We’d just finished Holy Thursday Mass at the Notre Dame Visitor’s Center. Our kids were really starting to tire. So, we found a place to have our own last supper before we carted the younger kids off to bed.
We decided that our very best bet would be to put the younger kids to bed and go to the Garden of Gethsemane in shifts. My sister, oldest boy, and I took the first shift and headed over to the Garden and the Basilica of the Agony.
This was by far my favorite church. It is gorgeous and covered in mosaics. It is the Bible alive in color and movement. The whole history of salvation places out from the altar to the ceiling to the floor. It was incredible. It was also very crowded. We did not find room inside the church, so we sat by the gated Garden. We all agreed that this was the best part of the visit.
Strangely, the green lights did not detract from the feeling that you were there. It was dark, these olive trees are free from the otherwise centuries of building and “preserving” that have happened at the other sights. You could image Jesus in sorrow and the sleepiness of the disciples.
An interesting fact about the Garden of Gethsemane that I was not previously aware of: these are the oldest known olive trees in scientific literature. They were carbon dated to 1092 to 1198. Moreover, they are all genetically related, having been planted from the very same parent plant. It is speculated that people in the 1000s took steps to preserve the Garden and the original trees. I will say it again – these are the oldest recorded olive trees ever and they are in very healthy condition.
We prayed by the Garden until around midnight when we returned and let my dad and husband take the night shift. They went in the procession to the upper room and the cell where Jesus was held overnight after his encounter with the Sanhedrin.
Before we left, we visited the grounds of the Church of the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, which is also called the Church of the Assumption even though it should probably be called the Church of the Dormition, but it can’t be since that title is taken, ironically enough, by the Benedictines. At any rate, it is a lovely tradition to think of the Theotokos heading out from Ephasus to live her last days out near the Garden of Gethsemane and after having been there, I think it’s where I’d go, too.
Good Friday or Great and Holy Friday is coming up!