Maundy Thursday, the celebration at the Upper Room on Mount Zion

Maundy Thursday, the celebration at the Upper Room on Mount Zion

On the afternoon of Holy Thursday, in Jerusalem, the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land celebrated Mass in Coena Domini in the Upper Room: "We are gathered together to celebrate the Lord's Supper in the very place where Jesus instituted the celebration of the Eucharist" - began the Custos of the Holy Land, fr. Francesco Patton, who presided over the liturgy (full text here) at which Msgr. Adolfo Tito Yllana, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and apostolic delegate for Jerusalem and Palestine, and Msgr. Bruno Varriano, Patriarchal Vicar of Cyprus.

The Cenacle

It is here, on Mount Sion, that the “room on the upper floor,” where, according to the Gospels, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his  disciples and also washed their feet and the Spirit of the Pentecost descended.

“During the Last Supper, Jesus said “I give you a new commandment, love one another. As I have loved you, so you should also love one another” (John 13,34) the Custos said - "This means loving to the extent of giving one’s life for the people we love, because this is what Jesus did for us. It also means washing one another’s feet, that is, following the example of Jesus who did not come to be served but to put himself at our service. In this celebration, we want to be nourished by Jesus because it is only like this way that we can become capable of loving one another as he loved us.”

The Custos of the Holy Land, Fra Patton recalled Jesus' washing of the feet of his apostles and repeated this gesture of love with 6 students and 6 teachers from the Terra Santa school in Jerusalem.

The peregrinations to the Armenian and Syrian brothers

From the Cenacle, the Franciscans then went to the church of St James of the Armenians and to the church of the Holy Archangels, to pay tribute ad to commemorate the hospitality received here in the 16th century. At the latter church, the friars were welcomed by the Armenians for seven years, after which in 1551 the followers of the poor man of Assisi had been expelled from the convent of the Cenacle where they lived. After this traditional tribute, the friars set off towards the Syriac Orthodox church of St Mark, known for having been built on the site of the presumed house of Mary, the mother of the evangelist Mark and which, according to the Syriac tradition, designates the exact place of the Last Supper of Jesus.

The Holy Hour at Gethsemane

Lastly, the prayer of the Holy Hour of Jesus was celebrated at Gethsemane in the evening of Holy Thursday. During the liturgy, presided over by the Custos of the Holy Land, there was meditation on three moments: the prediction by Christ of Peter’s denial and the flight of the disciples, the Agony of Christ in the garden and lastly, his arrest. 

“We know that at this particularly difficult time for the small Christian community of Gaza,” the Custos of the Holy land began, “as for all the Christian communities affected in many countries in the world, many of our brothers,  like Jesus, are feeling anguish, are sweating blood and living the time of their agony: let us pray, in this holy hour, above all  to grow in the capacity of trusting in God the Father, well knowing that at this time he is not far from us and has not forgotten us.”

Silvia Giuliano