How do you pray at the Holy Sepulcher in spite of the crowds of pilgrims and tourists? | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

How do you pray at the Holy Sepulcher in spite of the crowds of pilgrims and tourists?

The streets of the Old City on this Second Saturday of Lent are bursting with tourists and pilgrims. The procession of Franciscans who have gone to collect the Patriarch, represented today by Monsignor Kamal Bathish, makes its way behind the kawas who strike the pavement stones with their staffs. The crowd parts, more or less.

The Israeli police had earlier set up barriers to help channel the crowd, many of whom are a little too merry at taking part in this "attraction".

"Lent is a special time, not only of fasting, but also of prayer. We emphasize it at the Holy Sepulcher," explains the Guardian, Fr. Fergus Clarke, "with particular solemnity. After the entry, the solemnity continues in the procession, reliving Jesus' Passion in the Basilica. As guardians of the sites, we Franciscans receive the Patriarch as bishop of Jerusalem, and surround him with particular signs of respect when he enters here."

Inside the Basilica all languages are spoken, but when the procession passes, there is silence, making a space for the friars' prayers.

"This procession… we make it every day," explains Fra Artemio Vitores, Custodial Vicar. Solemn Entries take place several times a year, to receive the Custos or the Patriarch, for example, on Corpus Christi or the feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross, and also during Lent. In the old days, the procession was a solemn reception of pilgrims to the sound of the Te Deum before they accompanied the friars during the procession. During Lent, the procession is solemn and most of the eighty friars of Saint Savior are present. The friars go as pilgrims to meet the Patriarch, and one of them remains at his side throughout the procession."

Fra Artemio continues to explain: "the three most significant points of the procession are at Cavalry, the singing of the Vexilla Regis, the basic hymn of the crucifixion; in front of the tomb, when the large organ illustrates that we have passed to a new level, the level of joy in the resurrection; and finally, in the Chapel of the Apparition, the hymn to Mary, "Do not be afraid, he whom you saw dead has risen." Of course, in Lent, we do not sing the hallelujah, but we do not proclaim the resurrection of Christ any the less."

Following the daily procession of the friars of the Holy Sepulcher, particularly beautiful when it is a solemn procession, is the surest way to be able to pray in the Holy Sepulcher, no matter how crowded.