This morning we had Mass at the Church of the Agony, also known as the Church of All Nations because it was built with donations from many countries. In front of the altar in this church is the rock upon which Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night he was arrested. This was an incredibly powerful place to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. In each and every Mass we are called to offer ourselves to God along with the sacrifice of Christ made sacramentally present before us. As we prayed there in front of the rock I thought about how Jesus consciously accepted all the suffering that lay before him and offered it all to the Father for the sake of our salvation. He knew what he was getting into and he did it for love of us. As I stood there with my brother seminarians I couldn’t help but think that all of us will soon offer ourselves in sacrament of Holy Orders for the service of God’s people. In some ways we too know what we’re getting into. There will be suffering and we too will be called to surrender all to God. All of us are called to offer the sacrifice of our lives to God, but priests in a special way. I prayed for the grace to be faithful to this call and to be able to lay down my life for others like Jesus did.
After Mass we went to visit the Convent of the Sisters of Zion on the Via Dolorosa (The Way of the Cross). Their convent is located right near the place where Pilate would have had his judgment seat at the time of Jesus. In the ruins under there building they have found a road and courtyard made of stones from the first century. For many years it was believed that this was the “Stone Pavement” mentioned in the Bible where Jesus was tried before Pilate. Now, it seems that perhaps these stones are actually from the fortress of Pilate that the Romans knocked down in AD 70 and later reused to build a road. Regardless, there are still visible drawings in the stones that were used by the Roman soldiers in playing a game called the “Game of the King”. Here a prisoner would be dressed in a royal robe as a king and then mocked and beaten according to the throwing of dice. Sound familiar? We’re not completely where Pilate would have resided in Jerusalem, but this is the traditional place and it was a great treat to be able to visit it.
When we got back to the Notre Dame Center we were treated to a tour of an exhibit they have here on the Shroud of Turin. I have always been fascinated by the science that has been done on this cloth. After years and years of the most sophisticated modern scientific study, we can only say what it is not. No one can say what it is or how exactly it was made. Far from being some kind of forgery from the past, we couldn’t even “forge” it today with all our technology. One of the neat things about this exhibit was that they had a sculpture created to match what the man in the shroud would have looked like. We will never have 100% proof that the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Christ, but the body of scientific evidence creates some amazing testimony. This further helped my already growing experience of the reality of the resurrection.