CONVENT OF THE PATER NOSTER|
Catholic - Carmelite Cloistered Sisters
Located on the Mount of Olives
[#8 on the Mount of Olives map]
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"As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately."Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. ... Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom ... you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
In the year 312, just before entering the fray at Milvian bridge, the Roman emperor Flavius Valerius Constantinus is said to have had a vision of the Chi-Rho cross. Later to become known as the Constantinian monogram, it was formed by joining the first two letters of the Greek word for "Christ" (resembling an English P and an English X). Tradition holds that he inscribed the Chi-Rho on his standard and on the shields of his soldiers. History tells us that Constantine won the battle, which proved to be the decisive victory over his dangerous rival, Maxentius.
One year later, Constantine issued an edict granting freedom of religion within his empire. He gradually began favoring Christianity, until in 324 he became the first Roman sovereign to formally adopt the nearly 300-year-old faith.
Together with his mother, Queen Helena, Constantine built three glorious monuments to Jesus in the Holy Land. One was the splendid Church of the Holy Sepulchre, at the site where Jesus was crucified. The second sanctuary was the stately Nativity Church in Bethlehem over the cave where Jesus was born. And above the Mount of Olives grotto in which Jesus prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world they ordered construction of the third magnificent basilica. Called either the Church of the Disciples or the Church of Eleona (Mount of Olives, in Greek), it was destroyed by the Persians in 614.
Hundreds of years later, the crusaders erected a chapel on the site of Eleona and called it Pater Noster - the Lord's Prayer. It is widely believed that this is the site on which Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer to the disciples.
"One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.' He said to them, 'When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation' "
Tourists making the pilgrimage especially to see the Church of Eleona are bound to be disappointed. True, the crypt is still there, along with a second cave called the Grotto of the Creed. But except for a bit of the foundation, a couple of stones and the bases of a few pillars, little is left of the elaborate Byzantine church. Even less remains of the more modest Crusader chapel, which was probably destroyed by Saladin's forces in 1187. An attempt by the French government to construct a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart ended abruptly in 1927 when the funds ran out. What remains of that endeavor are a stone altar and a chair - looking quite out of place in the open air!
Fortunately for travelers who have come here from afar, however, a stirring cloister and a small chapel were built adjacent to the site in the 1870's. Sponsor of the complex was an Italian woman, Aurelia Bossie, who on her second marriage wed a member of the French Royalty and became the Princess de la Tour d'Auvergne. It was Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne, a French Jew who had converted to Christianity, who convinced her to purchase the property in 1868. That was the very same year in which he, himself, was busy building the ECCE HOMO BASILICA.
Immediately inside the convent's iron gate visitors begin seeing richly decorated plaques containing the entire Lord' Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). The first panel you see is in Icelandic; two more plaques to the left near the cloister are in Hebrew and Aramaic and 107 additional ornamental panels are inscribed in other languages scattered throughout the compound. Among the dozens on view in the remarkable vaulted cloister are Guarani, Maltese, and the interesting Chaldean language whose letters have a curious resemblance to Hebrew. Unfortunately, a metal French version in Braille was vandalized, but a copy is on view in the gift shop.
The convent's rather stark chapel is just off the cloistered walkway. Within the high-ceilinged sanctuary are wrought iron lamps and a large painted status of Mary and her baby Jesus. While these lend an air to the church, it is the colorful tile plaques lining the white stone walls which catch your eye. Several of the tongues in which the Lord' Prayer is written are truly exotic, including Tagalog, Pampango, and Ojibway.
At one end of the walkway is a mausoleum where the princess is entombed. For nearly a decade, until the convent was well established, she lived nearby in a wooden cabin brought from France. She loved the site so much that she prepared her own sarcophagus and asked to be buried within the confines of the Pater Noster. Atop the sarcophagus a life-size effigy lies in state, a fitting memorial to a princess whose favorite and most comforting litany was the Lord's Prayer.
Visiting hours: Monday-Saturday, 8:30-11:45; 15:00-16:45
(This is the chapter "The Convent of the Pater Noster" in "Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem" by Aviva Bar-Am)
Return to "The Lord's Prayer"