Solemn entrance and procession in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre on the first Saturday of Lent | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Solemn entrance and procession in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre on the first Saturday of Lent

Jerusalem, Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, 25th February 2012

In the afternoon of this first Saturday of Lent, Jerusalem is deeply touched by the celebrations that mark the start of the period of penitence, prayer and conversion leading up to Easter. The Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre becomes even more the centre which attracts the Christians of the Holy Land and the pilgrims from all over the world and where they gather and more intensely relive the mysteries of the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus. All the churches that officiate at the Holy Sepulchre make their solemn entrance into the Basilica on this day and its door is closed just before the arrival of the first delegation and then opened on their arrival.

Following the rules that discipline the solemn entrances of the different communities, the Latin Church started the liturgical celebrations, in the early afternoon, with the community of the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land who, together with Brother Fergus Clarke, guardian of the Holy Sepulchre, welcomed and introduced into the Basilica Mons. William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. After making the entrance, Mons. Shomali paid homage to the Stone of Unction, placed at the base of Calvary, near the front door of the Church, commemorating the place where the body of Jesus was laid after His death on the cross.

Whilst the solemn entrances of the various Christian groups – Greek Orthodox, Copts, Syriacs and Armenians - followed on one another and celebrated their Lenten rites, the Latin community, still guided by Mons. Shomali, started the daily Procession in solemn form, enhanced by the accompaniment of the organ at all the stations whilst normally the first seven stations are recited recto tono, or always using the same note and the liturgy is sung only from the eighth station onwards. Mons. Shomali was accompanied on this important occasion by the Franciscan friars of the community of the Holy Sepulchre and a large representation of the friars of the Custody, including Brother Artemio Vitores, Vicar of the Custody, Brother Fergus Clarke, Brother Noel Muscat, Discreet of the Holy Land, Brother Silvio De La Fuente, Secretary of the Custody, Brother Peter Vasko, President of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land and Brother Stephane, Milovitch, the current guardian of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Taking part in the procession together with the Franciscan community, there were numerous members of the local clergy, many religious of the different congregations in the Holy Land, many local Arab Christians and countless pilgrims who, with sincere emotion and devotion, wanted to take part in the traditional liturgy. The procession, consisting of fourteen stations, starts and ends in the same chapel, the one dedicated to the Holy Sacrament, also called on the Apparition of Jesus risen to Mary, His Mother. At every station a hymn suitable for the place is recited or sung, followed by the antiphony and the collection and lastly, a Pater, an Ave and a Gloria are recited.

An age-old liturgy, which recalls the traditional way in which. Centuries ago, the pilgrims who reached the Holy Sepulchre were welcomed and who visited the shrine in a procession and concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist. Today, this ancient custom comes back to life in the solemnity of this day which opens, with the complexity and variety of nuances which distinguish Christian life in the Holy Land, the celebrations of Lent, waiting and preparing for the great festivity of Easter.

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Brother Enrique Bermejo