All things are complete: Solemn celebration of the Lord's Passion and Adoration of the Holy Cross at Calvary | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

All things are complete: Solemn celebration of the Lord's Passion and Adoration of the Holy Cross at Calvary

Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre - Calvary, Jerusalem, 6 April, 2012

The heart of Good Friday in Jerusalem beats in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, where at an elevated site to the right of the entrance - Calvary - Jesus died on the cross. From early yesterday afternoon until the morning liturgical celebration, the imposing doors of the Basilica have been closed. A few faithful spent the night inside the sanctuary, in adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament that was conserved inside the Aedicule of the Lord's Tomb. Very early Friday morning, a long time before the doors were reopened, many of the faithful and pilgrims were already before the doors in the square in front of the Basilica, waiting in prayer.

The doors are solemnly opened for only a few minutes to allow the entrance of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Mgr. Fouad Twal, accompanied in procession by the community of Franciscan friars of the Custody and followed by local clergy and a crowd of the lay faithful who wanted to attend the celebration of the Lord's Passion at the altar of Calvary. The Basilica is again closed, reserved for prayer and the morning celebrations, at the end of which the doors will be opened and visits to the Sanctuary can resume. Not everyone present is able to find space in the upper part of the Basilica and many people had to follow the celebration from the foot of the stairs leading to Calvary, completely encircling the Stone of Unction, just a few steps from the entrance to the Church. The many con celebrants who were squeezed into the crowded space of Calvary seemed even more cramped. Also present was a large delegation of the Knights and Ladies of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Animating the liturgy was the Magnificat choir of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, under the direction of Hania Soudah Sabbara.

The celebration takes place in three moments: the Liturgy of the Word, Adoration of the Cross, and Eucharistic Communion. Following the liturgical program, the Patriarch and deacons donned red vestments in the Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament (also known as Chapel of the Apparition of the Risen Jesus to the Virgin Mary) and went in procession to Calvary. The Patriarch carried the reliquary with the wood of the Holy Cross and placed it on the altar at Calvary. During the Liturgy of the Word, which took place around the reliquary of the Cross, the Passion of the Lord according to the Gospel of Saint John was chanted, completing the cycle of the four readings of the Passion that began on Palm Sunday and continued on Holy Tuesday and Wednesday. When the reading reached the point where Christ died on the cross, a profound silence reigned inside the Basilica while the reader left the pulpit and knelt to kiss the stone below the altar on which Christ's cross had stood, the place where Jesus, completing all things, gave up his spirit. After a few extremely intense moments, the reading of the Passion resumed up to the deposition of Jesus' body in the tomb in a garden near the place of the crucifixion.

Adoration of the Cross then followed, after the Prayer of the Faithful. Taking the reliquary in his hands, Mgr. Twal invited the people to adore the sacred wood to which the Savior of the world was nailed for our redemption. The rite of adoration of the Holy Cross is ancient. It goes back, in fact, to the fourth century, when for three or four hours on Good Friday, the faithful filed through this place to adore the Cross, and then passages of Holy Scripture that reference the Lord's Passion were proclaimed for three hours. The rite is alive to this day and is renewed once again here on Calvary, where the entire assembly - deacons, priests, friars and laypeople - approached in procession, singing lamentations and hymns to honor and kiss the wood of the Cross. At the end of the celebration, the reliquary was taken back to the Chapel of the Apparition, where the faithful could continue to venerate it privately.

While the Franciscans accompanied the Patriarch and his entourage back to the patriarchal seat, the narrow, crowded roads of the Old City of Jerusalem teemed with faithful Christians who incessantly continue their acts of devotion in the Holy Pascal Triduum, awaiting the Blessed Pascha of the Resurrection of the Lord, and the Jewish world prepared, that same Friday evening, to open the week-long feast of Passover.

Text by Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Bro. Giorgio Vigna