Pentecost in Jerusalem: from St Saviour to the Cenacle

On Sunday 9th June the Solemnity of Pentecost was also celebrated in Jerusalem. There were a number of celebrations, with two central moments for the Franciscans: the Solemn Mass in the church of St Saviour and Vespers at the Cenacle.

The first was presided by the Custos Father of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton.  During his commentary on the Gospel, the Custos recalled the meaning of the feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, like the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. This Jewish holiday, which this year was celebrated on the same day, recalls the gift of the tablets of the law fifty days after the exodus from Egypt. "In its way, the Christian Pentecost also has to do with the gift of the law,” said the Custos, drawing a parallel between the two celebrations, "because the Spirit writes the Word  of God, the new commandment of love, in our hearts, and reminds us of the words of Jesus."In conclusion, Fr. Patton recalled Chapter X of the Regula Bullata of St Francis, which speaks of the need to desire the Spirit above everything to let it act in us, complying with it.

The second moment of the celebration of Pentecost took place in the room of the Cenacle, with the prayer of Vespers presided by the Custodial Vicar of the Holy Land, Fr. Dobromir Jasztal. From the Convent of St Saviour a long procession, led by the friars of the Custody, reached the crowded room of the Cenacle where many faithful joined the Franciscans with songs and prayers. Following the invitation of the Vicar, the moment of reciting the Lord’s Prayer in the many languages of all those present was – according to some of those in attendance – the most moving moment. 

The bond between the two places, St Saviour and the Cenacle, is not casual, especially on this day. The first place where the Franciscans lived was Mount Zion and it was there that they kept the Cenacle until 1551. That year the Turks chased out the friars, forcing them to return inside the city walls. Precisely because they were chased out of the Cenacle, Pope Pius IV in 1561 gave St Saviour the same indulgences that had been granted to the Cenacle, which Pope Leo XIII confirmed 324 years later. "It is wonderful for us to be able to celebrate here,” commented the Custos Fr. Patton in the morning celebration, “today we ask for the gift of the Spirit to burn everything that is enmity and hostility and also to bring a season of peace to this land."

Giovanni Malaspina