As Holy Week nears, pilgrimages intensify

On Wednesday, March 9, the third Lenten pilgrimage took place at the Church of the Flagellation, the second station of the Cross in Jerusalem. For this occasion, a solemn mass was presided over by Br. Najib Ibrahim, the superior of the monastery, in the presence of many Franciscan friars and some faithful.

In his homily, Br. Frederic Manns stressed the role of the Flagellation in the Christian faith. “John presented Jesus as a good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. His throne is the cross. Jesus’ crucifixion is his exaltation.

We see the person of Jesus as the one about whom the prophet Isaiah speaks: “Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted.”

Br. Manns said, “Here in the East, we are witnesses to evil forces. And Christ’s cross helps us understand the deepest roots that make us fall into sin and death. Only in the eschatological fulfillment and definitive renewal of the world does love overcome the sources of evil, bringing about the kingdom of life and immortality.”

Following the solemn mass, a snack was shared by all in the monastery’s refectory. The Terra Santa Museum team took advantage of the presence of the friars to introduce them to the first section of the museum. Opened on March 17, the multimedia room will allow pilgrims and tourists to take a trip through time on the Via Crucis.

“Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”

In Bethany the next day, on Thursday, March 10, the fourth pilgrimage in preparation for Holy Week took place. As soon as the doors of the Franciscan sanctuary were passed through, the friars and pilgrims greeted the monastery’s guardian, Br. Michael Sarquah. While the friars prepared for the mass to be presided over by Br. Carlos Molina, the faithful found their seats in the church.

“The idea of resurrection was not really accepted in the Jewish world at the time of Christ,” explained Br. Frédéric Manns, in his homily. In the Old Testament, there were several resurrections from the dead that were talked about by the prophets Elijah and Elisha. The concept was therefore understood. The Gospel of John presents the signs that Jesus performed. “The penultimate of Christ’s signs is the resurrection of his friend Lazarus, here in Bethany. Jesus wanted to prepare his disciples to accept his own resurrection.”

Gregory Nazianzen, a doctor of the Church, explained that there are three characters who were resurrected by Christ: Jairus’ daughter, the son of the widow from Nain, and Lazarus. “There is a great difference between the three,” explained Br. Frédéric, citing the holy Byzantine theologian: Jairus’ daughter was still in the house, the son of the widow was on his way to the cemetery, out of the house; and the last, Lazarus, was in the tomb for four days and already smelled. So there are three kinds of sinners: the sinner attached to the house, like the girl, that still accepts the Church nonetheless; the sinner outside of the church, on the way to the cemetery. And lastly, the sinner that is like a person who has been dead for four days and is like Lazarus. But no matter the type of sin, God is able bring you back to life.”

The resurrection of Lazarus is an announcement of Christ’s resurrection,” explained the friar, “in which man must have the courage to become a new creature. We must not let ourselves get buried by violence, and the political and economic problems that crush us. A Christian is someone who believes in a future life, a new life, and he or she must constantly be in the process of renewal.”

At the end of mass, the congregation was invited to share a friendly breakfast on the church square. The pilgrimage continued with a stop to Lazarus’ tomb a few meters above the Franciscan sanctuary. Then, the friars took a bus to where they used to walk by foot, to other side of the wall: the Mont of Olives. There they made the last two prayer stops on their pilgrimage for the day: at the Ascension and at the Pater Noster.


Schedule of Lenten pilgrimages in Jerusalem

During Lent, in preparation for Holy Week, the Franciscans are hosting weekly pilgrimages to the shrines associated with Christ’s Passion. This tradition dates back to the late nineteenth century. Below you will find this year’s schedule. All—pilgrims, visitors and Christians living in the Holy Land—are welcome.

Wednesday, March 16 – Lithostrotos – 5:00 p.m. Solemn Mass. Homily: Fr. Artemio Vítores, OFM

Saturday, March 19 – Bethphage – 9 a.m. Solemn Mass. Homily: Fr. Artemio Vitores, OFM

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