Being a leper all my life
I search for some truth
I seek to be cleansed
Spiritual, not a word
in my vocabulary
Never heard of the notion actually
Leprosy does not allow time for soul-searching
A social pariah, a scourge, a despicable bane
I crave to forsake
My skin flaking off in scales
like that Serpent that led us
astray from our path
When Jesus came along
I was sick but now I am cleansed
I was forlorn but now I am hopeful
I wonder what has become of my mates?
Human ingratitude more
sinister than Satan’s rage
A few words about the Church of the Ten Lepers in Palestine
Set in the far eastern side of Samaria within the Palestinian Authority controlled areas lies one of the oldest and holiest churches in the world, the Church of St. George.
For tourists seeking to venture well off the beaten path to sites of enormous religious significance one must take a day trip to Burq’in, about 1.5 miles west of Jenin. The small, picturesque village of Burq’in lies within a valley along the ancient Nativity trail that Jesus took as he walked from the Galilee to Bethlehem.
According to the New Testament, Jesus stopped in Burq’in on his way to Jerusalem from Nazareth when he heard cries coming from within the village. The pleas originated from 10 lepers quarantined in an underground cave, a common practice at the time for people afflicted with this disease.
According to Luke 17:11-19, Jesus responded to the lepers cries for mercy and they were healed.
“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.”
Today this holy site is home to the Orthodox Church of St. George, otherwise known as the Church of the Ten Lepers, and the original church cave on top of which the church rests is believed to be the fourth oldest church in the Holy Land and one of the holiest churches in the world.
Within the present structure visitors can walk into an ancient cave that contains a small opening in the ceiling. Tradition holds that Jesus healed the lepers in this cave and that it is through the hole in the ceiling that people may have dropped food and water to the lepers quarantined inside.
Centuries later a church was built on this site and became a station for Christian pilgrims en route between Jerusalem and Nazareth. Like both the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Church of St. George was commissioned by Saint Helena in the 4th century A.D. A church guardian who led us around the newly renovated holy site said that the local Greek Orthodox community holds a weekly mass there and groups are welcome to visit by prearrangement.