Monday, 16 February 2015
How Christ said the first Mass, Or The Lord's Supper. By Rev. James L. Meagher, D.D. Part 27.
QUEEN HELENA PURIFIES THE CENACLE.
It was easy to find where slept the famous kings, and the building where the Lord said the first Mass still stood. Jerusalem, then as now, was built of stones, all rooms and ceilings arched. You could not burn the buildings, for wood is only in doors and windows. Only man or an earthquake could ruin Jerusalem.
Under Helena's directions the Cenacle was purified, consecrated, and in it Mass was again said. It became the seat of an archbishop—a patriarchal See second to Rome and Alexandria. In the Cenacle they said Mass according to St. James's Liturgy, and the Mass St. Peter composed at Antioch. The first is written in Greek, the latter in Syro-Chaldaic the language of the people of Judea at the time of Christ. The Church of Jerusalem with the Cenacle as its cathedral flourished till A. D. 636, when with fire and sword came the fanatic followers of the false prophet of Arabia. Omar, Mohammed's cousin came and negotiated with the patriarch Sophronius for the surrender of the holy city. He treated the Christians with kindness, gave them the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Cenacle, retaining for the Mohammedans the site of the Temple.
Maronite priests served the Christians till the crusaders came, after which at the request of their founder St. Francis who went to Jerusalem, the Cenacle fell into the hands of the Franciscan Fathers who held if for more than 200 years. Then some Mohammedans, claiming direct decent from David's family, drove out the monks, and they still serve as the guardians of the Cenacle, calling it Bab Neby Daud "The House of the Prophet David."
Bright was the April day in 1903 when we started up David Street, leading south up the holy hill. On the right we passed the dark battlemented Tower of David, a little South of the Joppa Gate, now used as Turkish barracks. The great stones look old and black enough to have been placed there by the Royal Prophet. On the opposite side are Cook's office, a Protestant school, and higher up is the site of the house of Thomas the apostle. Farther on your left you come to the Armenian church, built on the spot where they say St. James, first bishop of Jerusalem, lived.
THE CHURCH ON SITE OF CAIPHAS' PALACE.
By the bishop's throne in the sanctuary they show you his tomb. Outside the wall east of the Temple area cut from the living rock his tomb still stands. Why they buried him within the city we do not know, as Jewish laws forbade burials within the sacred walls. Perhaps they brought his relics to the church on Sion.
The land is now level, and continuing south you come to the site of Caiphas' house or palace, where Christ was twice tried and condemned to death. A little church occupies the site. It is twenty-one by twenty-seven feet, built of the gray limestone of Judea. Six square pillars, three on each side, support the stone arched roof. Inscriptions tell you SIX bishops were buried under the building. In the eastern part is the sanctuary, its altar stone being the round rolling flat stone with which they closed the door of the tomb of the dead Christ. To the right, or south of the altar, within the chancel is a little stone room over the cell in the basement, in which they imprisoned Christ that night, till they could hold court in the morning to legally sentence him, for night sessions of the court were forbidden by the Jewish law.
The church occupies but a small part of the high priest's palace. In the yard behind the church, they had dug away some of the debris of centuries, exposing a large beautiful mosaic pavement, made of little colored square marbles done with art, forming flowers and beautiful tracery—perhaps the floor of Caiphas' house. Half a day's work would have uncovered most of the yard, and the rest of the figures. But the Turks forbade further search, lest Christians might discover David's tomb and treasury.
Now south slope Sion's summit and suburbs. Debris of walls and houses destroyed centuries ago cover fields and gardens. You will see men plowing sites of rich abodes of Scribes, Pharisees, priests and judges, who sentenced the God-Man to death, fulfilling the prophet's words, Jeremy quotes: "You that build up Sion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. Her princes have judges for bribes . . . Therefore because of you, Sion shall be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall be a heap of stones, and the mountain of the Temple as the places of the forest." 1
WHERE JUDAS HANGED HIMSELF.
You come through the walls, pass out what was once called the Sion Gate, which now Moslems name Bab en Neby Daud, "Gate of the Prophet David." On your right, inclosed by a wall, is the Armenian cemetery, and farther on the Protestant burying-ground. Walk over a little to the west where Melchisedech's palace once rose, and you look down into the deep Hinnom valley, 170 feet below, where you see the Gihon pool partly filled with water. At your left, to the east, is the Tyropoeon vale, then comes the hill where Ophel stood, below the Temple area, then the Cedron and Gethsemane—around on all sides rise tombs, and east is Olivet—all inspiring memories of historic incidents.
As you run your eyes along over the land below, spread like a map before you, wonderful stories of the past rise in your mind. There Solomon was crowned. There opposite is the hill with its steep eastern side toward you, on which Judas hanged himself that fatal Friday morning of the crucifixion, when his body fell down seventy-five feet onto the road below and his bowels gushed out. It is the very spot where wicked Achab and Manasses burned little children to the fire-god Moloch in that cursed Topheth, where emptied the city sewers, where ever-burning fires were kept for consuming garbage, animal carcases and criminals. Well was it named Topheth and Gehenna. It was an image of that hell down to which went the soul of the Master's faithless apostle.
