(terrasantablog) Easter is coming since a few days. The Franciscan “pilgrimages” (stops at various holy sites to celebrate the Mass and honor thus the centuries-old traditions) are multiplying and won’t stop before Resurrection Sunday.
Wednesday, March 18: amid a contemplative atmosphere, the third Lenten pilgrimage of the Custody of the Holy Land took place in the Church of the Flagellation. After Dominus Flevit (March 4) and Gethsemane (11), the path towards Easter continues on the steps of the Passion of Christ.
Preceded by the solemn Vespers, the Mass celebrated the church consecration and the Flagellation of Jesus. The chapel was full. The choir, composed by the Franciscan brothers Alberto, Mark, Ugo, Eliazar, Bozo and Ricardo, hosted this annual celebration in style.
The homily of Father Peter John Hughes, on the Gospel of the Flagellation according to St. John, stressed the exemplary nature of the struggle against evil as experienced by Jesus during His Passion. If man has always sought an answer to the question of evil and suffering, God was confronted as well by taking our human condition, “Behold the man!”(Jn 19: 5). Under an apparent passivity, the strong moral resistance of Jesus, His patience and perseverance, are all revealed on a path of hope. “Given the gravity of evil, there is no other alternative but the scandal of a God united in solidarity with us in our suffering, a God who fights with us. There is no other solution than the paradox and scandal of a God wounded by evil, a God who suffers and redeems evil with His own suffering. In the conviction and Passion of Jesus, in his acceptance that what happens is it inevitable, John’s Gospel presents a new form of non-violence expressed by Jesus throughout His life until His death on the cross”.
The brothers of the monastery (led by Fr. Najib Ibrahim) invited then the assembly, composed of local Christians, religious and people passing, to have some refreshments in the convent’s refectory.
Saturday, March 21, the Minor Friars went to the Mount of Olives to four major stations.
At first, the Mass of Lazarus’ resurrection gathered the Franciscans in Bethany, a predominantly Muslim town where there is however a small community. A delegation of the Holy Saviour Convent accompanied by a group of young Slovenian pilgrims was greeted by the superior of the community.
After a festive breakfast, the faithful joined the Tomb of Lazarus in the second station. The stop needs to be mentioned since the burial place of “Jesus’ friend’ is today under the Waqf institution. Franciscans can celebrate Mass there only twice a year. This is what Fr. Sergio, Secretary of the Custody, did early in the morning.
A bus then led the sons of St. Francis to the place of the Ascension. “Before, says Fr. Stéphane, the Franciscans could leave on foot from St. Saviour and chain all the stations. But since the separation wall was built, this is no longer possible”. With wall or without it, break with a tradition of centuries is out of the question.
Reaching the place of the Ascension means a privilege that Minor Friars enjoy with relish. Only three times a year the place is open to them. For this reason, the chapel that houses the place where Christ would have joined Heaven is a mosque. With the Te Deum singing the procession set forth. This was a touching move that did not fail to attract the attention of some tourists.
Only a few steps forward were necessary to reach the Carmel of the Pater, the last stop of the day. Like in the other stations the Franciscans read the Gospel related to the place, sang a hymn and prayed for various intentions.
The sunny day was beautifully finished with the Romanian voices of some pilgrims present at Carmel, who performed a particularly heartbreaking song.
The path to Easter is coming to an end. The Fifth Sunday of Lent will be another opportunity to the solemn rites at the Holy Sepulchre. Then, the various pilgrimages will continue until the solemn entry into the Holy Week at Palm Sunday.
Monday, March 23, the Mass will be celebrated at Lithostrotos at 7:00PM.
by Hélène Morlet and Nicolas Kimmel