In the history of Christianity, many orthodox saints visited Jerusalem, and some of them were famous enough to write a book. Let us look at Saint Sophronios, Patriarch Barnabas, and Patriarch Nicodemus, to name a few. They all influenced the early Church, and their writings have come down through the ages.
During his life, Patriarch Sophronios visited many places, including Jerusalem and the Holy Land. He was most famous for the Life of St Mary of Egypt, which is read in church in its entirety on the Fifth Thursday of Great Lent, along with the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete. While this life is widely known, Patriarch Sophronius was also influential in other liturgical works and spiritual writings.
Sophronius was born in Damascus around 550. He cultivated a love of rhetoric and began to seek pure spiritual wisdom. He visited monasteries and ascetics throughout Egypt, writing books on spirituality. He eventually visited Jerusalem and enthroned himself as Patriarch, and was a strong defender of orthodoxy.
In 633, Patriarch Sophronius traveled to Alexandria and Constantinople, where he persuaded the patriarchs to abandon the controversial doctrine of Monothelitism, which assumes a single divine will in Christ, excluding the role of human choice. This doctrine was an attempt to undo the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon. In this context, Patriarch Sophronius was the only Orthodox figure who defended Orthodox doctrine against the Monophysites.
During his visit, he also visited St. Theodosius Monastery. This is where he was tonsured, and it is this monastery that he would regard as his spiritual home. After this, he and Moschus traveled throughout the region, seeking spiritual examples. They are also mentioned in the Jordan Valley and Petra.
The miracle of the tomb is not limited to inside the tomb. The flame is also reported to appear outside, illuminating candles and oil lamps that pilgrims carry. Sometimes it appears to light candles spontaneously, and others have seen the flame moving from one part of the Church to another.
The first time Barnabas visited Jerusalem, he was sent to Jerusalem by the Christians in Antioch. Afterwards, he and Paul returned to Antioch, where they were welcomed and baptized. This mission led to the conversion of many Gentiles in various communities.
During his ministry in Judea, Saint Paul sought support from the non-Jewish church to support his ministry in the Holy Land. This was an especially difficult time for the region, as Judea was occupied by the Romans. During Saint Paul’s time, the population in Judea was already very poor, and the region was even harder hit by a famine that struck just ten years after the death of Christ. Despite this, Saint Paul was diligent in taking up a collection for Jerusalem.
In c. 60 AD, Jewish Christians from Jerusalem visited the church in Antioch. They told the community that Gentiles who were not circumcised were not worthy of the gift of salvation and were not equal to their Jewish brothers. This made many Gentile Christian communities in Antioch furious, and had implications for many of the communities Paul and Barnabas founded in the region. For example, uncircumcised Gentiles could not participate in the Eucharist, which was a privileged meal, and they could not worship as a community.
During his visit to Jerusalem in the fourth century, Patriarch Nicodemus was amazed by the beauty and splendor of the city. Its magnificent architecture included the holy of holocausts, the “se of brass” altar, the great court of priests, and other splendid buildings. To the west was the Holy of Holies, surrounded by several tiers of chambers. On either side of the holy place stood a monumental facade composed of two lofty connected towers. Opposite the monumental facade were great bronze columns.
During the visit to Jerusalem, Patriarch Nicodemus had the chance to observe the events of the birth of Jesus. He told the story of the baby Jesus and drew on traditions from the Protevangelium of James to support his story. After this visit, Nicodemus visited Jesus to defend him, and he became his disciple.
The city was home to many early Christians. Some of these early Christians came from the Arab world, such as Juvenal and St. James, who had become Christians. The first bishop of the Christian church was a convert from Judaism. In fact, Eusebius lists several of these first Christians. One of them is the Apostle St. James, who was a brother of Jesus and an apostle in Jerusalem. This saint was eventually stoned to death by the Jewish community.
After the Patriarch Nicodemus’ visit to Jerusalem, his successor was called Patriarch of Aelia. This bishop, like the Pope, received a special place in the hierarchy, which he called “succession of honor.” The succession of honor in Aelia was not overridden by Caesarea’s metropolitan rights in Palestine.