Churches of Israel: Church of Dominus Flevit

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A church doesn’t need to be large to be grand. As the Church of Dominus Flevit demonstrates, small buildings can contain a whole lot of spiritual power.

Situated on the Western Slope of the Mount of Olives, the church is named and designed after a specific incident described in the Bible following Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem during the original Palm Sunday. On that glorious day,  Jesus rode into town with worshippers throwing their own clothing as well as palm leaves on the ground in front of him in a display of worship and respect. "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” But after his arrival though, Jesus at the Mount of Olives looked down at the city. Rather than celebrate his arrival or the reception he received, Jesus was overcome and wept. 

In what outwardly appeared to be a moment of triumph, Jesus knew that it was temporary. As he gazed out to the city, he could see what the future held for it as plainly as you or I might see a sunset. He knew ruin and conflict would befall the city as described in the Gospel of Luke. 

"The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” – Luke 19:43-44

Hence the name "Church of Dominus Flevit” Latin for "the Lord Wept.” More than the name though, this moment is built into the very design of the Church with its unique teardrop shape. An intentional design by architect Antonio Barluzzi (who designed many churches in the Holy Land) who wanted the building to cry out with emotion the same way Jesus cried with compassion for His people. Inside, the  four corners of the dome each contain four vials. These vials are a nod to antiquity when carrying tears in a vial was a symbol of grief and remembrance. The vials here symbolize the tears Jesus himself shed overlooking the city.

And what a view the church offers. The window behind the altar of the church provides a panoramic view of the city where you can see both the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as well as many other buildings of importance. It is an incredible perspective, to think that Jesus would have seen several of the same buildings and exactly what the future held for them, a future we live in now.

While the church itself was built in 1955, the site it occupies is ancient. In fact, there was a previous church built in the same location by the Byzantines in the 5th century. It was destroyed, but when excavating to build the new Church, several discoveries and artifacts were unearthed. The most striking of which is an ancient floor mosaic which has been restored and is now displayed in the Church. 

There are many churches you could say are more magnificent or grand than the Church of Dominus Flevit in Israel. But grandeur extends to more than physical design or size. Once you understand the significance of the Church’s location, design, and history, the spiritual impact of this tiny Church is massive. 

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