Sing: There Is a Balm in Gilead, UMH 375
Bethesda means “House of Mercy” and these pools, which were part of Jerusalem’s rainwater collection system, were known for their healing properties. For centuries Bible scholars searched for the pools mentioned in John 5 without success. Some believed they did not exist until archeologists in the early 20th century unearthed two large water reservoirs separated by a broad rock dike. They were rectangular in shape, with four colonnaded porticos around the sides and one across the central dike.
Also found were the remains of a 5th century basilica and a Crusader chapel (which can be seen to the right of center in this photo). Support columns for the basilica can be seen to the left of the chapel and one of the pools is at the base of these supports.
This was an incredible area to visit. The archeological work done here has been tremendous. The pool that was uncovered must have been at least 25 feet below today’s street level and they continued on at least another 15 feet deeper.
Church of Saint Anne
Between the street and the Pools of Bethesda is the Church of St. Anne. On this spot a 5th century basilica that was built by Byzantine empress Eudocia, was named “Mary where she was born.” This was done in honor of a tradition which says that Jesus’ maternal grandparents, Anne and Joachim, lived here and his mother Mary was born here.
The Church of Saint Anne is the best preserved Crusader church in Jerusalem. Constructed in 1140 its architectural features give Saint Anne’s a fortress-like appearance. Its simplicity offers a space for prayer and contemplation without distraction. It is also unusually asymmetrical in the detail of its design: opposite columns do not match, windows are all different sizes, and buttresses differ in thickness and height.
The Church of Saint Anne is renowned for its remarkable acoustics and reverberating echoes. The voices of even a small choral group can sound like a large congregation in a vast cathedral. We got to experience this first hand as we sang together a couple of songs. We also got to listen to one other group sing a song in a language none of us could identify.
I am grateful for the archeologists who kept searching and searching without knowing what they might or might not find. As Jesus said, “My Father has never stopped working, and that is why I keep on working.”