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"Lord, We Have Come" — The Pilgrim Boat

Join CHLS Director Amy Flattery on a brief and extremely rare journey under the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Amy Flattery, director of the Center for Holy Lands Studies, shares an inspirational and fascinating account from the Holy Lands, including a brief video journey under the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

A few days ago, the Old City of Jerusalem was empty. I had just sent my group home early due to issues in the world, and had one day before I would depart Israel. Having lived several years in Jerusalem, I knew the location of some important places that hold great value to the Church. I ventured to a very special place, the Holy Sepulcher, also known as the Church of the Resurrection. The church is built over the likely location of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

I enlisted the help of my friend Zak, a friend, fellow pastor, and a shopkeeper in the Old City of Jerusalem. With his connections, we had a special experience that I had only been allowed to have twice before, more than 20 years ago. First, I met two men who belong to the family that holds the keys to the Church of the Resurrection. Their family has held the keys to the doors of the church for more than 800 years. They had wonderful smiles and a twinkle in their eyes.

I also witnessed the celebration of Lent between all the Christian factions in the church. The church is divided between several Christian groups who hold sections of the church. They often function individually, but on this day they moved from their different areas to meet together in the center of the church, not far from the likely tomb of Jesus. Knowing that these church entities do not always agree, the visual of their worship together was wonderful to witness!

After watching these events under the roof of the massive structure, and accompanied by the person who holds the key to a very special door, I turned to the right down a dimly lit hallway filled with art and reflections of Jesus, and continued down a long set of stairs, through a locked gate, and down another set of stairs, and through another locked door. I found myself on the level of the third-fourth century, with a visible view of the first-century quarry and the potential location of Golgotha.

Etched on the wall in front of me was a crude graffiti etching of a boat — a very important boat! Beneath the etching is an inscription reading, Domine Ivimus ("Lord, we have come."). Who could have written these words and drawn the boat?

Archaeologists are confident that it must have been a Christian pilgrim who arrived in Jerusalem from the sea, making his or her way to the place of the death, burial, and resurrection, much like pilgrims today!

The etching is dated to approximately the year 300. This graffiti is one of the earliest archaeological evidences of Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This is exciting, as it reflects that already, only a short time after the death and resurrection of Jesus, pilgrims were already coming to Jerusalem to see the place where Jesus lived, did his miracles, and conquered death, just as pilgrims do today.

Amy Flattery

Amy Flattery is the director of the Center for Holy Lands Studies.