Solemn Celebrations for the Fifth Sunday of Lent in Jerusalem | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Solemn Celebrations for the Fifth Sunday of Lent in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, 24-25 March, 2012

On the Saturday evening preceding and the morning of the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the solemn ceremonies of preparation for Easter once again took place in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, with the integral participation of the Franciscan community of the Custody of the Holy Land and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Late in the afternoon, in the Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament (also known as the Chapel of the Apparition of the Risen Jesus to His Mother), First Vespers were celebrated with Brother Miron Sikiric presiding. Many Franciscans took part in the liturgy, together with a large number of local clergy and pilgrims.

Late at night, at 11:30 p.m., began the customary nighttime prayer vigil. The Custos of the Holy Land, Brother Pierbattista Pizzaballa presided over the celebration, joined by Brother Artemio Vitores, the Custodial Vicar, and Brother Fergus Clarke, the guardian of the Holy Sepulchre, and a large number of members of the Franciscan community. Also present were many male and female religious from various Holy Land congregations, some local Arabic-speaking Christians and small groups of pilgrims. As is customary, after the first part of the liturgy was celebrated inside the Chapel of the Apparition, the Commemoration of the Resurrection of the Lord was again made, with the procession to the Holy Sepulchre and around the Aedicule, while the Custos solemnly carried the Gospel Lectionary and everyone present held a lighted candle. Brother Pizzaballa then visited the Lord's empty tomb, where he placed the Gospel Lectionary, and spent a few moments in intense meditation. Leaving the Aedicule, the Custos bestowed the solemn benediction on the assembly. Still in procession, the faithful were able to return to the Chapel of the Apparition, where the last part of the vigil was celebrated. To finish, the first Holy Mass was then celebrated at Calvary.

On Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m., the community of the faithful, following Latin liturgical tradition, once again assembled at the altar of Saint Mary Magdalene in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre to assist at the sung and concelebrated Solemn Mass preceded by Morning Prayer. Once again this week, the Franciscan friars of the Custody, led by Brother Artemio Vitores, went in procession to the seat of the Latin Patriarchate, a short distance from Saint Saviour's Monastery, and accompanied His Excellency Bishop William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, so that the prelate could take part in the solemn Sunday celebration, as provided by the liturgical program. Welcomed by Brother Fergus Clarke at the entrance to the Sanctuary, Bishop Shomali venerated the Stone of Unction, which commemorates the place where Jesus' body lay after he died on the cross and was prepared for burial, and the Lord's empty tomb. Many members of the Franciscan community took part in the Holy Mass, animating the liturgy with a group of the Custody's cantors. Also present were numerous local clergy, Arabic-speaking Christians and pilgrims from many places. The homily was given by Brother Badie Elias, the Custody's vocation director for Israel-Palestine, from the ambo next to the altar.

At the end of the Holy Mass, the Franciscan friars, with Brother Stephane Milovitch, guardian of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, accompanied Bishop Shomali and his entourage through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem back to the patriarchal seat.

Text by Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Bro. Giorgio Vigna