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203: Emmas des Croiss, Abu Gosh, Israel
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Emmas des Croiss
Mystery Worshipper: Anonyma.
The church: Emmas des Croiss, Monastre de la Resurrection, Abu Gosh, Israel.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Benedictine community from La Pierre-qui-Vire, founded in 1848, and present here since 1899.
The building: Tiny Romanesque crusader church built by the Knights Hospitallers in 1142 atop three Roman cisterns. One of four sites traditionally associated with Emmaus, where according to Luke the risen Jesus was known by the breaking of the bread. The walls of the crypt are the walls of the Roman cistern – and there are steps down into the water bubbling from a spring.
The neighbourhood: Arab Christian village off the main road to Tel Aviv, not far from Jerusalem. Like everwhere else, it is "historic". It is traditionally held to be the place where the Ark of the Covenant stayed for 20 years before David took it to Jerusalem (1 Samuel 6:21-7:2). A church up the hill was built in 1924 for the sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition on the ruins of a 5th century church that had been dedicated to Mary, "Ark of the Covenant".
The cast: I do not know.
What was the name of the service?
Mass (largely sung, in Latin and French).

How full was the building?
Pretty full, with monks and nuns, some locals and tourists.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Quiet, warm sweep of arm inviting me in.

Was your pew comfortable?
Simple, adequate wooden chairs.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet, barring a few very quiet whispers, while one of the nuns played the organ. Then the monks and nuns (about eight of each) processed, singing a capella.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning." Before the service began, one of the monks explained the order of service and a bit about the place in English.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

What musical instruments were played?
Organ and voices – some of the music was sung solo, or in duets, or involving the whole choir, while other music involved all of us, singing in plainsong and polyphany.

Did anything distract you?

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Mysterious, spiritually and aesthetically enthralling. Except for the opening remarks, every word was in French or Latin, two languages I can read but which I have difficulty understanding aurally. I did not try. I simply let the sound surround me and I was part of it.

Emmas des Croiss

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9. His score is based on his presentation – tone and inflection, facial expression, posture, gesture.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
I haven't a clue.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
All of it. Augustine said somewhere that in heaven we will not need words because we will understand.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
For a few minutes we walked in the astonishingly lush garden. I was reminded of the vigorous palms, ferns, orchids, etc. in conservatories in New York and Montreal, and at once grasped the notion of "oasis" in this arid land. Off to one side, the monk who had preached was presenting a lesson on Christianity to about 20 sprawling young Israeli soldiers, their guns stacked to one side. Evidently he has been doing this for years after learning that these soldiers know nothing at all about the New Testament. It is now a regular aspect of this military unit's training.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6. Even though I am Anglican, if I were based in Jerusalem for an extended time, I would worship there frequently, and certainly attend any musical event that might be held there. What a glorious reason to improve my French and Latin!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The thought that taking those steps down into the spring and out the other side in that dark, dark crypt must be like dying with Christ and rising with him.

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