(terrasanctablog) The atmosphere was festive at Emmaus as the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land and the faithful of Jerusalem, joined by no less than four buses from the Bethlehem parish as well as the faithful from neighboring Birzeit, gathered. Some of the French, German and Italian volunteers decided to forego the bus and walk there instead, following the example of the two disciples of Jesus who thought there was nothing left for them in Jerusalem after the crucifixion of their Lord, and decided to return to their home village, Emmaus.
The handful of Christians, members of the Franciscan parish under the care of Fra Gerard and Fra Salem, do not hide their joy at seeing so many people arriving for the service commemorating Jesus’ appearance to his friends. The village’s Muslim scout troop turned out with a parade to welcome the guests to their village that is so close to Jerusalem but so difficult to reach.
With the Custos of the Holy Land presiding, the mass was filled with joy and song, thanking God for the riches of the Easter holidays in Jerusalem and everywhere. Fra Feras, pastor of the Jerusalem parish, invited the faithful to recognize the face of Christ in our daily encounters.
The service emphasized the breaking of the bread, the moment when the disciples recognized Jesus. It was this same breaking of bread that the Custos commemorated at the end of the mass by distributing about a thousand loaves that had been prepared for the occasion. Everyone was then invited to a large, shared meal where the volunteers, Palestinian families with their children, religious brothers and sisters from all over the world and the Franciscans could meet and socialize.
In the afternoon Vespers were sung and then the Blessed Sacrament was adored by a smaller group. The sanctuary regained its habitual calm as the crowd departed in the afternoon. After five physically and spiritually intense days a group of the friars (soon to be ordained deacon or priest) left for their retreat and little by little the Custody with get back to routine. Hallelujah!