Celebrating the Baptism of Jesus Christ on the banks of the Jordan

Celebrating the Baptism of Jesus Christ on the banks of the Jordan

Significance of the Baptism of Jesus at Qasr al Yahud along the Jordan

The shallow waters of the lower Jordan, flowing through meandering plains, is also the site of one of Christianity’s most holy sites – the site of the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Also known by its Arabic name – the Qasr al Yahud – the waters of the Jordan at this point, just south of where the Yarmuk joins the Jordan, are considered holy beyond measure.

The Significance of the Baptism of Jesus Christ

This is because the Baptism of our Lord marks a watershed event, where Jesus first recognizes and accepts the fate that must befall him. In that moment of his blessed cleansing, the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a white dove, and God, the Father’s own voice is heard, acknowledging pride in his divine son.

According to Mark 1:9-11:
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.”

This is perhaps the only moment that the Trinity is seen together in one glorious scene, as famously depicted by Aert de Gelder, the last of Rembrandt’s pupils while in Amsterdam, in 1710.

Jesus’ baptism is markedly different from ordinary baptisms, which are a reaffirmation of sin and being cleansed therefrom. The son of God had no sins to repent but he chose to accept the fate of his painful death by crucifixion and, thereby his glorious resurrection, three days later.

The Gospel of Matthew 3:13-15 explains this point further.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.

Accepting Christ, Rejecting Sin, and Becoming Part of his Family

But perhaps, no one has explained the significance of the Baptism of Christ better than the late Pope Benedict the Sixteenth. According to him, for the rest of us, baptism means being accepted into the family of God. This is because baptism means communion with the one who conquered death and holds in his hands the keys to life. Accepting Christ means being part of his circle and being showered with his eternal love far beyond death.

As the late Pope so eloquently puts it, “And if we can say that love and truth are sources of life, are life itself – and a life without love is not life – we can say that this companionship with the One who is truly life, with the One who is the Sacrament of life, will respond to your expectation, to your hope.”

Why Pilgrims Still Throng the Site of the Baptism on the Banks of the Jordan

Why Pilgrims Still Throng the Site of the Baptism on the Banks of the Jordan

Today, the muddy waters of the River Jordan have been drained and dammed for power and irrigation. But pilgrims still throng the points south of the Yarmuk to bathe and baptize themselves and be part of the experience of a lifetime – one they believe will give them power over sin, grief, worry, and doubt. For these are the holy lands and waters where Jesus himself lived, walked, cleansed, and caught fish.

To be part of this joyous ritual is to partake in a divine experience – where prayers are heard and answered – sorrows taken away and the spirit truly cleansed. The Salvation Garden praying community is proud of leading a delegation to this third most holy site in Christianity – where Jesus is believed to have first been spiritually reborn.

Pilgrimage is very limited due to pandemic-related restrictions, but we insist on carrying on. As we celebrate the spiritual rebirth of Jesus Christ and the beginning of his Ministry in Christianity’s third holiest site, we invite you to join us in prayer.

The Salvation Garden Team to Carry your Prayers to the Jordan

We are taking with us a limited number of personal prayer requests, which we will pray standing on the banks of the River Jordan and then set those prayer letters to float on the holy water.

If you send your prayer request and select the Baptism of Jesus option (after the Continue button), you will receive a photo of your printed request with the River Jordan at the site of baptism, plus a photo of the floating prayers upon the water.

Not far from Jericho, the heat there can reach over 110 degrees, yet neither sun nor vapid weather has managed to sap the strength in prayer of the Christian faithful. Such a prayer delegation would take an entire day, in harsh conditions, and it also requires security arrangements. Thank you so much for participating as your donations help turn this journey into a reality.

Please click here to send us your prayer request.

Significance of the Baptism of Jesus at Qasr al Yahud along the Jordan

Praying at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre: My Experience

Praying at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre: My Experience

Despite temperatures touching 90 degrees, prayers don’t stop at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter of the old city. It is hard to believe that these modest walls house the site where Christianity’s four most important events — the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are said to have occurred.

What is Significant about the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

The Gospels tell us that the Lord, Jesus, was crucified at Golgotha – the place of the skull. The current complex encompasses that original location. One cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the scope of history and faith that surrounds the courtyard. Wars have been fought and tales of honor among the vanquished abound.

Who Worships at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

Today, the joint ownership of the Church lies mainly with the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox, and the Roman Catholic denominations.

The outer walls of the Church display signs of classic Roman and Baroque architecture. However, parts of the structure have been razed and rebuilt several times. The entrance to the complex can be accessed via a flight of stairs leading up from the‘Cardo’ — the main street of Jerusalem.

Who Holds the Keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre?