South about half a mile the two vales of Hinnom and Cedron unite forming the ravine leading their waters in winter and spring down 4,000 feet to the Dead Sea. Almost hanging from the western cliffs of the Hill of Evil Council, where Solomon reared temples to the gods of his pagan wives, you see the empty tombs and homes of Moslems, wretched in ignorance, poverty and filth—many being afflicted with leprosy. That is Siloam "Fleece-Pool," for in that pool before you they washed the lambs for Temple and Passover. There Christ told the man to anoint his blind eyes with its clay when he received his sight.
A WOMAN NEAR THE VIRGIN'S SPRING.
Sion, image of the Church Universal, whose glories prophets sang, now outside the walls, has become a waste. Who cultivates these fields? Come with me, gentle reader, and see a specimen of her inhabitants. We are coming up the Cedron ravine from the place, down below, where Judas hanged himself. On our right, wretched stone houses, and tombs of Siloam, cling to the steep hill. On our left is the Virgin's Spring, now called Ed Derez, "Spring with steps," still flowing from underground cisterns Solomon excavated under Temple and city.
Above us, about ten feet away almost above us, there like an apparition, suddenly appears a woman of about twenty-five, her bare feet nearly on a level with our heads. On a matted shock of black hair, making a cushion on her head, rests a round earthen water vessel, shaped like those of the days of Juda's kings. She had just drawn that water from the Virgin's Spring. Her only garment, of camel's hair, rough and thick as a carpet, is so covered and permeated with dirt, for she has worn it day and night for years, that you could scrape off the crusts of filth with a hoe. It comes not quite to her knees and the frayed edges hang in dirty ringlets. Her breast is bare, and great holes are worn in the garment under her arms. If she washed the garment it would fall to pieces, for the dried dirt keeps it together.
Her skin is the color of old copper. Fanaticism, dirt, degradation, debased womanhood are written in every lineament and move, as there she stands like a bronze statue, and through dark decayed teeth she yells in Arabic to someone in the village of Siloam across the Cedron vale. She is the wife or daughter of a farmer who cultivates the fields of Sion now desolate and uninhabited.
A little south of Sion's summit, but outside the city Avails Moslems built in the seventh century, about 400 feet south from site of Joseph Caiphas' palace, rises the ancient pile of the Cenacle buildings, black with age and looking as though the storms of twenty centuries had passed over them. It is composed of various buildings, gables, and sides, some one, others two stories high. There, guarded by Moslems, you find the upper chamber in which Christ said the First Mass.
THE ''UPPER CHAMBER."
On the outside, a stone stairway about twelve feet high leads to the roof of the adjoining building; mounting and passing to the left, you walk over the cemented stones forming the roof covering the vaulted rooms below, and through a door you enter the "Upper Chamber" of Gospel and history. Four windows on the south side light the room.
The room is fifty by thirty feet, and two square stone pillars in the center sustain the vaulted ceilings. The floor is of irregular flat stones cemented together. To the east is an alcove like the chancel or sanctuary of a church, closed by an iron railing. In the time of Christ this formed the Bema or sanctuary, and gave rise to the sanctuary of our churches. Attached to the wall on your right is a flight of high stone steps leading up to another chamber about ten feet higher than the floor of the Cenacle. You ascend, enter, and at your left through an iron grill closing the door, you see a catafalque covered with a faded canopy of silk, reminding you of the catafalque used in our churches at Masses for the dead when the body is not present. Down deep in Sion's rocks, under these rooms, rest the bodies of Melchisedech, David, Solomon, and the kings of David's dynasty.
The walls of all the rooms are blackened with age. Decorations of synagogue. Last Supper, and Masses of apostolic days appear no more. The vaulted ceilings, the ornamented capitals of the two pillars, the great stones of walls and ceilings, the carved groins of the Bema where the synagogue "ark" rested—all show great antiquity. They point out to you the marked place where Jesus Christ reclined with his disciples that historic night.
At your left as you come into the Cenacle, in the corner, a flight of stone steps leads down to the lower apartments. The door below was open and the writer started to go down. The Moslem ran before him, shut the door and forbade him. They will not allow a stranger to enter their female apartments. The writer was in negotiations with them to enter David's tomb before he left the city; difficulties rose, a great price was asked before hand, a firman from the Sultan was required, which was almost impossible to get lest David's treasury might be found, the excavations would take weeks and might be stopped at any moment, and the project was abandoned.
THE TOMBS OF THE KINGS.
The custom of artfully hiding the bodies of the dead the Hebrews brought with them from Egypt. You will find that Cheops in his pyramid near Cairo, used remarkable means of concealing his body in the stone coffer in the "king's chamber," and different means were used to conceal the mummies, remains of nobles in their desert tombs along the Nile valley.
In 1839, some Jews were allowed to see the tombs of their kings on Sion. Later, Miss Barclay went down to what she thought was the tomb of David, and says:
"The room is insignificant in its dimensions, but is furnished very gorgeously. The tomb is apparently an immense sarcophagus of rough stone, and is covered with a green tapestry richly embroidered with gold. A satin canopy of red, blue, green and yellow stripes hangs over the tomb, and another piece of black velvet tapestry, embroidered in silver, covers the door in one end of the room, which they say leads to a cave underneath. Two silver candlesticks stand before this door, and a little lamp hangs in the window near it which is kept constantly burning." 2
The catafalque the writer saw was not as ornate as the one she describes, and the coverings were faded.
1 Jeremy xxvi, 18; Micheas iii. 10-12.
2 City of the Great King p. 212.