Second peregrination to Gethsemane: the silence of those who are alone

Second peregrination to Gethsemane: the silence of those who are alone

The Basilica of the Agony, or “of the Nations”, which this year celebrates the Centenary of its foundation in 1924, hosted the second peregrination of Lent, on Wednesday 6th March, in a  climate of profound reflection and prayer.

Gradually entering the mystery of Easter, the friars, accompanied by a group of faithful, remembered perhaps the darkest moment in the public life of Jesus: the agony and the prayer in the orchard of the Mount of Olives.

The Basilica of Gethsemane

This event, which shows all the humanity of Jesus, is remembered by the stone of agony, placed in front of the altar. Today’s Basilica stands on an axis placed on the  meeting point  between the perimeter of the Byzantine church, the Crusader church and this one which was designed by the architect Antonio Barluzzi, one hundred years ago, to set in – and exalt - the isolated block of rock where the memory of Jesus’s suffering is concentrated.

The Basilica is also called the “Church of Nations” because  very many countries contributed to building it and the coats of arms of these countries are shown on the dome and on the mosaics in the apse. To recall the darkness of that night and shadows that Christ was to have gone through to save humanity, the interior is left in the semi-darkness, thanks to the light filtered by the violet alabaster of the windows and the dark blue of the dome. The main mosaic portrays Christ in anguish; those in the side naves, the kiss of Judas and the arrest of Jesus.

The silence of those who are alone

The solemn Eucharist celebration was presided over by fr. Alberto Joan Pari,  Secretary of the Custos of the Holy Land. The homily was delivered once again by fr. Paolo Messina, lecturer at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem, chosen to guide the Franciscans during the period of Lent through his reflections on the Scriptures.

Fr. Paolo continued to focus his  meditations on “silence”: “There are times when we are all called to make equally personal and fundamental choices in our life: we are called to make them on our own. It is on the silence that envelops these moments that I want to reflect this evening.”

The perfect prayer


During his commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 26, 36-46) fr. Paolo offered a powerful reflection on the silence that envelops the prayer in the orchard on the Mount of Olives, focusing attention on the path that Jesus takes, three times, moving away in prayer,  in isolation, while Peter, James and John the disciples he has called to be near to him (Matthew 26,37), are unable to keep watch with him.

When he moves away again to pray for the third time, this is “his perfect prayer”: the one in which Jesus stands alone in silence before the Father.

“In that solitary silence,” fr. Paolo underscores, "Jesus finds himself again after the initial anguish. He thus teaches us not to flee from this silence but rather to seek it. At the decisive moments in our lives, at times we can feel the warmth of a friendly presence, other times the absence of all support. At the end, however, the experience of Jesus in Gethsemane reveals a truth, which is perhaps difficult to accept, but not for this reason any less real. Entering that silence on our own is the only way to find ourselves again, to rediscover an inner force that at times we think is lost, to accept a fate that can be frightening or difficult. Only by facing up to the fear of this silence on our own, will we discover that we will meet the Father there, and we will also learn, together with Jesus,  to say, “Let not my will, but your will, be done.”

Silvia Giuliano


Download the Gethsemane Sanctuary Brochure here: 

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