Although today is Friday, we spent the day retracing the footsteps of Jesus on Holy Thursday. We began our day in the Upper Room of the Last Supper known as the Cenacle. It’s amazing to think of the events that took place in this room. We are all familiar with the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Yet Jesus also instituted the priesthood as well as the Sacrament of Penance here, not to mention Pentecost and Confirmation. I found it especially moving as a priest to be in this room where the priesthood was born and where the Sacraments so connected with the priesthood were giving to us.
The Scriptures tell us that after finishing the Last Supper in the Cenacle, Jesus and his apostles sang a hymn and then got on a bus and went across the Kidron Valley…no wait…no bus, but they did go across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. We followed this path of Jesus to the Church of All Nations…but we did actually use a bus.
The Church of All Nations (built by donations from all over the world) is built on the site of Jesus’ Agony in the Garden. Outside the church is an enclosed area with olive trees, some of which are 2000 years old and would have been there on that fateful night as silent witnesses to the agony. The central focus inside the church is the Rock of Agony. It was here that Jesus prostrated himself and sweat blood as he courageously made the decision to abandon himself to the Father’s will and undergo his passion. Celebrating Mass at this rock was a very moving experience. Praise Jesus for what he did for our salvation.
From the Church of All Nations we withdrew “about a stone’s throw” to the cave where Jesus left the apostles praying. It was here that they fell asleep and failed to pray as Jesus had instructed. Again and again we seem to be hit with the message that we need to pray. How important it is to spend time talking with the Lord to gain strength. This cave marks the spot where Jesus was arrested and taken to the high priest. May we all continue to persevere in prayer so as to avoid falling into the temptation of betraying Jesus as Judas did in this place.
Following the path Jesus would have taken after his arrest, this time we actually did walk right back to where we were on Mt. Zion to the house of Caiphas, the high priest. The church marking the spot is today called St. Peter in Gallicantu, or St. Peter at the Cock-crow. The courtyard of the high priest is of course where Peter denied Jesus and the cock crowed just as Jesus had foretold.
I used the series of icons in the crypt church in my talk on confession that I gave on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The icons show Peter’s denial, his weeping bitterly, but then his reconciliation with Jesus after the resurrection on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The he power of confession is amazing. Peter has an incredible fall in denying Jesus, just as Judas did. The difference is that Peter got to be reconciled and Judas despaired. We ended out time at St. Peter’s by visiting the Sacred Pit in which Jesus was imprisoned on the night before he died. Thank God for his mercy and the chance to begin again.
Returning to Notre Dame we had our afternoon rest and evening meal and then headed down to the Western Wall for a special treat. Since tomorrow is Saturday, sunset today marks the beginning of the Sabbath or Shabbat as it is called here. Many of the Jews gather at the Western Wall to welcome Shabbat with prayers as well as music and dancing. We went down and watched. It was nice to see everyone having a good time as well as honoring God’s command of rest. We could use more of this. We’re getting up early tomorrow to make the Way of the Cross, so until then, Shabbat Shalom and Good Sabbath.