

Day 7 - In the Wilderness

This morning we made our south to Masada, the ancient fortress built by Herod the Great (great in that he built great structures, not great in his deeds). While you can walk to the fortress ruins, it is more expedient to take the cable car as you are going from -33 meters to 257 meters. This fortress was also besieged by the Romans in 73 AD and marked the end of the First Jewish-Roman War. Masada today serves as one of the locations for the swearing-in ceremony for the Israeli military.

After a quick lunch, we toured Qumran and learned about the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The day ended with a swim in the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is around 34% salt while the ocean is between 3-5% salt. This abundance of salt allows the body to float. It was weird, but fun to be so buoyant. After showering off, a few of us had a beer at the Lowest Bar in the World.

Day 8 - A Legacy of Agony

This day was a somber day as we went to the Israel Museum where we saw a scale model of Jerusalem during the 2nd Temple and the Shrine of the Book that houses, among other documents, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo Codex. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of ancient manuscripts of canonical books of the Old Testament, apocryphal texts, and extra-biblical texts, some of which date back to the 2nd century BC. The Aleppo Codex is a 10th-century AD manuscript of the Hebrew Bible.

Next on our tour, was the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. I toured the Holocaust Memorial in Washington DC when I was 16 and this memorial was just as moving. It was sobering to see such evil that was perpetrated by the Nazis and their allies. Both those who committed these atrocities and those who today deny that they happened are some of the purest forms of evil we have in our world.

In the afternoon, we went to the Church of All Nations or Church of the Agony then to the Garden of Gethsemane. The current Church is built on the ruins of two previous Christian churches that were built to commemorate Christ praying in the Garden before his arrest. The Garden of Gethsemane was an ancient orchard of olive trees where Christ underwent agony and then where He was arrested by the Romans. My tour group was able to spend time in a private section of the Garden and have a moment of reflection.

Day 9 - Lehitra’ot Israel

The previous day was cut short because of the long lines of other tourists, so this last morning in Israel, we visited the Ascension Chapel and Pater Noster Church on the Mount of Olives. The church is said to be the place where the Savior ascended to Heaven. The chapel is simple, but holds a stone that contains a footprint marking the spot of His Ascension. The chapel today is under Islamic control, but it is open to tourists and for Christian use. The Pater Noster Church sits on a cave or grotto where Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer. The church sits next to the ruins of the Byzantine Church of Eleona. On the walls of the church are translations of the Lord's Prayer (Pater Noster) in 140 languages. Eusebius wrote this of the cave: “in that cave the Saviour of the Universe initiated the members of his guild in ineffable mysteries”.

To get one last look at the Old City, we went to the Haas Promenade Overlook (due south of the Old City). 

Going to the newer part of Jerusalem, we had lunch at the Machaneh Yehuda Market.

As we were technically on the Pilgrimage an extra day, our hosts took us to the Abu Gosh - Saxum Visitor Center. This center gives visitors the ability to tour through history using timelines, maps, interactive screens, models, recreations, and video mappings.

We then made our way to Tel Aviv where we had a group dinner before going to the airport for home. Once I landed back in Idaho, I made for southern Idaho as the next day Idaho College SRICF was going to meet. By the time I made it home on Saturday evening, I was exhausted.

This trip was truly once in a lifetime and I am so thankful for the opportunity to walk where the Savior walked. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone, whether a Sir Knight, a member of the clergy, or otherwise to go on this Pilgrimage.