Tuesday, March 24, 2009

St Anne's Home: Pool of Bethesda, "House of Mercy"

The Lion's Gate, entrance to St Anne's Church near the Pool of Bethesda.

I have been marvelling over this new revealation. St Anne's home and the birthplace of Mary was in a home next to the Pool of Bethesada.

"Jerusalem residents utilized a number of rain-water reservoirs during the Second Temple period, including the double pool called Bethesda. People with a variety of disabilities would linger by the Bethesda pool, for its waters were believed to have magical powers of restoration. Indeed, it is said that an angel flew over the pools once every 24 hours; whoever happened to be inside the water at that time would be miraculously healed.

According to one Christian tradition, the Virgin Mary was born in a cave near the Bethesda pool where her son Jesus would one day perform miracles of faith. The Crusaders believed that a grotto they discovered next to the reservoir ruins was Mary's birthplace, the home of her parents Anne and Joachim. They incorporated the cave into a powerfully impressive church named for Jesus' grandmother and Mary's mother, Anne."

Jesus heals the Lame Man

The Pool of Bethesada is mentioned in scripture John 5:1-16, the site of one of Christ's miracles:

"Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people - blind, lame, or paralyzed - lay on the porches.

One of the men lying there had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus saw him and knew how long he had been ill, He asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

“I can not, sir,” the sick man said, “For I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I am trying to get there, someone else always gets in ahead of me.

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your sleeping mat, and walk!”

Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up the mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath day. So the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can not work on the Sabbath! It is illegal to carry that sleeping mat!”

He replied, “The man who healed me said to me, ‘Pick up your sleeping mat and walk’”.

“Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.

The man did not know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” Then the man went to find the Jewish leaders and told them it was Jesus who had healed him."

When we read this biblical account we immediately think of Jesus' mercy, that He approached this poor man who could not find his own way to the edge of the pool in order to be healed precisely due to the nature of his disability.

Little wonder that the name Bethseda means, "House of Mercy". These titles are not accidental, it is reminiscent of the meaning of Bethlehem, "House of Bread" Jesus who is the Bread of Life.

Today I am full of new wonders in regard to St Anne, due to this marvellous connection. That she lived in the "House of Mercy" and that Our Lady was born there. So fitting for this merciful grandmother of the Divine Saviour. I feel this is a reminder to all that know of this connection that St Anne has been given special gifts and graces betstowed on her by her Grandson. The gift of mercy, would have to surely be one of her greatest.

I am also pondering deeply, the words spoken by Christ at this site:

"Do you want to get well?"

St Anne's Church

Here is some more information on the church of St Anne:

"The Church of St. Anne is a beautiful 12th-century Crusader church, erected over the traditional site of the birthplace of Anne (Hannah), the mother of Mary. It is an excellent example of Romanesque architecture.

St. Anne's Church was built between 1131 and 1138 to replace a previous Byzantine church. Shortly after its construction, it was enlarged by moving the facade forward by several meters.

In 1192, Saladin turned the church into a Muslim theological school, which is commemorated in an inscription above the church's entrance. Eventually abandoned, the church fell into ruin until the Ottomans donated it to France in 1856. It was subsequently restored, but most of what remains today is original.

The church of St Anne is just a few hundred feet east of the Sanctuaries of the Flagellation and the Condemnation, at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa.

Saint Anne's acoustics, designed for Gregorian chant, are so perfect that the church is virtually a musical instrument to be played by the human voice. Pilgrim groups come to sing in the church throughout the day, and you, too, are welcome to prepare a song of any religion--only religious songs are permitted. The church's acoustics are most amazing when used by a soprano or a tenor solo voice.

St. Anne's Church is located in the Muslim Quarter, near the Lion's Gate. Enter through a wooden doorway leading to a hidden garden enclave.

St Anne's Garden Enclave

Unlike other Crusader churches, St. Anne's was not destroyed by the Mamelukes who captured the Holy Land in the twelfth century. Instead, Mameluke commander Saladin converted St. Anne's Church into an Islamic seminary and left it whole. If you read Arabic you will find the name Salahiya (of Saladin) in an inscription above the entrance.

Today St. Anne's belongs to the French government and is run by the White Fathers, an order of the Catholic church named for the color of their robes.What first strikes the visitor to St Anne's Church is its simplicity, both within the unadorned interior and on the clear clean lines of its facade.

Yet there is also a sense of majesty, perhaps lent by the church's stark cross-vaulted ceilings and giant pillars. You may note that the building leans slightly to the side. Although I have never observed this architectural quirk, tour guides who have noticed it claim the tilt is symbolic of Jesus on the cross. Stone steps descend to the crypt below the church, where an altar is dedicated to Mary and the ancient rock has been beautifully incorporated into the shrine.

The beautiful interior of St Anne's

During the Moslem occupation of Israel, Christian pilgrims were permitted inside the grotto - for a price - and it is here that the Franciscans celebrated mass from the mid-sixteenth century on.

Probably the finest example of Crusader architecture in the Land of Israel, St. Anne's Church possesses amazing acoustics which make even a solitary melodic prayer pervade your being. And when a choir sings in the church the very heavens seem to ring!"

Greek inscription on a stone tablet at the Pool of Bethesda amongst the ruins at the foot of St. Anne's Catholic Church, located just inside the gate variously called Lions', St. Stephen's, and St Mary's, in Old City, Jerusalem.

Part Two next week: The connection of this site to the Legend of the True Cross and St Raphael, the angel of healing.


Mary G said...

this is very cool ... thanks so much for the details. I need to send this to my sister, Anne!

Maryan said...

Great information and insights Anne!

Enbrethiliel said...


What a wonderful coincidence: the miracle of the healing of the sick man at the pool was our Gospel reading for today at Mass! The first reading was a vision Ezekiel had of water flowing out of the Temple and becoming a great river. I didn't notice the detailed connections until I read your post, Anne. Thank you so much!

Purpleflowerpatch said...

"I am also pondering deeply, the words spoken by Christ at this site:
"Do you want to get well?""
Yes, Anne...much indeed to ponder in those words. Thank you for highlighting them!

little sparrow , florasita , sticklady , strong tree woman said...

Dearest Anne ! I am on dial up right now out in the country . Even in the midst of a march snowstorm . However I am so blessed to have waited for your blog to load ! I love your new look ! I so want to write you a long e-mail ;-) as I have been thinking this past week how inspired I am and going to revamp our blogs when we return home !
I loved the reading today of the healing pools and the focus on grace to remember to ask ;-) and be open to recieving the beautiful gift of grace .
Anne please please continue to pray for my dh ST.joseph is working well in intrecession and I am trying to locate Robert's wort for dh . I kept having a calling a reminder of ST.joseph and was torn as to what novena to pray I felt called to Our Lady Gudalupe but also ST.Joseph . Then I said to Jesus I will pray both as a devotion to our wedding anniversary coming up april 1st. We were married laetare weekend during lent ;-) Then I discovered it was ST.Joseph feast day ! The very day I began our novenas ;-)
As I say I've much more to write but for now I am going back to reading your stories . Much Love , Roxie

Marilyn said...

Anne this is so inspirational - I too am pondering the "Do you want to get well" thing. I want to link you as soon as I get a chance to blog again

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