The fifth peregrination of Lent to the Lithostrotos: the silence of those who are condemned

The fifth peregrination of Lent to the Lithostrotos: the silence of those who are condemned

The fifth Lenten season of the liturgical peregrinations of the Custody of the Holy Land took place on Wednesday 20th March at the Shrine of the Condemnation: here, the trial where Jesus was accused in the hours following his arrest in Gethsemane is remembered.

The episode is narrated, along with others, in  Chapter 19 of the Gospel according to John,  which relates the different stages of the trial that led to the condemnation of Christ, by the governor Pontius Pilate.

The Shrine of the Condemnation

The chapel, in the   Shrine of the Flagellation, was built in the Byzantine style between 1903 and 1904 under the direction of the Franciscan Wendelin Hinterkeuser. In the apse there are some statues that represent the condemnation and the imposition of the cross. They include an original composition made from papier mâché in which John, the beloved disciple of the Lord, and Mary Magdalen can be seen to lift a veil to prevent the Virgin Mary from seeing the flagellated body of Jesus. Another wooden statues -  today being restored – is that portraying the “Ecce homo”, Jesus crowned with thorns and presented to the crowd, the object of the grave episode of vandalism last year, when it was defaced.

The Lithostrotos

In the chapel, there is an ancient Roman floor (lihtostrotos, i.e. floor paved with stone) the presence of which has contributed to the belief that it is the “evangelical Lithostrotos” (John 19,13), the courtyard where the trial  of Jesus took place.

The same hypothesis is the origin of the name of the Basilica next to Ecce Homo, also called Lithostrotos, on the Via Dolorosa. More probably, this paved surface dates back, according to the archaeologists, to the time of the Emperor Hadrian and is believed to be part of a floor in Aelia Capitolina, the Roman city built on the ruins of Jerusalem after the Third Judaic War  (132-135 AD). 

Silence as awareness of a greater justice

Fra Alessandro Coniglio  presided over the Eucharistic celebration, preceded by vespers, while Fra Paolo Messina, a lecturer at the  Studium Biblicum Franciscanum  in Jerusalem, continued to offer his meditations (you can find all his Lenten reflections here).

Continuing on the theme of silence,  Fra Paolo recalled here “the silence of the many innocent who are unjustly condemned.” Like the suffering servant, recalled by the Prophet Isaiah, Jesus “did not open his mouth.” “Why this silence?” Fra Paolo asks in his homily you can find the full text here), “I believe that we can read this silence from two perspectives: on the one hand silence can be resignation, giving up every struggle, but on the other, it is  awareness of a greater justice, of protection by God, the certainty that the more we put ourselves in the hands of God, the more He will be capable of doing His will and saving us.

“The sign of this salvation,” he continues, “is described with the inscription on which John dwells: “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews”. Four simple words in Hebrew, Latin and Greek to declare Jesus king of his people, even from the cross. Those words still trouble us today, because they remind us that at times we act like Pilate before oppressed innocents and  we look the other way. That silence of the innocent who has been unjustly condemned  puts us before a choice: to act for him, shout in his defence, or to look elsewhere, pretending nothing is wrong. There is never a compromise, Jesus still invites us to choose from this place today. And what will you do?

Silvia Giuliano

*** Download the brochure of the Sanctuary of the Flagellation here