There is an ancient Crusader church (built in the 1130s) in today’s Muslim quarter of Jerusalem, at the start of the Via Dolorosa. It is Romanesque in style, with magnificent rounded arches, and has amazing acoustics. Every soprano and tenor wants to sing there. I heard the Easter Exultet sung there in April, 1981 by a Canadian Jesuit with a trained operatic voice–a once in a lifetime experience.
This is the traditional site of Mary’s birth, the home of Joachim and Anne/Anna. The building has gone back and forth between the Muslims and the Christians, because when Saladin re-conquered Jerusalem, he made the sturdy structure into an Islamic seminary. The Arabic inscription is still over the entrance. For me, who has great difficulty with radical Muslims, it is a symbol of Jesus’ words, which might be an ecumenical prayer for us today: “Let them grow together until harvest,” – these Muslims and Christians.
—Fr. Robert Braunreuther, S.J., a Jesuit of the New England province, assists in University Ministry at Loyola University Chicago, where he is also minister of the Arrupe House Jesuit community.