The celebrations for the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem started in St Saviour’s church. On Sunday 31st May, the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, presided the Solemn Mass in the church in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. Built in the convent the Franciscan friars of the Holy Land moved to after having been chased out of the Cenacle in 1551, In 1561 Pope Pius IV gave the church the same indulgences that had been granted to those who went to the Cenacle (find out more about St Saviour’s church).
During this year’s Pentecost Mass, the Franciscan family of the Custody of the Holy Land had the joy of giving 14 friars the ministry of Lector and 15 that of Acolyte.
“Today we are celebrating and bringing up to date the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles who were gathered in prayer in the Cenacle together with Mary. And on this feast-day, reflecting on what the Holy Spirit works in the life of the Christian and of the Church, we learn that the Spirit is essential for the life of the Christian and of the Church, for the life of each one of us,” the Custos recalled in his homily. Fr. Francesco Patton then explained the symbols of the readings to allow the meaning of the Spirit to be understood: the symbol of the wind, of the breath, of fire, the symbol of the loose tongues, capable of understanding. “The Spirit works a considerable diversification in the Christian community and at the same time a profound unity,” said the Custos. “The diversity of language, of gifts, of sensitivity, of roles, of functions etc. is not something that makes the Church explode as humanity exploded while it was presumptuously building the Tower of Babel, but something that, thanks to the action of the Spirit, consolidates it, makes it living, beautiful, makes it a body and makes it a relation of love in the image of the Trinity. The ministries of Lector and Acolyte which today are entrusted to you, our young brothers, are in this perspective. What you are receiving is not a career promotion but a gift that comes from the Spirit and has to be used for the growth of the Church”. (the complete homily here).
In the afternoon, it was time for the Vespers at the Cenacle, presided by the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton. The Catholics can hold official prayers in the Cenacle only twice a year, as it is a place still at the centre of dispute with the State of Israel for recognition of the ownership. The Franciscan claim ownership of it, as they acquired it in 1333, as a gift from the sovereigns of Naples, and were chased out of it in 1551 by the Ottomans. The friars go there to pray on Easter Thursday, when the Last Supper is commemorated, and on the day of Pentecost. During the Pentecost celebration, the friars also go up into the room of the Cenacle where the Holy Spirit is believed to have descended on the apostles and they burn perfumed incense there.
“For us Franciscans, this is the place where the Church entrusted us with the mission of Custody of the Holy Places,” explained the Custos. “This was the first seat of the Custody of the Holy Land. The Holy Spirit still makes the mission of the Church and our mission possible today. In this place of Pentecost, we ask for a new effusion of the Spirit for the Church, for this Holy Land loved by God, for the peoples that live in it and for our mission as the Custody of the Holy Land.”