We’re leaving the area around the Dome of the Rock and headed toward St. Anne’s church, which is still in the Muslim quarter.
It was built in 1138 by the widow of King Baldwin I, the first titled king of Jerusalem. Currently, it belongs to the French government and is administered by the White Fathers, so named because they wear white robes.
The church also graciously allowed us to use their facilities, which is why you see everyone milling around. The gardens are lovely.
The lady you see in the picture is a chemistry professor.
Some tour groups wore brightly-colored hats to distinguish them from other groups. I’m glad we weren’t one of those groups! The extraordinary thing about this church is the perfect acoustics inside. Everyone wants to go inside to “sing a joyful noise into the Lord,” because it truly sounds angelic.
When we entered the church some group was singing “Amazing Grace.” We tried to join in, but they were singing it in a different language. No matter, it was beautiful! There was a group of Chinese who left after the song, walking back down the center aisle with tears streaming down their faces. They wanted to hug each one of us or shake our hands and say “Hallelujah!” A precious moment…
When it was our turn to move toward the front and sing, we chose “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
The Pool of Bethesda is very close to the Church of St. Anne, near the Lions Gate. The name, Bethesda, in Aramaic means house of mercy or house of grace. In the Syriac version of the language it means both grace and disgrace. So the invalids coming to the pool were in disgrace because of their infirmities but in the pool they found healing, or grace.
There has been some controversy about the Biblical story. Until the 19th century, there was no evidence outside of John’s Gospel for the existence of this pool. Scholars argued that the gospel was written later, probably by someone without first-hand knowledge of the city of Jerusalem, and that the ‘pool’ had only a metaphorical meaning, rather than historical, significance.
Then in the 19th century, archaeologists discovered the remains of a pool exactly matching the description in John’s Gospel, thus confirming the historical accuracy of John’s account. There was once a gate there called the Sheep Gate, near where a sheep market was held, and animals to be used in the city's sacrifices were washed in the pool.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; a man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me. Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. John 5: 2-9
These are the ruins of a Byzantine church.
In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. Isaiah 63:9