Today we managed to relive all three days of the Sacred Triduum, but not necessarily in order. We began by getting up early to make the Via Crucis or Way of the Cross. The way is also popularly known here as the Via Dolorosa or “Way of Suffering.” From the early days, pilgrims coming to Jerusalem have wanted to retrace the final days of the life of Christ. While it is beautiful to meditate on the Passion, being able to physically walk in the footsteps of Jesus gives added weight to our meditation. We walked the streets from the court of Pilate up to the hill of Calvary now located in the Holy Sepulcher. As we prayed each station you could feel yourself going up the hill, knowing that you’re approaching Calvary. To think that Jesus carried the cross all this way for us. For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Normally the Stations of the Cross end with the laying of the body of Jesus in the tomb. Today we got a most special opportunity. Our group was privileged to be chosen to celebrate the Latin Mass today with the Franciscan brothers. I got to consecrate the Eucharist on the very place where the body of Jesus was raised from the dead. All of the priests went into the tomb for the consecration and then beautifully came out again bringing our Risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ teaching about how a grain of wheat must be planted and die in order to give new life. We priests took ordinary bread and wine into the tomb of Christ, a place where the dead body of Jesus was “planted.” We came out carrying the Lord of life to nourish his people. The Mass was that of Easter morning and I can attest that it definitely felt like Easter.
Today I was also blessed to discover something I was never able to see before in the Holy Sepulcher. I was in the sacristy before Mass and noticed on the wall a sword hanging in a box. After reading the inscription, I realized that this is the sword of Godfrey of Bouillon. He was the first crusader to breach the walls to reclaim Jerusalem in 1099. In addition to his sword they also have his spur and his famous cross. I was particularly drawn to this cross which has come to be known as the Cross of Jerusalem. Just before I left for the Holy Land, I received official word that I am to become a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher. This is a great honor that some of the current Knights petitioned for me and was then approved in Rome by the Holy See. The order originated with Godfrey and continues today to protect the Holy Land. Normally this means financial help. Priests can’t do much in the way of that, but I’d like to think that my being here and this blog is helping to promote the Holy Land. Hopefully all of you that are reading will realize how important it is to protect and preserve these special places where our Lord lived. Maybe you will be on the next pilgrimage. I pray that I will be a worthy knight with the faith and courage of Godfrey.
Just when you think things can’t get any better, Mike pulls another amazing special event. After fighting the zoo of pilgrims all day, tonight we had the opportunity to make a Eucharistic holy hour all by ourselves in the Church of All Nations. You may remember that this is the church in the Garden of Gethsemane. There we prayed and kept watch for an hour just as Jesus had asked the apostles to do. Jesus was right there on the altar, back in the Garden, offering himself for us in all his suffering. I felt I could almost see Jesus there on the rock and wanted to comfort him with my prayer.
We ended our holy hour and then got a treat I will never forget. The brother that cares for the church allowed us to enter the gate of the actual Garden of Gethsemane and walk around among the olive trees at night. Experts say that at least some of these trees may well be over 2000 years old. I thought looking at them from the outside during the day was amazing. Walking around the garden at night was an unforgettable experience. I almost felt like I was there the night Jesus was arrested. We began our day with the Good Friday procession, celebrated Easter at the empty tomb and then ended up back at Holy Thursday. It might not be the exact order of the Tridumm, but in 1 day today I experienced the 3 days in a powerful way for which I will always be grateful.