The Holy Sepulcher, along with the universal Church, and the Church of the Holy Land entered into Lent on Ash Wednesday. In Jerusalem, this time of anticipation while awaiting the Easter celebrations at the Holy Sepulcher, is particularly solemn. In fact, every Saturday afternoon, the Franciscans process to the Latin Patriarchate in order to invite the Patriarch to solemnly enter the Basilica of the Resurrection.
Shortly before their arrival, the police ensured that the square was cleared so as to make way for the procession. Behind the barriers, some pilgrims who gathered were shocked to find out that they were unable to enter to the basilica. Inside, the presiders and the President of the Holy Sepulcher—this is what we call the superior of the Franciscan brotherhood at this holy place—are also ready.
The Patriarch, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, entered a surprisingly empty basilica this Saturday, February 13. Certainly, pilgrims and tourists gathered on the square, but Sr Erika, a sacristan, said that the decrease in pilgrimages can be felt in this holy place. “Most often, before 10 a.m., there is almost nobody. You can enter the tomb without waiting.”
This afternoon, the scarcity of pilgrimages and tourism was noticeable or rather, it was the organ that could be heard without having to drown out the usual noisiness of this place. The Te Deum resonated even more masterfully.
Br. Alfonso is happy at the idea of celebrating Lent and Easter closer to the holy places for the first time. Having arrived in September from Colombia for seminary studies at the Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum, the Franciscan International Seminary, he did not, however, hide that he is unaccustomed to this level of reverence. “I'm more used to simple and spontaneous liturgies.” But he is conscious that he is a witness to the holiness of this place for those who come to visit it.
After his solemn entry, the patriarch traditionally participates in the daily procession, also made solemn by the three laps he makes around the empty tomb when the time comes to reflect on Christ's resurrection. Whether it is Lent or not, the procession remains unchanged at this time of the liturgical season in this place because it is Easter every day here.
But, while waiting to celebrate the feast of feasts and while making preparations, the local liturgy will be intentionally filled with opportunities over these 40 days for the faithful to delve into their consciences and to rejoice in the joy of the victory they will have obtained.
The celebration of the vigils at the Holy Sepulcher will take place Saturday nights at 11:40 p.m.The solemn pontifical Eucharist will also take place Sunday mornings, at the Holy Sepulcher, at 8:30 a.m. And various pilgrimages to the holy places linked to the Passion of Christ will also be taking place. Then, after Palm Sunday, in the footsteps of Jesus, the beautiful feast of Easter will take place.
There is still time to decide to come celebrate Easter in Jerusalem!
May everyone have a beautiful and holy Lent!