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2012
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"He gave his back to those who beat him": Third Lenten Pilgrimage in Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Church of the Flagellation, 21 March, 2012

This week’s Lenten pilgrimage took place at the Church of the Flagellation at the Franciscan convent on the Via Dolorosa, not far from the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. Christian tradition here places two events from the Passion of Jesus: the flagellation and the condemnation to death. The two sanctuaries dedicated to the events are annexed to the Franciscan convent, which since 1923 has also been the home of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, the Faculty of Biblical Science and Archaeology of the Custody of the Holy Land. It is here that the second station of the Way of the Cross, the imposition of the cross, is located, marked on the external wall of the Sanctuary of the Condemnation at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa. Over the Lithostrotos, of which a few stones are still conserved in the floor of the Church of the Condemnation, and over the Pretorium of Pontius Pilate, where Jesus was judged, a church called Santa Sofia’s was built in the fifth century, after a period of neglect. Over the years, traces of this church were lost and the Lithostrotos was commemorated first on the Mount of Zion and then, from the end of the 12th century, near the Antonia fortress that overlooked the Temple from the north. The Church of the Flagellation was built by Crusaders in the twelfth century but later stood abandoned for many centuries. In 1838 it was acquired by the Franciscans who opened it again for worship. Then, in 1929, the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi restored the church, maintaining its medieval style. In the present sanctuary beautiful stained glass windows designed by the artist Duilio Cambellotti can be admired, representing the judgment by Pilate, the flagellation of Jesus, and the release of Barabbas.
In this holy place, in the afternoon of Wednesday, the 21st of March at 5:00 p.m., the community of the faithful gathered for the solemn commemoration of the flagellation of Our Lord, with a Holy Mass preceded by Vespers. Brother Najib Ibrahim, guardian of the Flagellation and Professor of New Testament Exegesis at the Studium Biblicum, presided over the celebration. At his sides were Brother Artemio Vitores, Custodial Vicar, and Brother Massimo Pazzini, Dean of the Studium Biblicum and Professor of Biblical Hebrew and Syriac. Numerous members of the Franciscan family of the Holy Land came for the occasion, together with many male and female religious of the various local congregations, and a good number of Arabic-speaking Christians, and friends and coworkers of the Custody. Benches were placed outside the church in the cloister opposite the entrance for the participants who were unable to find a seat inside the small sanctuary that was filled with people.
The liturgy first offers to our consideration, in the suggestive words of the prophet Isaiah (Is 50:4-10) the image of the Servant of the Lord who “gave his back to those who beat him,/ his cheeks to those who plucked his beard;/ he did not shield his face/ from buffets and spitting”. The passage from the Gospel of Saint John then retraces the moments during which Jesus appears in front of Pontius Pilate who, not finding in Him any fault yet instigated by the crowd, hands Jesus over to the soldiers to be scourged. Pope John Paul II writes: “To the unjust condemnation is added the outrage of the scourging. Handed over to men, Jesus’ body is disfigured. That body received from the Virgin Mary, which made Jesus the “fairest of the sons of men”, which dispensed the anointing of the Word – “grace is poured upon your lips” (Ps 45:2) – is now cruelly torn by the whip. The face transfigured on Mount Tabor is disfigured in the Pretorium: the face of the one who, insulted, responds not, of the one who, made a nameless slave, frees those who languish in slavery. Jesus advances resolutely on the path of pain, […] the prophecy that opens to a new future of transfiguration.”
Text by Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Bro. Giorgio Vigna

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