Holy Thursday: between the joy of the Eucharist and the mystery of the Agony of Jesus. | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Holy Thursday: between the joy of the Eucharist and the mystery of the Agony of Jesus.

Seven o'clock in the morning. The city is barely awakening as the Franciscans proceed to the patriarchate to invite the Latin Patriarch, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, for his solemn entry into the city to celebrate the commemorative mass of the Institution of the Eucharist. On this Holy Thursday numerous worshipers crowd around the empty tomb to share the joy of the priests. Two hundred albs have been prepared for them by the Custody's sacristans.

After the liturgy, three meaningful acts punctuate this exceptional celebration at the Holy Sepulcher: The washing of the feet of twelve seminarians by the patriarch and the priests' renewal of their sacerdotal promise. The blessing of the oils for the sick, the catechumens, and the Holy Chrism. The procession of priests around the Aedicule before the patriarch places the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance that had been placed inside the tomb.

These acts were preceded by the patriarch's homily, which began by citing the great Curé of Ars, Saint John Vianney, "The priesthood is the love in the heart of Jesus." He then invited the assembly to remember "the gesture of humility and simplicity" of the new Pope Francis: when "asking the faithful to pray for him," he invited the faithful to "ask God to help us purify our church, our hearts and our intentions."

(See the complete text of the homily on the site of the Latin Patriarchate www.lpg.org)

After communion came the magnificent and impressive procession of priests and seminarians in their white chasubles — who alone could have filled the entire perimeter of the rotunda — around the empty tomb before the patriarch placed the blessed sacrament inside.

Following the departure of the patriarch, the doors of the basilica were locked. While the keys are normally kept in the possession of Muslims, on this day they are brought to Saint Savior Monastery, to the Custodial Vicar, Fra Artemio Vitores. He will later bring them in solemn procession to the Holy Sepulcher to open the doors briefly to allow the Franciscan and patriarchate seminarians to enter for adoration in the afternoon.

While some prayed in the holy sepulcher, many of the faithful went to the Cenacle with the Custos of the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa.

From the Cenacle to Saint Mark, by way of St. James Cathedral.

From Saint Savior, the friars of the Custody went in procession to the Cenacle, led by Father Custos Pierbattista Pizzaballa. The traditional kawas opened a way for them through the humming streets of Jerusalem: the Jews have their own paschal feast — Passover — this week.

In the exceptionally crowded Cenacle after the reading of the passage of the washing of the feet, Father Custos knelt at the feet of twelve children from the parish to reenact the Savior's gesture while the numerous faithful sang.

Everyone then continued to the Armenian Cathedral of St. James and the Armenian Church of Saint Michael the Archangel. Father Artemio took advantage of the moment to recall the ties that link the Franciscans and the Armenian community, who hosted the Franciscans for eight years when they were expelled from the Cenacle in 1551. Finally, the procession went to the Syrian Chapel of Saint Mark, where the Syrian Orthodox place the events of Pentecost, which was the only place to commemorate the events relating to the Cenacle in the years immediately following the expulsion of the friars.

Holy Hour at Gethsemane.

As night fell, the joy of the pilgrimage was followed by the solemnity of the Holy Hour at Gethsemane. The basilica was not big enough to contain the crowd of the faithful who wanted to "wait and watch with Jesus", in the very place where on the eve of his Passion he was seized with anguish.

The Basilica of the Nations was filled with faithful from all the continents, and the readings and prayers were said in more than ten languages. The readings of the gospel alternated with recollected silence and prayer.

At the end of the prayer vigil, some of the faithful chose to stay and continue their prayer. However, a large crowd went in candlelight procession across the Kedron Valley to Saint Peter in Gallicantu, where Jesus was imprisoned before being delivered to Pilate.

And silence fell in the Jerusalem night.

See also the Franciscan Media Center video – click here