Interestingly, the keys to the Church have traditionally been kept by a Sunni Muslim family since the time of Emperor Saladin. The story goes that the Caliph Umar took possession of the Church peacefully from the Roman patriarch Sophronius on the condition that the houses of worship in Jerusalem would not be harmed. To fulfill these conditions, the Caliph entrusted the keys to a loyal Muslim household called ‘Nussaiba’. When Emperor Saladin re-conquered the city from the Crusaders, he honored Caliph Umar’s arrangement by engaging another Muslim family called ‘Al-Goudia’.

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

At the entrance to the Church building, there is usually a long line of pilgrims waiting to be admitted. A series of steps lead up to the Hill of Calvary, where lie two chapels. The lavishly decorated one on the left is believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. The chapel to the right marks the spot where Jesus was nailed to the Cross. The Rock of Calvary, from the abandoned quarry that existed in Jesus’ time, is now encased in glass beneath the altar, with an opening through which you can touch the old limestone. You can even see a fissure in the rock which is consistent with the story that the earth cracked open upon Jesus’ death as mentioned in the New Testament.

The two chapels correspond to the Eleventh and Twelfth Stations of the Cross or the Via Dolorosa. The Tenth Station, where Jesus is stripped of his garments, also occurred on Calvary. As one watches these divine relics, the Apostle’s Creed comes instinctively to mind:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate; Was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into Hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven; And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; The Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body; And the life everlasting. Amen.“

From the Chapel of the Crucifixion, you can move on to the Stone of Anointing, now covered with a building and lined with ornate candlesticks and frescoes. This is the place where Jesus’ body was laid down and prepared for burial.

If you wish you can visit the immaculate Iconostasis – the link between heaven and the holy place. The Armenian Station of the Holy Women is commemorated by a circular slab with four pillars supporting a marble roof. From here, Mary and the women of Jerusalem are said to have watched the Crucifixion.

The Real Tomb of Jesus Christ

Going past the Station of the Holy Women, you reach the Rotunda, which houses the Tomb of Christ under a massive dome. Archaeologically, this site has been confirmed to be either the actual site of Jesus’ tomb or very close to it because a real tomb existed at the current spot. This area is flanked by barricades where Christian faithful the world over can come and pray for all kinds of miracles. For this is the site of the greatest miracle of all – Jesus Christ’s Resurrection from death — a signifier of forgiveness for mankind’s sins. This site is universally accepted as being the holiest site in Christianity and praying here is an experience Christians should simply not miss.

You can volunteer to pray overnight at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre even as you learn to wait for mass offerings in three different traditions. The doors close by 9 pm at the latest and only open at 4 in the morning. As the Franciscan priests put it, praying at the Holy Sepulchre Church can be painful but very spiritually rewarding afterward.

If by any chance, you are unable to make it to this holiest of holy sites in your lifetime, The Salvation Garden praying community can send a delegation here to pray on your behalf. We will send you photographs and videos of your prayer being recited should you so choose, for a small donation. These donations go toward travel and other logistics to make the trip possible and are only a fraction of the cost it would take for you to perform the journey on your own. Send a prayer request to the Holy Sepulchre Church today.

Praying at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Top 7 Sites Associated with the Virgin Mary in the Holy Lands

Top 7 Sites Associated with the Virgin Mary in the Holy Lands

Top 7 Sites Associated with the Virgin Mary in the Holy Lands

Bethlehem, Galilee, Nazareth, Hebron, and Jerusalem – these are all places associated with the Virgin Mary in the Holy Lands. Christians of all denominations hold Mary, the Mother of God, in high veneration – because of her proximity as the mother to the son of the one true Father, Jesus Christ. Therefore, her intercession in prayer is regarded as the most powerful method of beseeching God to answer your prayers.

August and September, in the Christian Calendar, are particularly celebrated because of the number of feasts and occasions celebrating the most important female character in the devotion of the Christian faithful the world over. August 15 is celebrated as the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. September 8 is celebrated as the day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Catholics.

1. The Tomb of the Virgin Mary:

The Salvation Garden organizes trips to some of the most famous sites associated with the Madonna. Of these, the most famous one has to be the site of the Dormition – the passing of Mary to heaven once the natural course of her time on earth was over. Team members carry prayers from sponsors to be read out at the Tomb of the Virgin Mary where priests from different denominations unite in celebrating the Assumption. This year, too, we plan to engage in reciting the Hail Mary, the Rosary, consisting of all twenty mysteries, in consonance with the beads of the sacred thread.

We can light a candle for you, bought from the local authorities and blessed by the order of monks residing here. We can even make a video of the entire procession cum Mass, in order to deliver these to you via email.

The Tomb lies in the Kidron valley, near the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

2. The Abbey of the Dormition:

Located just outside the walls of old Jerusalem, in Mount Zion, the Dormition Abbey is said to have been build under the patronage of John the Second, Bishop of Jerusalem in the early 5the century CE.

This site is well-known for its annual seminars on Theology for priests in training from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.

