In Bethany, Holy Monday is celebrated at the “House of Friendship”

The last bit sunlight peeps through the window over the dome of the little church of Bethany. The gold mosaic tiles that tell story of Lazarus’ resurrection shine, illuminated by the setting sun. Not far away, in fact, is the tomb of Jesus’ friend who was miraculously raised from the dead. Many faithful, and many friars gathered there where “Jesus entered” (Jn 12, 1): “the house of friendship, because it is the home of Jesus’ friends,” recalled the Custos.

Evening falls on Monday, April 10, and there are six days left until Easter. Mary’s washing of = Jesus’ feet is celebrated. “Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair,” was read during Mass in the Gospel according to John (12, 3).

This is only the third year that is celebrated: it is a “new pilgrimage.” Before the Vatican II reforms, in fact, the reading of the Bethany episode from the Gospel was not part of the liturgy. Since the reform, on Holy Monday, this passage is read six days before Easter. “For this occasion, since 2015, we have been moving toward the sanctuary. In fact, each Franciscan pilgrimage follows the places mentioned in the Gospel,” said Fr. Stéphane Milovitch.

And the choice to bless the fragrant oils is not an end in itself: “the Gospel scene where Mary anoints Jesus’ feet foreshadows and prepares [us] for the Gospel scene of his burial. Similarly, this liturgy prepares [us] for the Good Friday liturgy: fragrant oils, which were blessed on this night, were prepared for the celebration of Jesus’ burial,” said Fr. Sthéphane.

The friars’ purple robes, the color of Lent, contrasted with the white marble walls. In the center, the Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton, presided over the Eucharistic celebration, accompanied by the Vicar, Fr. Dobromir Jasztal Sarquah and Br Michael, the guardian of Bethany. In his homily, the Custos he recalled, “in the Gospel that we read there is a silent protagonist: the perfume. The perfumed oil is precious and its scent spreads and can be smelled by everyone. This fragrance expresses the deep meaning of our lives, when they are lived under the banner of love. Mary is the one who knows how to waste all of her wealth for love. By contrast, Judas instead reveals to us how we become when we look at life from a utilitarian perspective, when everything is calculated in terms of money,” said Fr. Francesco Patton before blessing the fragrant oils. After mass, the crowd of faithful got in line so as to anoint their hands, before heading to the parish hall.

Between mouthfuls, the magnificent buffet offered by the parish was praised [by most], and Sister Alessandra said, “I like this mass; the atmosphere of this small but great sanctuary is very intimate and cozy.” She is here for Easter, “my first time in the Holy Land!” she exclaimed. On the other hand, Aziza knows this land well. From Bethany, she loves “this very special celebration that is always very exciting.” Jesus was here with his friends, and “that is why we decided to have the celebration the evening, so as to allow everyone, after work, to spend some time together. This was the house of friendship.” said Fr. Stéphane. Today it is still so.