3. The Church of the Annunciation:

Clearly demonstrating more Byzantine architecture, this monument marks the site where the angel Gabriel announced the conception and birth of Jesus Christ to a young and virgin, Mary.

This site is located in Nazareth, in Northern Israel.

4. The Church of the Nativity:

The birthplace of Jesus is as much a site dedicated to the baby Jesus, as it is to his mother. The grotto here is one of the most ancient sites of worship that has continuously been used since the time of Emperor Constantine.

Ownership to this important site is aptly divided between the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox, and the Syrian Orthodox denominations of the Christian faithful.

5. The Ancient Town of Capernaum:

The entire ancient town of Capernaum was uncovered in the early 20th century by the Franciscan fathers who took over the land. This is the place where Jesus was accompanied by Mary and some of Jesus’ earliest disciples to preach his ministry. You can find the original house of St. Peter, the apostle, as well as sites where Jesus performed many of his earliest miracles, such as the healing of the cripple and the healing of the Centurion’s daughter.

6. The Church of St. Anne:

You probably didn’t know that Anne and Joachim were the parents of the Saint we now worship as the Blessed Virgin Mary. Built during the time of the Crusades, this site is incredibly well-preserved amid a courtyard full of trees, shrubs, and flowers. Of course, this is also the most likely birthplace of the Virgin Mary.

7. The Orthodox Shrine of the Nativity of Mary:

This site is arguably not the place where Mary was born. However, some religions consider this place to be sacred by virtue of its association with the early life of the Virgin Mary. You will also find that this shrine offers one of the most peaceful prayer destinations in Jerusalem.

As people here are wont to say, ‘Bring a Bible with you and watch the holy lands come to life’. In case you are unable to make it to these pilgrimage sites, we can volunteer to carry your prayers to one of the holiest sites in these lands. All you need to do is sponsor a delegation to make the trip. Check out how this process works today by sending a prayer request online.

Top 7 Sites Associated with the Virgin Mary in the Holy Lands

Celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of Mary in the Holy Lands

Celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of Mary in the Holy Lands

Feast of the Assumption of Mary

The feast of the Assumption of Mary marks the Christian community’s veneration of the occasion when the mother of Jesus was “assumed” into heaven, body and soul, once the course of her life was over. This event is believed to be preceded by the ‘Dormition’, or the death of the Virgin Mary. The feast of the Assumption is celebrated in the Julian calendar on August the 15th every year.

Why Do We Celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary?

The Assumption is said to conform with Mary’s stature in Christian theology where her immaculate conception (the belief that Mary conceived Jesus by divine intervention despite being a virgin) is considered an infallible doctrine. Many Christians believe that if Mary could bear the son of God in her womb for nine months, she must have been a creature of heaven from the very beginning. Therefore, just like Jesus, who ascended into heaven, his mother, too, is borne by angels into the kingdom of God.

The significance of the Virgin Mary lies in the fact that she wasn’t just a mother to God but to every man, woman, and child on this earth. The bond of mother and child is considered sacred and is tied to the concept of unconditional love. Some may even say that Mary makes the image of God more humane.

Hence, it is no surprise that the Virgin Mary has her own prayer – the Hail Mary.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Mary Intercedes for Us When God Isn’t Listening

When God doesn’t seem to be listening, Mary, the mother has his ear. She intercedes between us and the Father. She gives strength to our prayers and in her name, miracles come to life.

The Rosary – a powerful form of prayer that originated in the Middle Ages, depends, for its fruition on a devotion to Mary, the mother of God.

How is the Assumption Celebrated in the Holy Lands?

In Israel, there is a growing and lively Christian community that celebrates the feast of the Assumption with a number of different eucharistic rites. The Franciscans, for example, have previously held a Vigil in the Garden of Gethsemane, where they read out several scenes from the Virgin Mary’s life. This reading was preceded by a march that saw community members carrying the image of the Virgin of Fatima into the Basilica of the Agony.

Masses are held and attended in numbers at the Church of All Nations and the Dormition Abbey. The latter is the site where the Assumption of Mary is said to have taken place. At the of the Mass at Dormition Abbey, the order of the Benedictine monks, who hold custody of the site, lead a procession into the actual crypt of the Virgin Mary.

The Eastern Orthodox Church of the Tomb of Mary takes out a similar procession within. Rosary liturgies can be heard being sung as pilgrims enter the tomb one at a time. The Roman Catholics are allowed to conduct a separate ceremony inside the temple for the only time in the year.

If you are burdened, caring for an ill family member, or grieving the loss of a loved one, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary is the perfect time to offer your devotion to Mary and have her intercede for a miracle. The Salvation Garden praying community tasks volunteers to carry your prayers to the Dormition Abbey and other churches in the Holy Lands for a minimal fee to cover travel and arrangements. Send in your prayer request today.

Feast of the Assumption of Mary